'I've Been Everywhere' Puts Hank Snow, Johnny Cash on Map - Rolling Stone
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Flashback: ‘I’ve Been Everywhere’ Puts Hank Snow, Johnny Cash on the Map

Recorded by the Singing Ranger on this day in 1962, the globe-trotting tune paired the Man in Black with Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers in 1996

Since Billboard magazine started keeping track of such things in 1944, there have been dozens of Number One country songs with geographical locations in their titles. In 1945 alone, Oklahoma, Sioux City and Iwo Jima were all name-checked. But in 1962 the “Singing Ranger,” Canadian-born Opry star Hank Snow, notched a Number One hit that traveled thousands of miles in under three minutes. Produced by Chet Atkins and recorded by Snow on this day, June 27th, 1962, at RCA’s historic Studio B, “I’ve Been Everywhere” actually began its global journey on an entirely different continent. But thanks to Snow and, later, Johnny Cash, it has become an American classic.

“I’ve Been Everywhere” was written and first performed by Australian entertainer Geoff Mack in 1959, and dotted with some 90 places on the Aussie map in its rapid-fire lyrics. Opening with the line, “I was humpin’ my bluey,” which is basically Australian slang for carrying a sleeping bag, the tune first became a hit for another Australian pop-rock artist, Lucky Starr, in 1962.

Simultaneously, Hank Snow, whose first big hit, “I’m Movin’ On,” in 1950 spent a staggering 21 weeks at Number One, recorded his version for RCA. In the book Producing Country, by Michael Jarrett, Atkins notes that the record preserved its seamless lyrical gymnastics through a series of well-placed tape splices, allowing Snow, whose diction was always near-perfect anyway, to concentrate on each of the verses individually rather than all at once, since there were so many place names to remember. One viewing of the above clip, however, suggests such studio trickery was unnecessary. Snow rattles off each location, moving around the musical map with the expertise of a highly caffeinated rapper.

Not surprisingly, “I’ve Been Everywhere” has been remade and revised numerous times, with versions specific to New Zealand, Great Britain and Ireland, Finland, Germany and more. Country versions that followed Snow’s included one by Lynn Anderson that reached the Top 20 in 1970, and a steel-driven 1973 recording by Asleep at the Wheel. More recently, in his live shows, Houston-area native Hayes Carll has even paid tribute to his hometown – and his varied pharmaceutical experience – with a version of the song called “I’ve Done Every Drug.”

In 1996, Johnny Cash, accompanied by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, closed out his Unchained LP, the second in his American Recordings series produced by Rick Rubin, with a raucous version that took on an extended life through its use in several TV commercials. With Cash’s version, “I’ve Been Everywhere” covered approximately 112,515 miles or 181,075 kilometers, from Reno to Dodge City and points in between. You can even track the Man in Black on his intercontinental odyssey – and study the song’s lyrics – with this Johnny Cash Has Been Everywhere map that should probably come with a warning about potential car-sickness.

In This Article: Hank Snow


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