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Remember the other Route 66 theme song?

There was more than one way to get your kicks


Mention “Route 66” and “song” some of you will think of Bobby Troup’s (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66, originally recorded by Nat King Cole, and later by everyone from Bing Crosby (with the Andrews Sisters) to chuck Berry, Asleep at the Wheel, Manhattan Transfer, Depeche Mode and the Rolling Stones.

Story goes that Troup wanted to write music for Hollywood, so he and his wife, Cynthia, left Pennsylvania on U.S. 40 and, after arriving in Illinois, followed Route 66 the rest of the way.

Troup thought about writing a song about the first part of their 10-day trip, but Cynthia suggested the “Get your kicks on Route 66” line and music history was made.

But a few might recall another Route 66 song. This one was written by Nelson Riddle as was the theme song for the Route 66 television series (1960-1964) starring Martin Milner and George Maharis.

The show’s producers considered the Nat King Cole version of Kicks for the theme, but decided to avoid the expensive royalties that would necessitate and instead turned to Riddle to write a theme. 

Riddle played trombone in big bands, including Tommy Dorsey’s, won an Oscar for his score for The Great Gatsby, was nominated for his work on several other films, wrote for Frank Sinatra and others.

Riddle’s theme for Route 66 reached No. 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 list and was nominated for two Grammy awards.

He also wrote the music for the Tarzan, The Untouchables and the Naked City television series.

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. While I love Nat and all his music, Nelson Riddle’s original composition is exponentially better than any version of “Kicks”, which behind its clever lyrics, is still basic 12-bar blues (albeit with a modified bridge)… like 90% of all 50’s pop. THIS is a song that gets stuck in my head when I drive, and one I love to break-out and play on my HiFi!
    Great article. Mr. Edsall~

  2. I have seen Riddle’s theme music as released in l962 for the T.V. show. But the show ran for 2 full seasons before the release. What was the theme music during this time?


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