They spend many hours on the road, sometimes even days, hauling goods up and down the highways, grid roads, and wherever a truck has been designated to go. All too often, they are overlooked as one of the most important people that keep the global economy going. When airplanes and trains fail, count on a trucker to get the job done. Off and on, movies and television will highlight a trucker in a storyline that will either peg that person as a hero or a villain. Probably that one movie that stands out as an all-time great would be 1977’s Smokey and the Bandit. Starring Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jackie Gleason, Mike Henry, Pat McCormick, Jerry Reed, and Paul Williams.
This stellar cast featured a pair of bootleggers that had to illegally transport four hundred cases of Coors beer from a Texas town into Atlanta, Georgia, without getting caught. Just in case somebody reading this article has never seen the movie, Reynolds was the bandit driving the Trans Am as a distraction tool to keep law enforcement away from the trucker that had all that beer in his trailer. The movie was the second-highest-grossing American film of 1977 as it was released in the same year as the mega-hit, Star Wars. The on-screen romance that built up in the movie between the characters played by Burt Reynolds and Sally Field was also shared off-screen for a time.
That movie, plus the hit television series that was inspired by it, BJ and the Bear, glamorized a trucker’s lifestyle that saw the average joe root for the unconventional blue collar worker that always has to find a way to deal with whatever new rules and regulations the government and its law enforcement agencies came up with. Speaking as someone who has worked with truckers, off and on since 1998, this writer has become quite familiar with the stigmas many truckers have to contend with, as well as certain challenges that are thrown their way that may or may not be justified.
Truckers, just like farmers, are the backbone of what makes countries great. Among the stars in the entertainment industry who recognize this, whenever each of them record a song in favor of these underappreciated blue collar workers, it makes a heartfelt impact. Some of the best songs that pay homage to the trucks and the men and women who drive them have earned their place as more than just some trucker song. They are all-time classics that have a fan base that extend beyond individuals who have a special place in their hearts for trucks of all sizes.
Regardless if it’s a simple pickup truck or an eighteen-wheeled giant, the professionals who drive these machines as part of their job description usually do it for more than just the money. This has repeatedly become obvious as they have always come through whenever there’s been a crisis that has gripped nations into lockdowns, threatening so much more than financial interests.
This top ten list featuring truck songs are dedicated to the men and women who spend most of their time behind the wheel doing a service that is every bit as valuable as a soldier in the military or a farmer on the field.
Top 10 Trucker Songs
#10 – Eastbound and Down (featuring Gordon Stoker)
“Eastbound and Down” was a song written and recorded by Jerry Reed that was designed for the soundtrack for 1977 film, Smokey and the Bandit. True to song’s theme, often truckers will carry out tasks on the road that cannot be done otherwise. Designed as a kick-up-the-heels song with Gordon Stoker as the harmonized backup vocalist, “East Bound and Down” spent sixteen weeks on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and peaked as high as number three.
The jargon on the CB radio that’s featured in the title and in the lyric still serves as a common sign-off among truckers on the radio as they state the direction they’re going. Often, when driving alone behind the wheel, the CB radio was the primary source of communication between the men and women that were on the road. Although cellular phones has served up a modernized way for truckers to communicate, the CB radio still remains as an ideal method among drivers and dispatchers.
#9 – Phantom 309
In 1967, Red Sovine brought forth a spoken song, “Phantom 309.” In a tale of a man down on his luck and stranded on the road, he shared a story about a driver named Joe and his truck that picked him up and took him to a diner before informing him it was the end of the line as he needed to go his own way. Before leaving, the truck driver handed a dime to the hitchhiker and told him to let the diner know he was sent by “Big Joe.” When Red Sovine shared his tale to the people inside the diner they told him the full story about that driver and his truck, “Phantom 309.”
This song peaked at number nine on what was the Billboard Magazine Country chart at the time but as the years went by became a favorite frame of reference that saw a spinoff version in 1985’s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and as background music in 2014’s Trailer Park Boys: Don’t Legalize It. In the trucking industry, drivers are more likely to encounter disaster than the average motorist because they spend so much more time on the road. There are some truckers that drive on what’s known as ice roads, which are highways made on frozen water that enable the delivery of goods to communities and facilities in remote areas that are in need.
It is not unusual for truckers to risk their own lives just to save others, regardless if it happens to be part of the job or not. The story behind “Phantom 309” inspired a series of artists to cover this song their own way. “Like The 309” was a song Johnny Cash released in 2006 posthumously as a tribute to Red Sovine’s original.
#8 – Movin’ On
Merle Haggard’s “Movin’ On,” from the album, Keep Moving On, was a 1975 single that was inspired by the television show also named Movin’ On. The show’s storyline focused on a pair of truck drivers traveling across the United States of America to help their friends out in different states. “Movin’ On” started off as a theme song for the show that ran from 1974 until 1976 that spurred Haggard to record a full-length version of it and turn it into a single.
On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, it peaked at number one and was a number fifteen hit on the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart. “Movin’ On,” according to Merle Haggard and those who can relate, pointed out the life of a truck driver isn’t always just a job. It has also been known to be an addictive lifestyle as there is no better way to discover the beauty of a nation than spending time on the road and check out the scenery on a daily basis.
#7 – Truck Drivin’ Man
“Truck Drivin’ Man” was first recorded in 1954 by Terry Fell that had Buck Owens sing in harmony with him at the time. When Owens recorded his version to this song in 1965, it became a legendary classic. While there are many big name artists that have also recorded and released “Truck Drivin’ Man,” the honorable mention goes to Buck Owens as it was he that not only served up this song as an inspiration for other singers to cover, but generations of truck drivers and their loved ones as “Truck Drivin’ Man” continues to roll on as the perfect tribute to the men and women who spend so much time on the road.
#6 – Drivin’ My Life Away
In 1980, Eddie Rabbitt’s “Drivin’ My Life Away” became a number one hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and a number two hit on the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart. Rabbitt’s lyrical take on the life of a truck driver always on the road was the lead track on his album, Horizon, which also featured another hit, “I Love a Rainy Night.” “Drivin’ My Life Away” spiked the country star’s popularity enough to turn him into a crossover success as it also peaked at number five on the US Billboard Hot 100.
On an international level, it was a number twenty-two hit on the New Zealand Singles Chart, a number twenty-seven hit on the Dutch Top 40, and charted at number one hundred on Australia’s Kent Music Report. It also became certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Truckers, as well as their families, can relate to “Drivin’ My Life Away” due to the reality that many spend more time on the road than they do at home. For some it may be just a job as a means to make ends meet while among others it’s a lifestyle. In 1998, Rhett Akins covered this cult classic for his album, Black Dog. However, the magic touch Eddie Rabbitt put into the original has so far remained the all-time favorite.
#5 – On the Road Again
Technically speaking, “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson is not really a song about truckers. It is, however, a song some truckers can relate to and why it became such a huge favorite among music fans, regardless if they were into country or not. The song was designed for the 1980 film, Honeysuckle Rose, which Nelson also starred in. “On the Road Again” became Willie Nelson’s ninth number one hit in his career on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, and it won him a Grammy Award for Best Country Song in 1981.
It was also his best crossover hit as it peaked at number twenty on the US Billboard Hot 100. On the US Billboard Adult Contemporary songs chart, it peaked at number seven. The song was actually about spending time on a tour bus, traveling up and down the roads, as he’d perform one concert after another. For him, this was the life as he always commented he couldn’t wait to get back on the road and meet up with his friends. For truckers, “On the Road Again” is a song they can relate to, especially if they share Willie Nelson’s love for the road. There are many truckers that simply love doing what they do, regardless if they have loved ones waiting for them back home or not.
While on the road, especially if the route is familiar, there are favorite stops and hangouts along the way that have been known to hold a special place in the hearts of some truckers. It could be something as simple as a special rapport that’s been built with different people while on the road as it can sometimes become a rather lonely job to do.
#4 – 18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses
“18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses” was recorded and released by Kathy Mattea in 1988, becoming an all-time cult favorite that sometimes isn’t an easy song to listen through without the urge to shed a tear. The lyrical tale revolved around a retiring trucker that had spent thirty years of his life on the road, away from his wife, just so goods arrived on time at its designation point. “18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses” was the second single that came from the album, Untasted Honey, and became a number one hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart.
Among the listeners who pay attention to the lyrics, “18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses” served as a countdown song as it went from the number of wheels the truck the hero of the song drove, then to twelve roses, and finally to the one he loves to park his big rig for the last time.
#3 – Truck Yeah
Tim McGraw’s “Truck Yeah” was released during the summer season of 2012 and was the first single from his 2013 album, Two Lanes of Freedom. This was his first single from the label, Big Machine Records. In the music video, the visual tribute of the mighty men and women who drive trucks of all sizes has added to the entertainment value of this song that clearly deserves to sit in the group of best trucker songs ever recorded.
While the song may not win five stars from an English major, it counts where it matters most, which is a heartfelt “Truck Yeah” appreciation to the blue collar worker that really are the people that make any nation great. With over one million copies sold to become certified platinum with the RIAA, it seems the fans agree as well. On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, “Truck Yeah” peaked at number eleven and it became a crossover hit when it peaked at number fifty-seven on the US Billboard Hot 100. In Canada, the people of that nation peaked Tim McGraw’s ode to trucks as high as number three on its RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart and at number fifty-two on the Canadian Hot 100.
#2 – Convoy
C.W. McCall brought forth a novelty song in 1975 titled “Convoy.” This became a number one single on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and on the US Billboard Hot 100. To this day, it remains as an all-time favorite country song on charts belonging to Rolling Stone Magazine’s lists and Billboard’s. When “Convoy” topped the music charts, it stayed there for six weeks. As to be expected, truck-loving Canadians also had “Convoy” peak at number one on the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart and on the RPM Top Singles Chart.
On the UK Singles Chart, it became a number two hit. This song served as an inspiration for the 1978 movie, Convoy, which saw C.W. McCall bring forth a revved up version of the original so that it could fit the Sam Peckinpah’s film storyline. In 2022, the writer and one of the talking voices in “Convoy,” Bill Fries, gave the approval to the 2022 Freedom Convoy to use the song as their official protest song against the government that apparently needed a reminder just how important freedom is to every member of the human race, including truckers.
#1 – Roll On (18 Wheeler)
“Roll On (18 Wheeler)” is not just some hit single that came from the legendary group, Alabama. Among many truckers and their families, this is almost biblical. It brought to reality how much some truckers sacrifice just to make sure the wheels that cater to the needs of the nation continue to be met, no matter what the circumstance. “Roll On” was Alabama’s twelfth number one hit in a row on the US Billboard Hot Country songs chart. It was released in January 1984 and also peaked at number one on the RPM Canadian Country Tracks chart. Although Alabama made this song an all-time cult classic, it was originally recorded by Randy Parton.
Top 10 Trucker Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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