George Maharis and Martin Milner of the Route 66 TV series on the cover of TV Guide
Route 66 was one of the United State's first continuous stretches of paved highway, and served as a major path for those who migrated west.
"The Mother Road" became one of the most famous roads in the United States, outdistancing others such as the Lincoln Highway.
The legendary highway was known far and wide for its variety of "mom and pop" motels, neon lights, drive-ins, quirky roadside attractions, flat tires, cars with no air conditioning, dangerous curves, steep hills, and narrow lanes.
The movie "Easy Rider" was filmed at several locations along Route 66. The move "Thelma and Louise" also featured Route 66 references and scenes.
It is popular lore in movies, songs, books like "The Grapes of Wrath", and TV shows.
The popularity stuck, and continues to grow today!
A popular television show during the early 1960s bore the road's name: "Route 66" and starred Martin Milner as Tod and George Maharis as Buz.
The two young adventurers drove the road in their Chevrolet Corvette for 116 episodes which aired over four seasons, from October 7, 1960 to March 20, 1964. It was shown entirely in black and white, and ran on Friday nights on CBS Television.
Tod (L) and Buz (R)
(By CBS, or Screen Gems)
In 1963, Glenn Corbett joined the series, playing the part of Lincoln "Linc" Case.
Despite the name of the series, most episodes did NOT take place on the historic road, but in 25 different U.S. states, all on location. TV viewers were treated to episodes filmed in Carson City, Los Angeles, Toronto, Santa Fe, Reno, Tucson, Dallas and many more locales. A variety of sites were used for filming, such as an offshore oil rig, shrimp boats, a logging camp, an old ferry, Riverside Raceway and the Glen Canyon Dam, none of which were on Route 66!
A long list of well-known actors and actresses appeared on the series, including Ed Asner, Peter Lorre, Barbara Eden, Jack Lord, Cloris Leachman, Tuesday Weld, William Shatner, Joan Crawford, Julie Newmar, Martin Sheen, James Caan, Lee Marvin and dozens more.
The TV series featured an instrumental theme song, written by Nelson Riddle.
Martin Milner starred as Tod Stiles, a recent college graduate with no future prospects due to circumstances beyond his control.
He was originally joined on his travels by Buz Murdock (played by George Maharis), a friend and former employee of Tod's father. Buz exited the series near the end of the second season after contracting "echovirus". Maharis was in fact battling infectious hepatitus in real life.
Buz returned for the beginning of season three, had his final appearance in a January 1963 episode, was written out of the show, and was never referenced again.
Near the end of the third season in March of 1963, Tod met a recently discharged Vietnam veteran named Lincoln Case, played by Glenn Corbett, who followed Tod on his travels and stayed with the show until the final episode.
The series ended with the two-part episode "Where There's a Will, There's a Way", beginning in Tampa, Florida, in which Tod married a Houston commodities trader played by guest-star Barbara Eden.
The show generated a huge following over its four-year run. The interest in the show continues today by "Baby Boomers" who remember the original showings, and new generations of viewers fascinated by the show who watch it on DVD or streaming devices.
For the Route 66 TV series on CBS, the "Route 66 Theme" song was written by Nelson Riddle. The song reached No. 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 list and was nominated for two Grammy awards.
The other Route 66 song, "Get Your Kicks on Route 66", was composed by songwriter Bobby Troup in 1946. It was first recorded by Nat King Cole, and sung by other singers over the years including Chuck Berry, Perry Como, and the Rolling Stones.
|The Route 66 TV Show Theme Song, by Nelson Riddle
The Chevrolet Corvette seen in the first episode ("Black November", October 7, 1960) was a 1960 model; a 1961 model was used the rest of that season. Chevrolet supplied Corvettes for the duration of the series, upgrading every season to the latest models.
Since the show was filmed in black and white, Corvettes in light colors like Horizon Blue, Cascade Green and Fawn Beige were used.
Buz (standing) and Tod (seated) with their Horizon Blue Corvette on the TV series "Route 66"
While many viewers assumed the Corvette in the Route 66 TV series was red, it was not.
However, the popularity of Corvette convertibles, especially red ones, lives on! Many actual cars and murals exist today along the old Route 66 depicting those happy days along the Mother Road.
Corvette Drive at Hackberry, Arizona,
between Seligman and Kingman on U.S. Route 66
Planning a road trip on Route 66? Here are the travel guides and reviews by state...