The subject for Day 5 of my 30 Day Song Challenge is “A song that makes you want to travel“. There are some great songs about traveling, such as Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again”, Ricky Nelson’s “Travelin’ Man”, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Travelin’ Band”, and John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads”. But my pick is the marvelous Ray Charles song “Hit the Road Jack“. While not necessarily about travel, the song’s bouncy R&B groove really gets the toes tapping, compelling you to move! It’s barely two minutes long, but packs quite a punch.
The song was written by R&B singer Percy Mayfield, who first recorded it in 1960 as an a cappella demo that he sent to music executive Art Rupe. “Hit the Road Jack” was later recorded by Ray Charles in June 1961, with delicious call and response vocals by Margie Hendrix, who was the lead singer of The Raelettes, a girl group originally formed to sing backup on many of Ray Charles songs. She admonishes Charles in the song, informing him in no uncertain terms that she thinks he’s a bum “you ain’t got no money, you just ain’t no good“, while his pleas for her forgiveness “Now baby, listen baby, don’t ya treat me this way, ’cause I’ll be back on my feet some day“, fall on deaf ears.
The song became a huge hit, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the fall of 1961, as well as in Sweden and New Zealand. It also won a Grammy award for Best Rhythm and Blues Recording, and became one of Charles’ signature songs.
Here’s the demo recorded by Percy Mayfield: