Highway 40 Blues
3. Highway 40 Blues
1976. I’m through college, working a day job in Paintsville, KY. The fun is over. I’m not going to be able to support myself playing music. I’m gonna be a CPA. I find out soon, that I’m not going to be a good one, if I’m ever one at all. I hate this kind of work. I’m pretty much bummed out about my career path. I go play some tunes with friends I met through a college buddy, in Jackson, Ky. They want to try to get a band together. Well, I may not be able to support myself but I reckon I ain’t finished with music after all. Soon, in addition to working my accounting job every day in Paintsville, I’m driving to Hazard, KY to play 3 nights a week @ a Club over there called Russell’s. I mean… it’s grueling, 130 miles or so round trip on those old twisty, 2 lane roads. The Wednesday gigs are especially hard, as I have leave for the gig right after the day at my straight job & have to work the next day as well. Same thing on Fridays, as many times I have to work the accounting job on Saturdays too… It is likely is costing me more to do the gig than I’m making but we are having a blast. We are called Southern Portrait because of our love of and set lists full, of southern rock. Skynyrd, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Amazing Rhythm Aces, Charlie Daniels, The Allman Brothers Band, Elvin Bishop…. well, you get the idea. I sort of have the itch to write something we can record. Big plans, if you know what I mean. I have this little song melody stuck in my head for a few days… I can’t turn it off. I’m coming home from the gig in Hazard. It’s 2 or 3 in the morning & I’m less than 100% … if you know what I mean. My headlights shine on the little round Kentucky State Route 40 highway sign, out by where I live in Thelma, KY. So… I pull over at a wide place in the road right then and God drops the whole 1st verse of what would become Highway 40 Blues, in my lap. I get up the next day & find the pad it is written it on, on my coffee table & finish the song. I write the entire song without trying to play it … I just know how it goes. A few years pass & I play the song for Ricky Skaggs, my old neighbor and friend, from Blaine, KY, (he is by now a big star and getting bigger all the time).
Ricky produces some sides on me, trying to help me get a record deal & tells me he is going to record some of my songs at some point. In 1982 he does just that. The song reaches #1 on Billboard magazine’s hot country singles, July 9, 1983 and changes my life forever. Thank you Ricky Skaggs.

Lead vocals: Ricky Skaggs & Larry Cordle
Tenor vocal: ‘I’ve played the music halls” line… Randy Kohrs
Banjo: Kristin Scott Benson
Bass: Mike Anglin
Dobro: Kim Gardner
Fiddle: Jenee Fleenor
Guitar: Bryan Sutton
Harmony guitars: Randy Kohrs
Mandolin: Ricky Skaggs