Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Keep on Truckin'

© R. Crumb
For those of us of a certain age (most of the riders on the Bus, I suppose) “Keep on Truckin’” has another connotation that has absolutely nothing to do with vehicles. Although “Keep on Truckin’” is most often associated with Mr. Natural, that bearded, down-to-earth dispenser of simple philosophy, the phrase didn’t originate from the underground comics of the ‘60s.

“Keep on Truckin’” appears in the lyrics of songs recorded in the 1930s. The phrase was popular with the double-entendre laced hokum blues. The first use of the phrase that I could locate is Blind Boy Fuller’s “Truckin’ My Blues Away.” I don’t know if the phrase was in common slang use before Fuller recorded his song, but it has appeared in more than a few songs in various genres since. The most influential of the early Piedmont blues artists, Fuller’s records were top sellers. If he did originate the phrase, it soon entered common usage.

The extremely talented R. Crumb is the creator of Mr. Natural and the man responsible for the resurrection of the phrase “Keep on Truckin’.” Although he is legendary as a cartoonist, Crumb is also a musician with an appreciation of the classic recordings of the ‘20s & ‘30s. In the late 1970s, R. Crumb & the Cheap Suit Serenaders recorded three records of great string band and blues numbers that showcased their respect for those great, timeless songs.

Wherever it first originated, “Keep on Truckin’ has entered the American language thanks to Blind Boy Fuller and remained a part of our vernacular thanks to R. Crumb.

Blind Boy Fuller - Truckin' My Blues Away.mp3

Hi Neighbor Boys - Keep Truckin´.mp3

Tampa Red and His Chicago Five - Let's Get Drunk And Truck.mp3

Modern Mountaineers - Everybody's Truckin'.mp3

Smokey Wood & The Wood Chips - Keep On Truckin'.mp3

I have been a fan of R. Crumb for as long as I can remember. Two of the three albums by R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders are in the collection on the Bus, as are an assortment of original issues of underground comics featuring works by R. Crumb. To order prints, posters, t-shirts, and books directly from the artist visit

Keep on Truckin’


Blogger Ess47 said...

Excellent blog. I enjoyed reading it. I'll be back!

November 29, 2007 7:35 AM  
Blogger Stephan said...

Great post, as usual. There seems to be a problem with the link for Hi Neighbor Boys - Keep Truckin', however...

November 29, 2007 12:21 PM  
Blogger Greg said...

So you have the Modern Mountaineers! I have a red vinyl LP called "Devil With the Devil," that contains that gem, plus a number of others. I'm sure you know the Commander Cody & LPA updated-for-the-70s version as well.

November 29, 2007 4:08 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

ESS47, Welcome aboard!

November 29, 2007 5:11 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Stephan, Thanks for the heads up. Odd that the play button can find the file, but right clicking can't (they are fed from the same call.)

I found the trouble and it should be working now.

November 29, 2007 5:13 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Greg, MM on red vinyl, that's a rare bird!

I had considered posting the Commander Cody, but it just wasn't appropriate for today's theme.

November 29, 2007 5:22 PM  
Anonymous Dan said...

All this talk of "truckin'" brings to mind Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen. Most of their stuff wasn't original, but it sure payed fine homage to those who brung it to us first. Great post, Ed. There's a lot of boogie-woogie in this stuff, and that's good, very good.

November 29, 2007 7:40 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

With both Greg and Dan mentioning Commander Cody, I suppose I'll have to squeese a few cuts into a future post.

November 29, 2007 7:55 PM  
Anonymous Rick said...

Truckin' was a black dance popular in the 1920s but much more so in the 1930s, when numerous "truckin'" songs were recorded. I doubt that CC and the Lost Planet Airmen were the first to make the obvious substitution. (Liner notes for "Kings of Western Swing" say that Smokey Wood pioneered the way in the Modern Mountaineers' "Everybody's Truckin'," though I can't quite hear it in the lyrics as sung, with one possible exception. The Bluebird A&R people probably didn't hear it, either.) Seems to me that Fred G Sanford trucks a little in one of the early series episodes, with his shoulders hunched and his hi de ho finger working. He was certainly the guy who would have known how to do it.

November 29, 2007 8:12 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Rick, That's it! I can see Fred Sanford truckin'! Thanks for filling in the blanks.

November 29, 2007 8:30 PM  
Blogger Gustavo said...


Many thanks :-)

December 01, 2007 5:50 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Good to hear from you, Gustavo, it's been awhile. Thanks for the kind words, I glad you enjoyed the tunes.

December 01, 2007 8:26 PM  
Blogger Leslie said...

Crumb's Short History of America has always been my favorite.
Didn't Felix the Cat do a hi de ho finger thing, too?

December 05, 2007 5:55 PM  

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