Route 66 Song Of The Week:  Nat King Cole’s new double album is coming out June 3rd

Kudos to Ron Warnick over at Route 66 News for spotting this announcement last week on Yahoo! Finance (riiiight; where else would Universal Music put a new album announcement?  Not like you’d be thinking Billboard magazine or anything …).  It seems Universal Music Enterprises, which owns the old Capitol Records archive, found some unreleased tracks recorded by Nat Cole at a Chicago session circa 1955.  Or rather, Alex Luke, former EVP of A&R at Capitol Records and a big Nat King Cole fan, spent two years working in the Capitol vaults trying to locate missing master tapes, combing through photos, union records, paperwork and tapes to find this material, which evidently got misplaced at about the time Capitol ws moving into its (then) brand new Capitol Tower at Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles.

The search paid off:  the targeted session tapes are still missing, but the unreleased tracks and alternate takes that Luke found were golden.  The standard edition of the new release will hav 22 classic Cole performances, whereas the two-CD deluxe edition — that’s the one you want, folks — features 14 rare or previously unreleased tracks, including four never-before-heard vintage songs and previously unissued alternate takes of Nat Cole standards.  They’ll all be downloadable, of course.

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Route 66 Song Of The Week: The Replacements, via Minneapolis

Hello again, fellow roadies!  IT’s that time of the week again, and here in Chicago, it’s a nippy evening after a sunny but cool day.  Looking forward to Easter Sunday, belatedly sending my Jewish friends Passover greetings (I always get that either too early or too late, darn it), and generally hoping that the tulips and daffodils start popping up soon.  Must need a few more April showers, I guess.

Anyway, our musical tribute this weekend comes in a roundabout way.  Some of you may know that Andrew Evans of NatGeo Traveler has just begun traveling down Route 66 form Chicago this week.  His Twitter feed (@WheresAndrew) has lots of entries for the last two days.  We’re glad he made it to Springfield, IL by evening for dinner at Saputo’s — but, like most non-Chicagoans, he figured there really wasn’t much to see between downtown Chicago (Noooooo!  Not again!!) and the city limits of Joliet, and so he skipped over most of what yours truly has been researching for almost three years.  Sigh … we knew there was a reason we’re writing this book, but honestly: you’d think more people would have caught on by now that they’re missing a lot in the metro area.

So, in honor of Andrew Evans, who may have missed a lot in metro Chicago even while he was techinically on the Route, this week’s rendition of our theme song comes from The Replacements, a garage-punk-alt-rock band that originated in Minneapolis, MN … which is way off the track of Route 66, but we applaud their hearty take anyway.  Listen in:

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Route 66 Song Of The Week:  Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

Rejoice, all you hard rockers and headbangers who like straight-ahead classic rock music for your road trip playlists!  This week we have an oldie but a goodie from the vaults:  a 1977 concert performance of the Bobby Troup road anthem from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.  Yes, they’re still together and still touring.  And I have to admit, they do a pretty good number on this song.  The tour stop where this was filmed was in Cologne, Germany, and the tour date was 12 years before the Berlin Wall came down, so the venue would have been in West Germany at the time.  Our thanks to user larrinazarra for uploading this video to YouTube.

The band is originally from Gainesville, Florida and was formed there in 1976.  Their sound has been described as blue-collar or heartland rock, which would put them in the same sub-genre as Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seger.  There have been a few personnel changes over the years, but not many – lead guitarist Mike Campbell and bassist Ron Blair are still with the band – and Petty and his men maintain a driving rhythm in much of their music.  The band has 15 albums out (not counting compilation albums), with all but the last two going gold or platinum several times over.  A new album is expected in 2014.  Petty and The Heartbreakers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.  The band also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


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Route 66 Song Of The Week: The Strypes and more

Ah, me lads, I didn’t make Chicago’s South Side Irish Parade this year, even though it was today, Sunday (had a story deadline that damned near killed me; haven’t slept yet since Saturday morning, and I’ve no good excuse, like a hangover).  Didn’t watch the Sanitary District boat dyeing the Chicago River green, either — but I have found us a gen-u-ine young punk-blues Irish band with a lot of energy called The Strypes doing a high-energy take of “Route 66.”  It’s an arrangement in the Rolling Stones vein, which is really a tough version of the Chuck Berry rendition.  The band sounds like a cross between the very young Stones and The Commitments (remember that Irish indie film made from Roddy Doyle’s book of the same name, with Star Trek: TNG’s Colm Meaney as the Da?  Excellent, wasn’t it?), with a dash of The Pretenders thrown in for good measure (I don’t think Chrissie Hynde would mind; besides, she and I share a birthday, so there).

This ain’t your teenage boy band.  For a group that formed barely three years ago, they’re incredibly mature, competent musicians, even if they are of the blues-punk-garage-rock persuasion.  Moreover, they have a very thorough knowledge of the Americna blues and R&B songbook and have recorded some real classics on Mercury Records, their previous label, and Virgin EMI, their current label. Hell, they’ve even recorded vinyl, not that you’ll find it easily outside Ireland or the UK.  Give us the rundown, you say?  Sure:  ‘Tis young Ross Farrelly on lead vocals and harmonica, Josh McClorey on lead guitar and vocals, Pete O’Hanlon on bass and harmonica, and Evan Walsh on drums, all from Cavan in Ulster in the Republic, near the Northern Irish border.  They’re deadly serious players and have some big-time groupies:  they’ve signed with Elton John’s Rocket Music Management firm, and their fans include guitarist par excellence Jeff Beck and ex-Who singer Roger Daltrey, among others, in addition to Sir Elton.

So:  in honor of St. Paddy’s, here’s this week’s edition of the Route 66 SOTW with some rockin’ youth.  Enjoy!

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Route 66 Song Of The Week: The Toast Big Band

Greetings, fellow roadies!  ‘Tis I, your favorite musical mixmistress, DJ SweetMarie, with another entry in our road music catalog.  It’s just shy of 50 degrees F. here in Chicago today, almost … balmy.  (Yes, I can hear my aunt in Boca Raton grumbling that 70 degrees is chilly for her, but hey, auntie, you’re wrong and it’s all relative.  Pun intended.  Hah!)  Anyway, it’s the kind of day that almost makes you want to pull out the convertible and take a little trip; or it would, if it weren’t for the melting snowdrifts and salt-rimmed puddles in every parking lot and gutter.  You don’t want your sports car or cycle out in that, folks.

But you can Think Warm, even if we are expecting more snow soon.  Which is why our selection today features a band in Hawaiian shirts with tiki-style music stands (gotta love it!) playing a summer jazz fest:  The Toast Big Band.  Have to give them a lot of credit:  they snap to it and swing the hell out of this number.  Even if the are playing in Annadale. VA (about 15 miles SW of DC, as the crow flies), which doesn’t exactly sound like Swingtown to me.  But I could be wrong; there could be hep cats and Lindyhoppers there around every corner.  Besides, a rockin’ band always warms the soul.  So don your own Hawaiian shirts, mix yourselves some Mai Tais, Singapore Slings or Hurricanes, and give a listen to these high-energy guys.  They’ll get your blood going!

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Route 66 music: here’s your 66 tune of the week from George Benson

Courtesy of Ron Warnick at the Route 66 News blog, we’ve just learned that jazz guitarist George Benson has a new album out called Inspiration, honoring the late great pianist and vocalist Nat King Cole.  This does, of course, include our favorite Bobby Troup song, which Cole made a hit in 1946 (shortly after Troup wrote and recorded it himself, in fact).  You can find a YouTube video of it here and can buy it at Amazon here.  Remarkably, Benson’s voice is reminiscent of Cole’s smooth warmth and is amiably suited to this.

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Springmania: Route 66 gets some love on Chicago media

You can tell spring is really here in Chicago:  the lilacs are blooming, the days are warmer, overnight temps no longer approach freezing, and Route 66 got some attention on local television this weekend.  Oh, and the local landscapers are now waking people up at the crack of dawn with their edge trimmers, lawn mowers and leaf blowers, earning a colorful cussing from many a sleeper … but I digress.

Drive time has arrived!

The Associated Press led off the weekend early Friday morning with a news item from Santa Fe, NM:  law officers across all eight states of the Mother Road participated in a 24-hour-long campaign to get drivers on the historic road to buckle up.  Local press covered it, too, mostly by citing AP.  Given that seat belts and child restraints save about 13,000 lives yearly and you’re 75 percent less likely to die in a rollover crash if you’re wearing a seat belt, according to federal statistics,* it doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.  But it did mean a crackdown all the way up and down the route this weekend.

* National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s figures

The Route 66 roadie's dream

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