Dave Dudley, best known for the truck driving anthem “Six Days on the Road,” is dead at the age of 75. Dudley died Monday (Dec. 22) of an apparent heart attack suffered at his home in Danbury, Wis.
Born David Darwin Pedruska on May 3, 1928, in Spencer, Wis., Dudley was raised in Stevens Point, Wis., and played on semi-pro baseball teams until an arm injury forced an end to his athletic career in 1950. Moving toward a career in country music, he became a radio disc jockey, working at stations in Wisconsin, Iowa, Idaho and Minnesota and formed the Dave Dudley Trio in 1953. Dudley was sidelined for several months in 1960 after being struck by a car while loading equipment following a performance in Minneapolis.
Dudley first hit the Billboard country singles chart in 1961 with “Maybe I Do” on Vee Records. Charting again a year later with “Under Cover of the Night” on the Jubilee label, he spent two weeks at No. 2 on the country charts with his 1963 recording of “Six Days on the Road” on the independent Golden Wing label. Written by Earl Greene and Earl Montgomery, the song was passed along to Dudley by Jimmy C. Newman. Although Dudley was initially reluctant to record the up-tempo song, “Six Days on the Road” helped him land a recording contract with Mercury Records.
Building his career on truck driving songs, Dudley charted 41 singles on the Billboard country chart, including “Truck Drivin’ Son-of-a-Gun,” “There Ain’t No Easy Run,” “One More Mile,” “Trucker’s Prayer” and “Truck Driver’s Waltz.” He scored his only No. 1 hit with “The Pool Shark,” a 1970 duet with Mercury labelmate Tom T. Hall. Dudley and Hall also charted a follow-up single, “Day Drinking.” Dudley’s chart success continued through the ’70s on a variety of labels including Mercury, Rice and United Artists. His last charted single, “Rolaids, Doan’s Pills and Preparation H,” was released in 1980.
Through his music, Dudley helped create an image of the American trucker that influenced several films and TV shows from the ’70s, including Smokey and the Bandit and Movin’ On. With his booming voice and a twanging lead guitar, Dudley’s recording of “Six Days on the Road” also had an impact on a new generation of musicians. The song was later recorded by Gram Parsons (both as a solo artist and with the Flying Burrito Brothers), Steve Earle, George Thorogood & the Destroyers and Sawyer Brown.