Travelin' Prayer

Album: Piano Man (1973)
Charted: 77
Play Video


  • Joel wrote this banjo-fueled country tune, which introduces his Piano Man album, as a prayer of protection for a friend who was preparing to embark on a trip to Europe. In 2016, he told Sirius XM how the composition came together.

    "I wanted to write a piece of music that had a lot of bluegrass movement in it," he said. "I play a certain style of piano sometimes I call 'banjo fingers,' where I'm playing 30-second notes like a banjo player would pick. A lot of notes. It's got a lot of rhythm in it, but it basically is playing a chord progression. And 'Travelin' Prayer' was that kind of song.'"
  • Eric Weissberg, who played on the iconic "Dueling Banjos" instrumental from the 1972 movie Deliverance, played the banjo and pedal-steel guitar on this track.
  • Joel is backed by the Sons of the Pioneers, a Western singing group known for performing with Roy Rogers.
  • Earl Scruggs covered this on his 1973 Rockin' Cross the Country album. Dolly Parton also recorded a version for her 1999 album, The Grass Is Blue, and earned a Grammy nomination for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.
  • The album's third single, this peaked at #34 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
  • Piano Man is Joel's second solo album, following Cold Spring Harbor. It's better known for its enduring title track, which was inspired by Joel's experiences as a piano player/lounge singer in Los Angeles.


Be the first to comment...

Editor's Picks

Danny Kortchmar

Danny KortchmarSongwriter Interviews

Danny played guitar on Sweet Baby James, Tapestry, and Running On Empty. He also co-wrote many hit songs, including "Dirty Laundry," "Sunset Grill" and "Tender Is The Night."

Harry Wayne Casey of KC and The Sunshine Band

Harry Wayne Casey of KC and The Sunshine BandSongwriter Interviews

Harry Wayne Casey tells the stories behind KC and The Sunshine Band hits like "Get Down Tonight," "That's The Way (I Like It)," and "Give It Up."

Dennis DeYoung

Dennis DeYoungSongwriter Interviews

Dennis DeYoung explains why "Mr. Roboto" is the defining Styx song, and what the "gathering of angels" represents in "Come Sail Away."

Al Jourgensen of Ministry

Al Jourgensen of MinistrySongwriter Interviews

In the name of song explanation, Al talks about scoring heroin for William Burroughs, and that's not even the most shocking story in this one.

Jon Oliva of Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Jon Oliva of Trans-Siberian OrchestraSongwriter Interviews

Writing great prog metal isn't easy, especially when it's for 60 musicians.

Tom Bailey of Thompson Twins

Tom Bailey of Thompson TwinsSongwriter Interviews

Tom stopped performing Thompson Twins songs in 1987, in part because of their personal nature: "Hold Me Now" came after an argument with his bandmate/girlfriend Alannah Currie.