Over the years I tried time and time again to express all this. I had dozens of bit and pieces of songs that never went anywhere. It was too big to say in a song. Too much of my own makeup was involved, and a song is such a tiny thing to jam a life into. Then one day my friend Jonathan Lee Pickens stopped of at my house and told me about a newscast he had just seen. They said that the last stretch of the old road had finally been bypassed, out in Arizona, I think, or maybe New Mexico. It was a strange piece of news to hear. He had an idea for a song title, based on John Steinbeck’s name for it, “The Children of the Mother Road.” I was, I think, a little stunned by it all.
That day or the next, Alan Rhody and I started a writing appointment, a common practice back then, as we were both staff writers for a large publishing company. The only thing on my mind was this story, and I told him about it. I dragged out all the notes I had kept for all those years and added then to the stack of words I already had. Alan wrote many of the key lines for the song, and soon we had finished “Children of the Mother Road.” It still seemed, and still does, like only a drop in the bucket. I always assumed I would write more songs to add to it, and really never have, unless you count all the many songs involving travel I’ve written since.
In all the hypnotic rush of research and creation, my friend Jon Pickens, a tremendous songwriter, was completely left out of the process, and I have never stopped kicking my ass for that. I still am looking for a way to make that right with him, and someday I will. I’ve told some of this story before, but never in writing, and I just thought it best that you understood that I’m not playing around here when I sing that song. It doesn’t come from anywhere but my own life, and to some extent, it is my life. They say the first seven years of a child’s life are the formative ones, and I have reason to believe they may be right. It’s a tender subject. I’m just one of millions whose lives have been affected by Route 66, and mine are small stories compared to some, but I thank you for the chance to tell some of them.”