Top 8 – Driving Songs
There’s been the “Top 10” and the “Top 5” but being from Sonoma, we’re going to keep doing the “Top 8” on our lists, just because we can.
With NASCAR coming to town this weekend at Sonoma Raceway, we thought we’d take a look at our list of favorite driving songs. The Stars and Bars are not so prominent in the sport these days, but make no mistake, this brand of auto racing started in the south. Origins of the sport can be traced to the prohibition era, where bootlegging whiskey in the Appalachian Mountains meant you had to have a car fast enough to outrun the law. Once alcohol was legalized in 1933, bootleggers were still racing the law with modified street vehicles. The first sanctioned race was held at Daytona Beach in 1934, with a 250 mile race that 27 cars started with only 10 managing to still be running at the finish.
A reminder to steer clear of Highways 121 and 37 leading up to the main event on Sunday, June 28, unless you need to drive by during the event, when ironically, there is little traffic, as everyone is already there.
- Long May You Run – Stills /Young Band – 1976
The song is an ode to Young’s first car, nicknamed “Mort” which was a 1948 Buick Roadmaster hearse that died in 1965 when its transmission blew in Blind River, Ontario, hence the lyrics “…but we missed that shift on the long decline, long may you run”
- Under My Wheels – Alice Cooper – 1971
Hard to believe Alice Cooper was already on his fourth release by 1971, but indeed the album “Killers” was critically acclaimed by Rolling Stone and Allmusic, and Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols proclaimed it the greatest rock album of all time. “…the telephone is ringing, you got me on the run, I’m driving in my car now, anticipating fun.” Kind of says it all.
- Hot Rod Lincoln – Charlie Ryan – 1955
It’s likely you’ve never heard Ryan’s version, but the 1971 release of the song by Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen reached number seven on the billboard charts. Originally written by Ryan about his own hot rod and a road race in Idaho, the song was changed to fit the lyrics to be Grapevine Hill in the Tehachapi Mountains, north of Los Angeles. “My pappy said son you’re gonna drive me to drinkin if you don’t stop drivin’ that Hot Rod Lincoln.” Yep.
- I Can’t Drive 55 – Sammy Hagar – 1984
Released in the peak of the MTV era, the video might just be one of our favorites as well as the song itself. The story goes that Hagar was driving to Albany, New York after a vacation, driving at 2 a.m. going 62 MPH on a deserted highway. He got pulled over and given a ticket for going 62 mph with the officer telling him “we ticket over 60 mph.” Hagar replied “I can’t drive 55!” and as fast as the officer was writing the ticket, Hagar was writing lyrics. He finished the song late that morning at his destination in Lake Placid, New York. “When I drive that slow, you know it’s hard to steer, and I can’t get my car out of second gear” Well, maybe for Sammy’s Ferrari…
- Little Deuce Coupe – the Beach Boys – 1963
The car on the cover of the fourth album released by the Beach Boys actually has outlived many of the band members themselves. The 1932 Ford Coupe, originally bought by Clarence “Chili” Catallo in 1957 for $75 in Michigan, has been on the cover of Hot Rod Magazine in 1961, on the cover of the album in 1963, sold, and re-purchased by Catallo in the late ‘90s and has been on tour at car shows since then. “…and if that ain’t enough to make you flip your lid, there’s one more thing, I got the pink slip daddy” which will mean nothing unless you’re from California.
- Mustang Sally – Mack Rice – 1966
Any driving song list that doesn’t have this song on it is just wrong. There will be no discussion. Although you likely heard the Wilson Pickett version that came out the same year, with both artists having a top-20 hit with the song.
- Highway Star – Deep Purple – 1972
“Nobody gonna take my car, I’m gonna race it to the ground, nobody gonna beat my car, it’s gonna break the speed of sound…” Written on a tour bus in 1971by guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and vocalist Ian Gillian when they were asked by a reporter how they wrote songs, so they wrote one, right then and there, and it became the opening song of almost every Deep Purple show for a number of years, even before it was ever recorded as a studio track. At the time, the band were record holders in the Guinness Book of World Records as the loudest rock band in the world.
- Radar Love – Golden Earring – 1973
“I’ve been drivin’ all night my hands are wet on the wheel, there’s a voice in my head that drives my heel.” Even if you’ve never heard the song, you’ve likely felt that vibe. The song tells the story of a lover communicating telepathically with another as they’re on the way home to see them. “We’ve got a thing that’s called Radar Love, we’ve got a wave in the air…Radar Love.” Only the second U.S. breakthrough single for a Dutch act, preceded only by the Shocking Blue with “Venus” in 1969, and not to be followed until 1983 by Vandenberg with “Burning Heart.”
Pick of the Week – Hula Hoe-Down – Sonoma Valley Woman’s Club
Well, it’s not really a “Hoe Down” but more a “Kanikapila” which means a Hawaiian jam session, and presented by the local hula group Hula Mai. The event is led by ukulele impresario Del Medina, referred to in the local hula circles as “the North Bay’s King of Kanikapila” and all are welcome to bring an instrument and join in on the fun. The songs are half traditional Hawaiian and half American pop, so they’ll be room for anyone with even an ounce of musical talent, be it on a guitar, ukulele, kazoo or even a foot stomper or two. The event gets under way at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 27, and admission is free but donations are encouraged as they will go towards the upkeep of the historic Woman’s Club building which is turning 100 years old next year. For more info, point your browser to hulamai.org.
Set List – The Rundown
The Sonoma Speakeasy and American Music Hall
452 First St. E. ste. G. Sonoma – 996-1364
Tonight, June 26, Willis, Cochran and Davies – 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 27, Charlie Hickox, Rene Jenkins, Tim Eschliman and Lou Rodriguez– 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, June 28, Diva Singer Night and Community Jam with Dallis Craft and Karla Downey – 7:30 p.m.
Monday. June 29, Graceland Unplugged with Dallis Craft – 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, June 30, Big Chief with Lou Rodriguez
Annex Wine Bar
865 W. Napa St. Sonoma – 938-7779
Tonight, June 26, the Paquette Siaters – 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 27, Don Trotta – 7:30 p.m.
122 W Napa St. Sonoma – 935-7960
Tonight, June 26, Windy City Jazz – 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 27, Clusterfolk – 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, June 28, Elispeth Summers – 1 p.m.
Murphy’s Irish Pub
464 First St. E. Sonoma – 935-0660
Tonight, June 26, Highway Poets – 8 p.m.
Saturday, June 27, Comedy with Joe Klocek – 7 and 9:30 p.m.
Sunday, June 28, One Eyed Riley – 7:30 p.m.
Sebastiani Winery and Vineyards
389 Fourth St. E. Sonoma – 933-3230
Tonight, June 26, Adam Traum and the Mosey Boys – Food Truck Friday – 6 p.m.
420 First St E. Sonoma – 996-4466
Tonight, June 26, the Dick Conte Trio – 7 p.m.
Rossi’s 1906 Dancehall
401 Grove St. El Verano – 343-0044
Tonight, June 26, DJ -Isak – 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 27, Blues Box Bayou Band – 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, June 28, Cannon School of Music Summer Concert – 4 p.m
691 Broadway Sonoma – 935-9100
Tonight, June 26, Taylor Brown – 5 p.m. – Dawn Angelosante – 8 p.m.
Saturday, June 27, Craig Corona – 1 p.m. Joe Price – 8 p.m.
Sunday, June 28, Sean Carscadden – 1 p.m.
B&V Whiskey Bar and Grille
400 First St. E. Sonoma – 938-7110
Saturday, June 27, DJ Isak – 9:30 p.m.
B. R. Cohn Winery
15000 Sonoma Hwy. Glen Ellen – 800-330-4064
Sunday, June 28, JMB and the Big O – 2 p.m.
602 Bonneau Road, Carneros – 939-9363
Saturday, June 27, Rhythm Depot – 1 p.m.
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
2605 Adobe Canyon Road, Kenwood- 833-6288
Tonight, June 26, Funky Friday’s with the Blues Burners – 6:30 p.m.
9380 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood – 933-9305
Tonight, June 26, Jami Jamison Band – 5 p.m.
Sonoma Valley Regional Library
755 W. Napa St. Sonoma – 996-5217
Saturday, June 27, Ancient Future Duet – 2 p.m.
Sonoma Valley Woman’s Club
574 First St. E. – 938-8313
Saturday, June 27, Hawaiian Jam Session – 2 p.m.
Jack London State Historic Park
2400 London Ranch Rd, Glen Ellen – 938-5216
Sunday, June 28, the Cork Pullers – 5:30 p.m.
8450 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood – 408-0011
Sunday, June 28, Nate Lopez – 12 p.m.
Olde Sonoma Public House
18615 Sonoma Hwy. Boyes Hot Springs – 938-7587
Sunday, June 28, Karaoke – 7:30 p.m.
Blue Moon Saloon
19380 Sonoma Hwy. Sonoma – 996-3055
Saturday, June 27, Karaoke – 9 p.m.
Sunday, June 28, Blues Jam – all welcome – 10 p.m.