Flashback: ‘I’ve Been Everywhere’ Puts Hank Snow, Johnny Cash on the Map
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,
“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
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
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