Singin’ that Ol’ Highway Song
Gas stations and convenience stores often pop up in country lyrics. It’s no coincidence.
You don’t get much more American than country music. Like jazz, it was basically created here (this PBS Ken Burns series shows how better than we ever could).
While the birth of the convenience store is hard to pin down (like another American favorite, Rock ‘n’ Roll), the concept certainly consolidated in the U. S., probably beginning with the Southland Ice Company’s first store in 1927, as noted in this Bloomberg overview of convenience store history.
The shared birthplace of America is the starting point for a connection between convenience stores and country lyrics, which really rose to prominence after World War II and continues to this day. As mentioned in the Bloomberg article cited above, the Federal Highway Act in 1956 authorized 41,000 miles of new roads across the face of the U.S. The precursors to the modern convenience store—full service gas stations and truck stops—began cropping up with great frequency along these throughways, often isolated miles and miles away from each other.
It wasn’t too long until the image of the long haul trucker traveling between gas station/truck stop lifelines was pretty much embedded in the American mind, a consciousness that began to be reflected in older country and neo-country lyrics, from the endless tedium experienced by the old trucker in “White Line Fever” to the roadside tragedy recounted in “Truck Stop Girl.”
Since then, market growth, urbanization, and the emergence of all-new, all-modern convenience store palaces have transformed the market into something only dreamed of in the 50’s and 60’s, but country music’s connection to the industry and the services it provides remains in place. C-stores still sell fuel, and they carry much of the everyday merchandise that often shows up in these songs.
Here are some examples:
- “When It Rains It Pours” by Luke Combs (Narrator ends up in a Shell station on I-65, buys a scratcher, and wins $100. More luck ensues.)
- “Something Like That” by Tim McGraw (Narrator buys a Coke and some gasoline before hitting the country fair. Romance ensues.)
- “Tank of Gas and a Radio Song” by Travis Denning (Narrator purchased that gas somewhere, right?)
- That Old Truck” by Thomas Rhett (We know where he got that peach [!] Skoal and Coke.)
- Thinking ‘Bout You” by Dustin Lynch (Shout out Circle K!)
- “Shiftwork” by George Strait & Kenny Chesney (It’s tough going for the convenience store clerk.)
There’s other evidence of the modern bond between country music and the industry, too:
- Casey’s teamed up with Lee Brice for a parking lot party a few summers ago.
- Hostess had a Twinkies promotion held in conjunction with the 51st Country Music Awards (CMAs).
- Thomas Rhett is going to star in the first Fritos TV commercial in 20 years!
- Cracker Barrel Country Stores had a Christmas Holiday Special on their Facebook and YouTube channels, featuring Mickey Guyton.
- Bear Bailey Is TikTok’s Viral Gas Station Singer!
As you can see from the above, country music celebrates the everyday things that make up the fabric of our lives, and convenience stores and gas stations add much color to the material. At SSCS, we take great pride in being able to support such an essential industry, even though we’re not counting on “technology” to infuse the lyrics of next country megahit (though you never know!)