songs for the road

When I was a kid.

Don’t you just hate it when people say that?

And yet there are some common themes and experiences which seem to stretch across all times and cultures.

Everyone has walked up hill both ways in the snow. And everyone has been in a car or cart, or on a path or a road, listening to or joining in some song of the road, passing the time of our travels with some expression of our hearts.

When I was a kid, for example, we sang an obscure country song about detours every time we came to one.

Detour, there’s a muddy road ahead.
Detour, paid no mind to what it said.
Detour, all these bitter things I find.
Should have read that detour sign.

It was western swing, originally recorded by Tex Williams with the Spade Cooley band in 1946, but was on the charts by Patti Page for 16 weeks in 1951. (See video here.)

Just so you know, that was (slightly) before I was born. But my mom loved country western and I knew the song by heart before I was 5, including the warning about the five years in jail.

My mom was always warning me about something.

I don’t think I ever sang that song to my kids, partly because of the range it requires. But as an adult I had my own list of car songs, including Wayfaring Stranger and Summertime.

And yes, there was room for 101 Barrels of Beer on the wall, too. We went through Wee Sing Silly Songs and the Animaniacs as well. Laughter and fun are part of the journey.

But as the trip drew on, and everyone including my wife fell asleep, I was singing to myself. And one song I often sang was “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus” by Charles Weigle, a gentle, elderly man I knew as a child. (See AV links below.)

He was the artist in residence at the Bible college my dad attended. He was an old man when I knew him,over 80, and he was kind to me. And the story of his wife leaving him because he was called to preach may have made more of an impression on me than any warnings about detours.

I also sang another hymn by Weigle, late at night as my eyes got heavier and the snores got louder: “I Have Found a Hiding Place.” The chorus goes like this:

Jesus, Rock of Ages let me hide in Thee,
Jesus, Rose of Sharon, sweet Thou art to me;
Lily of the Valley, Bright and Morning Star,
Fairest of ten thousand to my soul.

And at some level these songs, like all road songs, said something about my heart. Nurtured in a community of faith, I sought to connect to its values and find comfort it its truths.

I still do.

And so did the ancient Hebrews, whose Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 120-134) collect their own songs of the road, the songs they sang together as they traveled up to Jerusalem for the Holy Days three times a year.

I plan to write about some of them this summer. But for now, what are your songs of the road?

No, not the silly one. But the ones you sing late, alone, in the dark, as the road grows long and stretches into the night.

What do they say about your heart?


Weigle may be best known for “No One ever Cared for me Like Jesus.” Here is a version by the Crown College choir. And here is a gospel quartet version. And my favorite, by Wintley Phipps.

You can hear Weigle’s own testimony about the song. It’s an hour long, but you can hear him sing it himself about 24 minutes in, after he tells the story much the way I heard him tell it as a young boy. You will have to forgive the exuberance of his audience.

Here is a guy singing “I have found a hiding place” as poorly, and as earnestly, as I do, and playing the ukelele as poorly as I did too. For a slightly more palatable version, here are three sisters singing it at at a family reunion in 1990. themabesbabes. Seriously.

9 thoughts on “songs for the road”

  1. My daughters & I LOVED the “Wee Sing” recordings, especially the “Wee Sing Silly Songs” and “We Sing Around the Campfire” . . . we wore out the cassette tapes! I miss those halcyon homeschooling days when they were little.

    During their college years, I logged many solo hours behind the wheel having dropped off my girls or going to pick them up at campuses 450 – 600 miles from home. Here are the lyrics to my favorite “song of the road” (sung a capella loudly in my best faux country twang to keep myself awake):

    “One day Jesus will call mah name.
    As days go by Ah hope Ah don’t stay the same.
    Ah wanna get so close to Him that it’s no big change . . . on the day that Jesus calls mah name.”

    I don’t know the title or composer. Do any of you?

    Linda 🙂

  2. Keep me Jesus, as the apple of thine eye.
    Hide me under the shadow of thy wing.
    Keep thy hand upon me lest I die.
    Keep me Jesus as the apple of thine eye.

    It was a little song we used to sing when I was a camp counselor. I loved it. And the Psalm it came from. The dean of the camp knew I loved it and included it often when he led the songs at the firebowls. In the late night when the kids were all tucked into their sleeping bags and it was just we counselors and him sitting around a picnic table and the embers of a fire barely glowing he’d play us back to our tents with it.

    I sang it each summer– now many years ago– and on many late night car rides when I was lonesome or needed to keep awake. And then to Jack when he and I would rock in the chair in his green room.

    1. I remember that chorus – Keep me Jesus as the apple of Thine eye – but not the rest of the words; I wish there was a recording of it somewhere that I could download.

  3. Actually, Dad, you did sing that detour song to us. At least the first part. I don’t remember anything about 5 years in jail. =)

    I also remember the other two you mentioned. Must have seeped through to my dreams somehow. Thank you for singing them.

    I haven’t really driven alone for any distance in years. I’m usually the one sleeping in the passenger seat. But, “It Is Well With My Soul” has always been a favorite of mine. I’m pretty sure I’ve sung it a few times on dark roads. =)

  4. My Uncle Pete was apparently a great trial to my grandparents and all his teachers until he was saved and became a pastor. I was sorry I didn’t know him back then… but I’ll never forget him playing the guitar and singing “The Love of God” (Lehman 1917). Those words and the recollection of his earnestness as he sang his testimony song have often been a late night comfort to me.

    “The love of God is greater far
    Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
    It goes beyond the highest star,
    And reaches to the lowest hell.

    Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
    How measureless and strong!
    It shall forevermore endure—
    The saints’ and angels’ song.”

    I surely wish I had a video or audio recording of his dear voice singing this, but you can hear MercyMe sing a version of the song here:

  5. My favorite was always the little nash rambler song ( But I know that’s not what you were looking for. My grandfather (on my mother’s side) sang that song “No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus.” Unfortunately I do not have a copy of his singing it. But he sounded a lot like Wintley 🙂 Here’s a clip of him singing “Go Tell It On The Mountain.” ( I miss my Grandpa Bud!

  6. We sang all the “Wee Sing” songs, but my dad taught us some of the Kingston Trio’s songs. In the quieter times he used to sing scripture songs. He has a great voice and I remember him singing us to sleep many times. These songs have a way of creeping back into my mind many years later.

    Last year I had surgery on my voice. It was scary since I had to be awake for it and this song kept playing in my head:

    God is not a man that He should lie;
    Neither the Son of Man that He should repent.
    Hath He said and shall He not do it,
    Hath He spoken and shall He not make it good.
    Behold I have received commandment to bless
    And He hath blessed, and I cannot reverse it.

    It was so comforting, and also makes me realize how the things we learn as a child really do stick with us.

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