18 February 2009

Get your kicks

In the years following the end of the Great War, paved two-lane highways were built across the United States, knitting the country together on the assumption of near universal automobile ownership. These thoroughfares reigned supreme for the next three decades, until the Interstate Highway System was built, beginning in the 1950s. Perhaps the most famous of these early highways was Route 66, which connected Chicago and Los Angeles. It was opened in 1926 and lasted until 1985, when the signs for this route were finally taken down. It was immortalized in 1946 by Bobby Troup's eponymous song, as performed below by the Nat King Cole Trio:

In 1960 Nelson Riddle composed what may well be the best ever theme music for a television show, Route 66, starring Martin Milner and George Maharis. The piano part seems an obvious homage to Cole's performance of the earlier song. Hear for yourself:

Some years ago signs were put back up along the remnants of the old route commemorating the historic role it played in the development of the 20th-century transportation infrastructure of the United States.

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