Friday, July 30, 2021


Origin: Keep on Truckin'

From the vault January 24, 2010, with added content.

The phrase “Keep on Truckin’ “ is now a general form of encouragement in the sense of telling someone that they’re doing a good job and also as an equivalent to telling someone to go for it. It originated in the 1920’s and 1930’s with jazz musicians. Blind Boy Fuller incorporated it in a song by the name of Keep on Truckin’:

Truckin' on down the line
Hey hey hey
I say keep on truckin'
Truckin' my blues away
Keep on truckin' mama
Truckin' my troubles away
I say keep on truckin' mama
Truckin' my troubles away
Do that thing you do so well
I can tell what you been doin'
By the way that you smell.
Keep on truckin' mama
Truckin' my troubles away.

Right: Blind Boy Fuller

In 1968 Robert Crumb used the phrase as the title for a one page comic, being the first issue of Zap Comix, illustrating it with the image that has become associated with the phrase.

Robert Crumb, self portrait

Drawn in Crumb’s distinctive style, it shows cartoon men strutting confidently across a barren landscape. 

The strip’s drawings became iconic images of optimism during the hippie era. Like most underground comics, it was not copyrighted and was extensively used on t shirts, posters and other items. It has also led to variations on the Crumb image:

Although the phrase came to mean keep on keepin' on, or get it done, or hang in there, in the original Blind Boy Fuller song "Truckin' My Blues Away," as with a lot of suggestive blues songs that use alternative words, it was a rhyming word for the sex act. Fuller's song praises a girl who "keep on trucking mama, trucking my blues away." In one part he says to the listener "Catch you truckin' with her, I'm gonna sure shoot you down," and later he tells his girl she doesn't need to leave, and to "Wait a little while you might wanna truck some more."

Crumb was not happy about the hippies using the phrase as the '60s equivalent of a motivational poster., hated the fact that he had become a spokesperson for counter culture and was not pleased at his image being so used. According to him:
I became acutely self-conscious about what I was doing. Was I now a ‘spokesman’ for the hippies or what? I had no idea how to handle my new position in society… Take Keep on Truckin’ for example. Keep on Truckin is the curse of my life. This stupid little cartoon caught on hugely. There was a D.J. on the radio in the seventies who would yell out every ten minutes: ‘And don't forget to KEEP ON TR-R-RUCKIN’!’ Boy, was that obnoxious… I didn't want to turn into a greeting card artist for the counter-culture!
One final note:

Director Terry Zwigoff (Crumb, Ghost World) told Roger Ebert:
He was offered, like, millions to license the 'Keep on Truckin' drawing for Toyota, but they only wanted that one drawing. He wanted to sell them a lot of other stuff. He tells them, 'How about I have this girl with her head cut off being stuffed into the trunk of the Toyota?' When they didn't go for that, he turned them down.

So there you have it, folks, and remember . . .

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