Sunday, January 17, 2010

Truck Driving Man

SONG Truck Driving Man


PERFORMED BY Terry Fell (1954), George Hamilton IV (1965), Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen (1972), Red Steagall (1976), many others

APPEARS ON B-side to "Don't Drop It" (Fell); Fort Worth, Dallas or Houston (Hamilton); Hot Licks, Cold Steel & Trucker's Favorites (Cody); Lone Star Beer and Bob Wills Music (Steagall)

When one-hit wonder Terry Fell exulted in the 1954 success of "Don't Drop It," he couldn't know that its B-side would go on to become one of the most-performed songs in country music history, a staple of bar bands from Maine to California. Indeed, the first time I heard "Truck Driving Man," it was by that greatest of bar bands, Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen. While their version was a far cry from Fell's straight ahead rockabilly original, the Commander and the boys delivered it with their signature coupling of ironic vocals and crack musicianship. George Hamilton IV and Red Steagall charted with the song, both delivering polished country arrangements. Buck Owens, like Fell and Merle Haggard a product of Southern California's post-war country music scene, performed the song featuring his inimitable vocals and rousing instrumental breaks.

It's easy to understand why "Truck Driving Man" became a staple. It's a light-hearted romp about the romance of the road that tells its story through such icons as a road house, a cup of coffee, an anonymous waitress, a juke box, and, of course, a semi-truck. It invokes Texas, that most iconic of states, and San Antonio, Texas' most iconic city. Anyone can listen to this song and imagine themselves at Hamburger Dan's, hastily downing fast food and coffee, pausing to listen to a self-referential song on the juke, and boasting to the waitress, all before climbing back aboard a semi and heading down the road. The only mystery about "Truck Driving Man" is why Terry Fell thought it should be a B-side.

There are many great truck driving songs; "I'm Coming Home," "Looking at the World Through a Windshield," and "Semi Truck" all come to mind. The Marshall Tucker band took the genre beyond country and rockabilly with their southern rock classic "24 Hours at a Time." Performers such as Red Simpson and former Airman Bill Kirchen have literally made their livings writing and playing truck songs. There's even a web site called Virtual Truck Route dedicated to trucker music, movies, radio, and television. All of this could well have happened without "Truck Driving Man." But it's nice to know that such a great song is at the head of it all.

I stopped at a road house in Texas
A little place called Hamburger Dan's
I heard that old jukebox a-playin'
A song 'bout a truck driving man

Pour me another cup of coffee
For it is the best in the land
I'll put a nickel in the jukebox
And play The Truck Driving Man

The waitress then brought me some coffee
I thanked her and called he back again
I said "That old song sure does fit me
'Cause I am a truck driving man"

Pour me another cup of coffee
For it is the best in the land
I'll put a nickel in the jukebox
And play The Truck Driving Man

I stepped back on board my old semi
And then like a flash I was gone
I got them old truck wheels a-rolling
I'm on my way to San Antone

Here are versions of "Truck Driving Man" beginning with Terry Fell's original and proceeding through George Hamilton IV, Buck Owens, Commander Cody, and Red Steagall.

Here's a pointer to the audio by Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen. Scroll down and select the song.


  1. Fun post! How about "6 Days on the Road"? Can't remember who did that originally, but it was covered by both Gram Parsons & Taj Mahal--"I got little white pills & my eyes stay open wide"....

  2. Good song writing doesn't have to be serious!

    The line from "6 Days" conjures a verse from "Semi Truck:"

    Here I sit, all alone with a broken heart
    I took three bennies and my semi-truck won't start

  3. Oh yeah, that's what I'M talkin' about.

  4. 6 days on rthe road was done by Dave Dudley in 1963

  5. a good friend of mine died yesterday. His claim to fame might well be his nickname. He joined AOL back in the day & did not have to add any numbers & such.
    A fan of Commander Cody from the mid/late 60s.