Charlie Segar - Key to the Highway

First performance: 23/10/1971


Bruce covered the song 3 times:
2015-08-01 Wonder Bar, Asbury Park, NJ
Bruce and Patti, along with Lisa Lowell, perform with Timepiece (Patti's brother Mike Scialfa's band) at a private party for friends. Bruce mainly played guitar on the songs listed, but did provide lead vocals on "Oh, Pretty Woman" , "Born On The Bayou" and "Brown Eyed Girl". Springsteen's first known performance of Stevie Ray Vaughan's "The House Is Rockin'". It is possible other songs were performed, or that the songs were played in a different order.
1971-12-03 Student Prince, Asbury Park, NJ
With the Bruce Springsteen Band
1971-10-23 Keller Hall Gymnasium, Richmond, VA 
With the Bruce Springsteen Band. One show, triple bill, with The Bruce Springsteen Band headlining. Trumpet player Harvey Cherlin and backup singers Barbara Dinkins and Delores Holmes are not featured. They are absent. The band is comprised of only the five core members; Springsteen, Van Zandt, Tallent, Sancious, and Lopez. Undercards were the New Jersey-based outfits Tumbleweed and Black Forrest Rhodes, both had recently become involved with Tinker West's Blah Productions. The three-member, acoustic-orientated Tumbleweed deserves special mention. They had recently returned from studio sessions in Nashville (booked under the name Montana Flintlock), events orchestrated by Mike Appel. Tumbleweed would turn out to be the original connection between Tinker West and Appel, one that would soon have Tinker driving Springsteen to New York to meet Mike. Springsteen plays piano on both "Cherokee Queen" and "Look Towards The Land" (with Sancious handling organ). Set includes the best-quality circulating version of the blues-standard "Key To The Highway", known from a subsequent performance at the Student Prince in December; the audio quality here is a vast improvement over the fair-quality audience recording from that show. For the first encore, voices can be heard near the front of the stage yelling for "Resurrection" (a song Bruce stopped playing when Steel Mill folded). Bruce doesn't oblige, but instead delivers "Goin' Back To Georgia", itself rarely played by the Bruce Springsteen Band. Bruce performs a condensed arrangement, without any band harmony vocals. However, it's the discovery of the second new song that is most important, a previously unknown Springsteen composition, the set closing "Don't Look Back", introduced by Bruce with that title (unrelated to the outtake from Darkness On The Edge Of Town). It is a slow, dirge-like song led by Springsteen on the piano and is nearly eleven minutes long. It is extremely reminiscent of some of the solo material that he would go on to record in the spring of 1972. "Don't Look Back" is about a struggling, previously successful singer and perhaps could be autobiographical, at least in part.

Part of the final verse reads: They'll take you, they'll make you and break you until you're almost gone / And they'll throw you to the street hounds to pick your bones / Till you're so damned stoned and confused and you can't sing nothing but the blues / You're just another winner whose turn it was to lose / Now them days for you are over and you're lucky to have survived / Here you go again with another rock n roll band, just playing to keep yourself breathing…


"Key to the Highway" is a blues standard that has been performed and recorded by several blues and other artists. Blues pianist Charlie Segar first recorded the song in 1940.

Bruce on the artist


I got the key to the highway, I'm raring to go
I got the key to the highway, I'm raring to go
'Cause I'm gonna leave here running, walking's most too slow

I'm going back to the border where I'm better known
I'm going back to the border where I'm better known
'Cause you ain't doing nothing but driving a good man away from home

Give me one more kiss, mama, one more kiss before I go
Give me one more kiss, babe, just before I go
I'm gonna leave here, ain't coming home no more

When the moon creeps over the mountain, I'll be on my merry way
When the moon creeps over the mountain, I'll be on my merry way
I'm going to walk the highway until the break of day

So long baby, I must say goodbye
So long, so long baby, I must say goodbye
I'm gonna roam the highway until the day I die