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Originally an acoustic number, "Key To The Highway" is Blues at its rawest with a woman driving a man out of his home, out of the state, and quite likely out of his mind. It was first recorded in 1940 by the pianist Charlie Segar backed by "Stop and Fix It Mama." Originally credited to Segar alone, it was co-written with Big Bill Broonzy, and is arguably Broonzy's best known composition; it is certainly the most widely recorded. Like many early Blues numbers, it appears to have been built on other songs.
Big Bill Broonzy died in 1958, but he would certainly have appreciated what is surely the definitive recording, the 9 minute plus version from the Layla... album which features both Eric Clapton and Duane Allman on guitar. (thanks, Alexander Baron - London, England)
The Rolling Stones album Dirty Work features a hidden track with Ian Stewart playing 30 seconds of this song. Stewart, who was often called "The Sixth Stone," played piano with the group and also took on road manager duties. (thanks, Bertrand - Paris, France)
Eric Clapton told Guitarist Magazine (in February 2003) about his first experience with the song: "When I was about 14, I saw Big Bill Broonzy on TV and that was an incredible thing. Because maybe if I'd just heard it, it might not have had the same effect. But to see footage of Broonzy playing 'Hey Hey,' this was a real blues artist and I felt like I was looking into heaven. That was it for me and then, when I went to explore his music, the song that always came back to me was an incredible version of 'Key To The Highway.' That was the one that I thought somehow would, like Crossroads, capture the whole journey of being a musician and a traveling journeyman." (thanks, DeeTheWriter - Saint Petersburg, Russia Federation)
Jim McCarty of The Yardbirds
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Kim Thayil of Soundgarden
Their frontman (Chris Cornell) started out as their drummer, so Soundgarden takes a linear approach when it comes to songwriting. Kim explains how they do it.