Sunday, August 2, 2015

Photo-of-the-Week #222 -- Saved by a Song, Winslow, Arizona, June 2010

Here I am, "Standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona" on the legendary road from Chicago to the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica, California, Route 66. As you can see, Route 66 runs through the Main Street, downtown area of Winslow.

Most people of an age remember Nat 'King' Cole's timeless hit song, "Get Your Kicks On Route 66." Cole did his 1946 version of the song the year it was written by Bobby Troup. It may be the most remembered version of the song. Troup's wife, Cynthia, actually came up with the title of the song based on a trip she and her husband took from Pennsylvania to Los Angeles. The song has been recorded by scores of artists and groups since then including The Rolling Stones. The highway even had its own TV drama from 1960 to 1964, titled "Route 66" starring Martin Milner for the entire series and George Maharis for the first three years and Glenn Corbett for the final year.

Yet, despite the fact that Route 66 goes right through Winslow, there was no mention of the small town in the song lyrics. Also, not one episode of the 116 shows from the Route 66 TV series was ever filmed in Winslow. Shows were shot on location all over the U.S. The majority of the shows were filmed in towns and cities I've been in during my life. Many of those cities were hundreds or even a thousand or more miles from Route 66. Winslow just didn't seem to have the appeal of Flagstaff or Kingman.

Then, along comes a group of troubadours by the name of the Eagles. Glenn Frey, one of the founders of the group, co-wrote a song with Jackson Browne titled, "Take It Easy." Browne started writing the song for himself, but couldn't come up with a second verse that worked. Frey liked what he heard and saw and convinced Browne to let him finish the song. The rest is history. "Take It Easy" became the Eagle's first hit single. And, though the name Winslow, Arizona is only mentioned one time in the second verse of the song, it has immortalized this little town that has all but been bypassed in time by Interstate 40.

So, what happens when you write a song with a name of a small Arizona town in the lyrics? First, a park is built in the center of the tiny town immortalizing "Standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona." A life sized bronze statue by sculptor Ron Adamson, is erected to immortalize the song's singer, Glenn Frey. A brick wall is erected with a trompe l'oeil mural by artist John Pugh, depicting the scene of standing on the corner when a flatbed Ford driven by a blonde girl drives by, reflected in the window of the storefront in the mural. And tourist trap stores capitalize on the name along with all kinds of knick-knacks, memorabilia, tee shirts, etc. spring up and this is the main thing . . . thousands of tourists flock to the little town each year to "Stand on the Corner" in front of the mural and next to the stature of Glenn Frey while their photo is snapped. It doesn't hurt that the huge Route 66 U.S. Highway shield is painted in the middle of the road at that particular intersection.

I'm sure Jackson Browne, Glenn Fry and the rest of the Eagles had no idea the impact that one line in a light rock song would have and, quite likely saved the small town of Winslow, Arizona. It's just another of the interesting things one learns when living free and traveling this country (or the world). 

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