In 1965 Sovine found his niche when he recorded “Giddyup Go“, which, like most of his other trucker hits, he co-wrote with Tommy Hill. It is spoken, rather than sung, as the words of an older long-distance truck driver who rediscovers his long-lost son driving another truck on the same highway. Minnie Pearl released an answer song titled “Giddy-Up Go Answer”. Sovine’s version of the song spent six weeks atop the country charts and crossed over to the pop charts. Other truck-driving hits followed, including:
- “Phantom 309“, a tale of a hitchhiker who hops a ride from a trucker who turns out to be the ghost of a man who died years ago giving his life to save a school bus full of children from a horrible collision with his rig. This story was later adapted by singer-songwriter Tom Waits, who performed “Big Joe And Phantom 309” during his Nighthawks At The Diner recordings. Waits’ version of this song was covered by Archers of Loaf on the 1995 tribute album, Step Right Up: The Songs of Tom Waits. Musician Steve Flett named a recording project after the song. The song was originally written and recorded by Tommy Faile.
- “Teddy Bear“, the tale of a disabled boy who lost his truck driver father in a highway accident and keeps his CB radio base as his only companion.
- “Little Joe”, a tale of a trucker and his devoted canine friend which became his last big hit. This last story features Teddy Bear who can now walk.
Sovine was also remembered for his Christmas tear-jerkers, which included “Here It Is Christmas” (a divorcee’s holiday lament), “Faith In Santa” (a dialog between a poor, runaway boy and a sidewalk Santa), and “What Does Christmas Look Like?” (a little blind girl asks her father to describe the Christmas she cannot see). He scored another sentimental hit with “Little Rosa” in which an Italian-American railroad employee tells a stranger, in broken English, about getting a bouquet to place on the grave of his small daughter who was killed by a train while he was away.
On April 4, 1980, Sovine suffered a heart attack while driving his Ford van in Nashville, which caused him to crash. The injuries and his heart attack were fatal. He was buried next to his wife Kay, who died in 1976.
- July, 17, 1918
- Charleston, West Virginia
- April, 04, 1980
- Nashville, Tennessee
Cause of Death
- Heart attack
- Woodlawn Memorial Park and Mausoleum
- Nashville, Tennessee