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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Best version of Key to the Highway
Best version of Key to the Highway
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184 posts
Dec 31, 2020
12:42 PM
Are there any opinions out there of your favourite versions of Key to the Highway. I've been playing it for years originally listening to Sonny Terry's. Its such an easy one to cover as every blues band knows it. Thanks in advance.
648 posts
Jan 01, 2021
9:49 AM
Interesting timing on this!! My band just released our cover of Key to the Highway, distance recorded during the pandemic. Is it the best version? You can judge.

(For my money, I'll go with Little Walter's.)
Marc Graci
YouTube Channel

Last Edited by Mirco on Jan 01, 2021 9:50 AM
185 posts
Jan 04, 2021
11:39 AM
Nice work. I do like the more traditional but having said that it is nice to hear the mix up. There was a radio show I used to listen to that had a program called the wash cycle where they played several versions of popular blues songs. Always enjoyable. Thanks!
6871 posts
Jan 04, 2021
11:30 PM
I'm often too lazy to look past a Little Walter record and it's been mainly that way with KTTH for me but this thread sent me of to look through my record library for various versions of the song. I became distracted by a song Jr Wells did, under that title but hardly like any version of key to the highway I've heard anyone else do. He may have been improvising the lyric as I've heard him do on many live recordings. Sometimes it's a mash up, sometimes a whole new story. Anyway, on this one he seems to be taking a 1st position approach to the harp and I had not heard anyone else do that on key to the highway. I'm a sucker for 1st position.
107 posts
Jan 11, 2021
11:53 AM
I like some updated groove versions like Carlos Del Junco's or Billy Branch's
188 posts
Jan 12, 2021
9:51 AM
Superbee: Is this the version you speak of?


LFLISBOA: Carlos brings his own flare and virtuosity to the tune for sure. I'll have to listen to Billy Branch's.
2223 posts
Jan 12, 2021
9:51 AM
This is how we did it while hosting a jam.

It is not a masterful rendition, but it is a decent effort at covering Key. I have no illusions that it is the best version or comparable to the Carlos Del Junco or Billy Branch versions.

I like the groove in Billy's take more than the slow groove I heard Carlos play in a video. The harp in each of their versions was enjoyable.

Doug S.

Last Edited by dougharps on Jan 12, 2021 9:52 AM
222 posts
Jan 12, 2021
11:08 AM
--Of course Little Walter kicks a$$ on this songThough the best musically key to the high way i`ve herd is [no harp] Johnny Winter live, with just him and a bass player.There`s so much bad/a$$/licks going on it,you could pick up a dozen harp licks off it...--------

Last Edited by nowmon on Jan 12, 2021 11:09 AM
108 posts
Jan 12, 2021
12:02 PM
Jelly Roll Johnson's instrumental version is also very cool, but I cited Del Junco and Branch versions mostly due to the groove.
189 posts
Jan 13, 2021
2:00 PM
Nice work Doug. Nothing wrong with that.
6879 posts
Jan 14, 2021
12:46 AM
Kham, no, it isn't what I was listening to, but it could just as well be so far as the approach goes. The recording I was listening to is from the "last time around - live at legends" album with Buddy Guy. So it's live and with Buddy Guy, whereas the YT I just played is Sammy Lawhorn and Phil Guy I believe (so keeping it in the family).
481 posts
Jan 14, 2021
1:06 PM
Check out Billy Boy Arnold, an acoustic version


Phil Pennington
Soap Music
44 posts
Jan 21, 2021
8:03 AM
I hope the key to the highway is a lot more practical than the key to a can of Spam.
Soap Music
45 posts
Jan 21, 2021
8:04 AM
I hope the key to the highway is a lot more practical than the key to a can of Spam.
Wailing ptarmigan
25 posts
Jan 21, 2021
6:20 PM
cant forget Geo H.Smith... he takes no prosoners on this version.
192 posts
Jan 22, 2021
8:33 AM
Wailing ptarmigan: That version has a great swing to it! Thanks.
Fil : Also a good version. Nice driving base drum throughout.
1750 posts
Jan 23, 2021
8:29 PM
9 posts
Feb 05, 2021
10:41 PM
I was listening to another version of Key To The Highway and remembered this question on the forum.
Check out the harmonica on John Campbelljohn's version
from the album Land of the Livin. I may have a new favorite.

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