King of the Road (song)

"King of the Road"
Single by Roger Miller
from the album The Return of Roger Miller
B-side "Atta Boy Girl"
Released January 1965
Recorded 1964
Genre Country
Length 2:28
Label Smash[1]
Writer(s) Roger Miller[1]
Producer(s) Jerry Kennedy[1]
Certification Gold (RIAA)
Roger Miller singles chronology
"King of the Road"
"Engine Engine #9"

"King of the Road" is a 1964 song written and originally recorded by country singer Roger Miller.[1] The lyrics tell of the day-to-day life of a vagabond hobo who, despite being poor (a "man of means by no means"), revels in his freedom, describing himself humorously as the "king of the road". It was Miller's fifth single for Smash Records.[2]


The popular crossover record hit No. 1 on the US Country chart,[3] No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and No. 1 on the Easy Listening surveys.[4] It was also No. 1 in the UK Singles Chart,[5] and in Norway. Miller recalled that the song was inspired when he was driving and saw a sign on the side of a barn that read, "Trailers for sale or rent".[6] This would become the opening line of the song.

The song has been covered by many other artists, including George Jones, Dean Martin, Val Doonican, Jack Jones, James Booker, The Fabulous Echoes, Boney M., R.E.M., Johnny Paycheck, Glen Campbell, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Boxcar Willie, Randy Travis, Rangers, James Kilbane, John Stevens, the Statler Brothers, Rufus Wainwright & Teddy Thompson, Giant Sand, Peligro, The Proclaimers, Ray Conniff Singers and The Reverend Horton Heat, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Joe Strummer during live performances. James "The King" Brown (an Elvis impersonator) performed the song for a 2001 Audi commercial on German TV.[7] Of R.E.M.'s version, a shambolic, drunken, offhand rendering, guitarist Peter Buck would later comment, "If there was any justice in the world, Roger Miller should be able to sue for what we did to this song."[8]

The song is featured in Wim Wenders' 1976 film Im Lauf der Zeit (In the Course of Time; English title Kings of the Road). It is also played at the beginning of Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Brokeback Mountain, Into the Wild (2007), Traveller (1997), and Swingers (1998). Miller performs it in the concert film The Big T.N.T. Show. The recording by The Proclaimers is included in the film The Crossing (1990). Near the end of their official music video, the pair are shown reading a newspaper whose headline is "Roger Miller, King of Plugs".

After the major success achieved by "King of the Road", Dean Martin recorded the tune "Houston" (1965), which is similar in both lyrics and feel.

A send-up version by English entertainer Billy Howard was a British chart hit in 1976.[9]

A German version by the band Wise Guys exists.[10]

In both the English and German versions of Animals United, Billy the Meerkat sings the short rendition of this song, while walking past the other animals and carrying the gourd.

Chart performance

Roger Miller

Chart (1965) Peak
UK Singles Chart[11] 1
Norwegian Singles Chart 1
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles 1
U.S. Billboard Easy Listening 1
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 4
Irish Singles Chart 5
Canadian RPM Top Singles 10

The Proclaimers

Chart (1990) Peak
Australian Singles Chart[12] 78
Irish Singles Chart 8
UK Singles Chart[11] 9

Randy Travis

Chart (1997) Peak
Canada Country Tracks (RPM)[13] 74
US Hot Country Songs (Billboard)[14] 51

Related songs


After the major success achieved by "King of the Road", Dean Martin recorded the tune "Houston" (1965), which is similar in both lyrics and feel.

"Queen of the House"

Country music singer Jody Miller (no relation) answered "King of the Road" with "Queen of the House" (1965). The song used Roger Miller's music while changing the lyrics to describe the day-to-day life of a stay-at-home mom. The words were written by Mary Taylor.[15][16]

Singer Connie Francis later recorded the song on her 1966 album Live at the Sahara (1966).

The Supremes performed the song in their nightclub act. It can be heard on their The Supremes at the Copa (1965) album and I Hear A Symphony remastered CD, which includes their September 1966 appearance at the Roostertail in Detroit, on the second disc..


  1. 1 2 3 4 Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 92. ISBN 0-85112-250-7.
  2. Mike Callahan; David Edwards; Patrice Eyries; Randy Watts. "Smash Records Story". Retrieved December 20, 2009.
  3. Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 231.
  4. Whitburn, Joel (2002). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961-2001. Record Research. p. 171.
  5. Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 178. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  6. Roger Miller interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969)
  7. "King of the road : der Hit aus der Audi Werbung" (in German). German National Library. Retrieved 2014-07-17.
  8. Wethington, Kari (January 24, 2009). "Cowboy Junkies". Elle.
  9. "45cat". Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  10. "wise guys" (in German). Retrieved 8 June 2016.
  11. 1 2 Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 440. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  12. Ryan, Gavin (2011). Australia's Music Charts 1988-2010. Mt. Martha, VIC, Australia: Moonlight Publishing.
  13. "Top RPM Country Tracks: Issue 3235." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. June 16, 1997. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
  14. "Randy Travis – Chart history" Billboard Hot Country Songs for Randy Travis.
  15. "MusicMatch guide, "Jody Miller"". Retrieved 2014-04-05.
  16. "Digital Tradition Mirror, "Queen of the House"". Retrieved 2014-04-05.

External links

Preceded by
"Have You Looked into Your Heart" by Jerry Vale
Billboard Middle-Road Singles number-one single
February 10 – April 17, 1965
Succeeded by
"The Race Is On" by Jack Jones
Preceded by
"I've Got a Tiger By the Tail" by Buck Owens
Billboard Hot Country Singles number-one single
March 27 – April 24, 1965
Succeeded by
"This Is It" by Jim Reeves
Preceded by
"Ticket to Ride" by The Beatles
UK Singles Chart number-one single
May 13, 1965
Succeeded by
"Where Are You Now My Love" by Jackie Trent
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