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Ever since an inventor named Paul Galvin* had the bright idea of putting a radio into a car back in 1929, no roadtrip has ever been complete without tunes. And even when you're not cruising, there's no better way to get that highway feeling than cranking up music that evokes the freedom of the open road.
Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again" immediately comes to mind, as does Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty." Bonnie Raitt's "The Road's My Middle Name" and Ray Charles' "Hit the Road, Jack" are two more all-time favorite singles. For a caffeine-free No-Doz effect, try Sammy Hagar's "I Can't Drive 55" or the pounding blues beat of Bobby King's "One-Way Ticket to Memphis." Eric Clapton's virtuoso guitar riffs in "Crossroads" are another good way to fend off the drowsies.
For smoother tunes in the Texas swing tradition, try listening to Clay Walker and Dwight Yoakum on the Ride with Bob CD. If you prefer classical music, the Vienna Philharmonic's recording of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is a particular favorite of road trippers, and Medicine Man is an oft-recommended movie soundtrack. For more recommendations, visit the Great American RoadTrip Forum, where you can also post your own suggestions.
Audio Tip: Great American Road Trip Forum Member Rod Ness suggests adding what is certainly one of the smoothest versions of Route 66 out there -- performed and recoreded by the Manhattan Transfer in February, 1994. Click here for more info & audio samples (1/22/06)
*Galvin had a little help. RoadTripper and Music Fan Eric L. Schenkelberg, writes: "William Lear was a pretty cool guy and between the car radio and the 8-track, music fans owe him a lot. I enjoy frequent driving trips to the Bay area or Las Vegas from L.A. in no small part due to the joy of tossing a bunch of CDs in the car, opening the sunroof, turning the volume up and just getting gone. Britain's Daimler Motor Company put radios into their Light 30 models in 1922 and you couldn't even play those radios when the car was running, because of interference from the motor. Then in 1924, William Powell Lear and a friend of his, Elmer Wavering found a way to make it work while Lear owned Quincy (Ill.) Radio Laboratories. U.S. patent 1,944,139. Unfortunately for Lear, he was only 20 and didn't have the capital to market his new device. He went into partnership with Paul Galvin of Galvin Manufacturing, who eventually bought the whole idea.
In 1929, Galvin introduced the 5T71 car radio, which cost $110-$130 and owners installed themselves. He called it the "Motorola," and it was such a hit he named a whole company after it. By 1933, Ford was offering preinstalled radios.
Lear would later develop the 8-track tape and, of course, the Lear jet, but it is he who should hold credit for the car radio, not Galvin. Kinda like the whole Tesla vs. Edison thing."