Summer & travel & tunes

Like many dads to their kids, I extract a special affection from mine.

If I were to title it, it’d be “Dufus.”

Some days, they apply extra affection, to where I at least rise to “Mr. Dufus.”

The title is the sum of years of demands and tasks and lessons. And also years of listening, especially to my music, and certainly on our road trips.

Our first roadtrip of the summer was two weeks back. Amid the packing, my youngest son was singing one of my travel songs.

I was appreciative, until he capped it with “I’ll have to get used to hearing that song this weekend.”

It was in a tone you would use to say “dufus” — with no “Mr.”

I’m not a musician, but I like music. And I especially like the music that I like — if that’s not dufus-sounding. The known names I listen to range from Cash to Bruce to Prine to Denver. But my tunes include some obscure players in that same aforementioned flavor.

I especially like my tunes when I’m driving. I famously announced years ago that if I’m driving and my tunes are on, I’m in a sonic cocoon and the rest of the van is another world. Seven hours of driving can pass for an hour.

When they filmed the “Jerry Maguire” scene where Tom Cruise was screaming out Tom Petty’s “And I’m frrrreeeeee .... Free fallin,’” it was modeled after me.

My tunes are as worn as my car carpeting. I even went so far as to create a mellower playlist for Sunday morning drives — which as all of you know are far different from Saturday morning drives. It’s among God’s rules. When he got to the 14th day, he said “let there be softer rock tunes.”

But with a summer of travel ahead, and my son’s “that song” still stinging, I guess I could use some help freshening up my playlist.

Would you help me? What are your “must” travel tunes?

I Tweeted and Facebooked my need on Friday, and learned of a cool gem called “Indiana” by The Samples.

Tweet me at @tfranko or email me (see below) to help along my travel playlist (and my son.)

For what it’s worth, when Jack Nicholson hit the road with Helen Hunt in “As Good As it Gets,” his tunes included “Y.M.C.A.” by The Village People; “Days Like This” by Van Morrison; and “Baltimore” by The Drifters.

I define a great road tune as having some or all of these pieces:

Must make fingers tap the steering wheel.

Has to have a catchy chorus that’s screamable.

Has drum or guitar riff that prompts imaginary playing.

It must contain lyrics that evoke longing or achieving.

I’ll offer bits of my playlist (all on YouTube to sample), broken down into these categories:

Must singles:

Seger’s “Roll Me Away,” Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” and “The Rising,” Van’s “Brown-Eyed Girl,” Rush’s “Spirit of the Radio,” Zevon’s “Werewolf,” Diamond’s “America,” Denver’s “Calypso,” Social’s’ “Story of My Life.”

Must artists:

Avett Brothers, Van Halen, CCR, Counting Crows, Todd Snider ...

Obscure musts:

Hiatt’s “My Old Friend,” Bowling for Soup’s “Shut-up and Smile,” Prine’s “Lake Marie,” Plaskett’s “Nowhere with You,” Edward Sharpe’s “Man on Fire,” RWB’s “Walking Shoes,” Matt Palka’s “The Dream Will Live,” Cleaves’ “One Good Year.”

And ... my best most-obscure gem for the road:

Spirit of the West’s “Home For a Rest” — which is Canada’s sing-a-long equivalent to “American Pie” with a classic and apropos traveler lyric: “These so-called vacations will soon be my death; I so sick from the drink, I need home for a rest.”

Neil Young was on TV news this week touting a new concert film, and he was asked where’s the best place to listen to music.

“In the car,” he answered without hesitation.

“You’re moving ...”

Tune up and travel well this week and this summer.

(For a donation to Easter Seals, I will burn a CD of my travel tunes until I get yelled at by the music industry. Email me ...)

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes e-mails about stories and our newspaper. E-mail him at He blogs, too, on

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