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Signature Songs: Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses – Kathy Mattea

Some songs are so iconic, they eclipse everything else in an artist’s catalog.

These songs are signature songs, the songs artists become associated with for the rest of their careers and future generations.

Artists with signature songs are not to be confused with one-hit wonders who have only one successful song over the entirety of their careers.

Signature songs are simply the songs most people recognize by an artist, the ones even non-fans know, the ones crowds at every concert can sing along to.

For Kathy Mattea, one of those songs is “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses.”

Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses by Kathy Mattea

A story song about a truck driver hanging it up and heading back home for the last time, “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses” was recorded by Kathy Mattea for her 1988 album Untasted Honey.

18 wheels and a dozen roses

Upon its release, the song become such a beloved hit, people forget Mattea was a hitmaker at the time, having nine additional Top 5 songs (four of them number ones) in the four-year period surrounding the release of “Eighteen Wheels”.

Her first top ten hit came two years before, in 1986, with “Love at the Five and Dime,” and her first number one hit came with the single that immediately preceded “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses” – “Goin’ Gone.”

By the end of Mattea’s chart-topping streak, she would release 15 top ten singles in a row and win a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance for her song “Where’ve You Been.”

She would also be named Female Vocalist of the Year by the Country Music Association in 1989 and 1990.

Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses Stats

“Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses” reached #1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart on May 21, 1988 and remained number one for two weeks (one of only four country songs to spend more than a single week on the top of the charts that year).

The song also reached #1 on the Canadian country music charts.

It was  awarded “Single of the Year” by the County Music Association and “Single of the Year” and “Song of the Year” by the Academy of Country Music.

Why was it so successful?

There are more than three million truck drivers in the United States, which surely had a little something to do with the popularity of this 1980s-era truck-driving song.

But “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses” isn’t just a song about driving big rigs.

It’s a song about retirement and bursts with hope for an adventure-filled future.

At it’s core, it’s absolutely a feel-good story song a lot of listeners could (and still can) relate to.

Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses Songwriters

“Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses” was written by songwriters (and brothers) Paul and Gene Nelson.

It is based on the true story of their aunt and uncle.

18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses Lyrics

Charlie’s got a gold watch
Don’t seem like a whole lot
After thirty years of drivin’
Up and down the interstate
But Charlie’s had a good life
And Charlie’s got a good wife
And after tonight she’ll no longer
Be countin’ the days

Eighteen wheels and a dozen roses
Ten more miles on his four day run
A few more songs from the all night radio
And he’ll spend the rest of his life
With the one that he loves

They’ll buy a Winnebago
Set out to find America
They’ll do a lotta catchin’ up
A little at a time

With pieces of the old dream
They’re gonna light the old flame
Doin’ what they please
Leavin’ every other reason behind

Eighteen wheels and a dozen roses
Ten more miles on his four day run
A few more songs from the all night radio
And he’ll spend the rest of his life
With the one that he loves

Eighteen wheels and a dozen roses
Ten more miles on his four day run
A few more songs from the all night radio
And he’ll spend the rest of his life
With the one that he loves

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