Listen to Willin' by Johnny Darrell.
After yesterday's complaints (by my wife) that I was "posting too much John Phillips" and that yesterday's song was--gasp--"not even a road song", I'm going to make today's selection more cut and dried. For that reason, today's song is prototypical "King of the Road" fare. "Willin'" is a well known Lowell George song featured on Little Feat's eponymous first album. To keep things interesting though, I'm posting a less well known version of this frequently covered song (the Byrds, Linda Ronstadt, etc).
Johnny Darrell was managing a Holiday Inn in Nashville when his songwriting came to the attention of Bobby Bare. Darrell was signed to UA and has the peculiar distinction of recording songs that would later go on to be big hits for other artists ("Ruby" for Kenny Rogers, "The Son of Hickory Holler's Tramp" for O.C. Smith, "Pen in Hand" for Vicki Carr).
Darrell probably would have been a mere postscript in the history of 60's country music had he not made an excellent "crossover" record in 1970 entitled California Stop Over. This record is beloved by fans of country rock for its countrified treatments of rock standards (e.g., "These Days") and the always amazing guitar work of Byrd Clarence White. It's a really wonderful record that, even in its title, prefigures country music's movement west in that era. It really should be better known. That being said, I even like Darrell's earlier, more traditional work--mostly because it's pretty darn sappy (see "Pen in Hand" for a great example).
"Willin'"'s lyrics certainly mark its writer and performer as a "King of the Road". I could go on a long time about how great these lyrics are, but I'll let you listen for yourself. Suffice it to say, the song is chock-full of road imagery ( headlights, sleet, snow, backroads), illicit activity (smuggling "smokes and folks", avoiding the scales, getting high on weed, whites and wine), interesting characters ("Dallas Alice") and specific places (Mexico, Tucson & Tucumcari, Tehachapi & Tonopah). Enjoy.
Photo: Lockhart, TX.