Ain’t nothin’ holdin’ me back nothin’
I’ll keep right on, right on truckin’
Ain’t nothin’ holdin’ me back nothin’
I’ll keep right on, right on truckin’ Eddie Kendriks
I remember back in the day walking into my 12th grade classes one morning and noticing that the teacher had put a new poster up on the bulletin board. It was the ever popular ‘Keep on Truckin’ poster, but scrawled beneath it in red marker were the words “but don’t be afraid to stop and ask for directions along the way.” I remember saying something like “right on,” “cool,” “bitchin,” maybe “bad ass” or even “outta sight!” But hey, come on, it was the 60’s, what else would you expect, at least it wasn’t “groovy,” “boss,” or “far out”? Those three expressions were a little too ‘far out for me and were never a part of my vocabulary except maybe as a joke.
I remember some girl asked the teacher why he had written the “but don’t be afraid to stop and ask for directions along the way” line on the poster. He laughed and asked us what we thought ‘Keep on Truckin’ meant. Students weren’t as reluctant to answer questions back then as they are today, so many hands went up. Yeah that’s right, we didn’t just start shouting out answers, we actually raised our hands and waited to be called on. One girl said the phrase had to do with big rigs and delivery trucks. A couple of the local stoners said that ‘truckin’ was another word for ‘druggin’ and it meant keep on getting high! His buddy said that ‘truckin’ ‘ was a sort of cool way to walk and strut your stuff when you were stoned. After soliciting a few more wrong answers he finally said “It means to keep on keeping on.” That answer simply added to the confusion. “Come on, you know, It means to carry on, keep plugging away, stay the course and don’t give up.” “The added byline about asking for directions just means that as your truckin’ your way through life don’t think you have to face everything alone. It’s okay to ask for a little help along the way. Asking for direction is not a sign of weakness. We can all use a helping hand sometime.” We all sort of nodded as though we understood and he went on with the class.
I never really gave it much thought one way or another. As far as I was concerned “keep on truckin'” was just another 60’s expression like “Have a Nice Day,” “Shit Happens,” “Flower Power” and my personal favorite “Better Living Through Chemicals.” Did you know that was a genuine slogan for a leading chemical company that was adopted by the drug culture? Yeah “Keep on Truckin'” didn’t have the depth or the magnitude of some of the other slogans like “Make Love, Not War,” “Hell No, We won’t Go,” “War is Unhealthy for Children and Other Living Things, or “Give Peace a Chance.”
Then the other day I came across an interview with Robert Crumb the underground cartoonist known for creating “Fritz the Cat,” a line of underground cartoon characters and the ever popular “Keep on Truckin’ ” poster in 1968. It was interesting to learn that Crumb really didn’t come up with the idea for KOT, but simple revived a concept that was actually a blues phrase back in the 1930’s, Thanks to Crumb’s reinvention of the phrase it can now be found scrawled everywhere from sidewalks and buildings to tee-shirts, posters, and baseball caps. “Keep on Truckin’ “is entrenched in the American psyche just like the peace symbol or “have a Nice Day” and isn’t going away.
As Crump stated Keep on Truckin’ started out as a blues thing, there was even a blues song at the time titled “Keep on Truckin'”and a dance in the 40’s called Truckin’, Actually Keep on Truckin’ and was more than likely a play on words that referred to having sex, yes that’s right sex, one of the lines repeated several times in the song is “No one can truck like I can truck,” and “Let’s get drunk and truck.” These lyrics were written years before the truckin’ dance was created so they definitely weren’t talking about dancing.
So a simple catchphrase took to meaning to keep going, always press forward and never stop has been adopted by American culture as a rite of affirmation and expression of goodwill. Yeah Keep on Truckin’ was the Nike “Just Go For It” slogan of the 60’s and 70’s. So you’re out there doing the walk of life don’t let any of the crap life throws your way, stop you from reaching your goals. Just hang in there baby, keep on keeping on and keep on truckin’! Oh yeah, don’t forget to ask for directions along the way if you need them.
Just a Thought,