Going Up the Country

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Released November 22, 1968
Format 7-inch 45 rpm record
Recorded August 6–7, 1968
Studio I.D. Sound Recorders, Hollywood, California
Genre Blues rock
Length 2:50
Label Liberty (no. 56077)
Producer(s) Canned Heat, Skip Taylor

“Going Up the Country” (also Goin’ Up the Country) is a song by American blues rock band Canned Heat. Called a “rural hippie anthem”, it became one of the band’s biggest hits and best-known songs. As with their previous single, “On the Road Again”, the song was adapted from a 1920s blues song and sung in a countertenor-style by Alan Wilson.

Canned Heat, who were early blues enthusiasts, based “Going Up the Country” on “Bull Doze Blues”, recorded in 1928 by Texas bluesman Henry Thomas. Thomas was from the songster tradition and had a unique sound, sometimes accompanying himself on quills, an early Afro-American wind instrument similar to panpipes. He recorded “Bull Doze Blues” in Chicago on June 13, 1928, for Vocalion Records (no. 1230).

For “Going Up the Country”, Canned Heat’s Wilson used Thomas’ melody on the quills and his basic rhythm, but arranged it for a rock setting and rewrote the lyrics. In addition to the bass and drum rhythm section, Henry Vestine supplied a “light electric rhythm guitar” and multi-instrumentalist Jim Horn reproduced Thomas’ quill parts on the flute.

Although linked to the counterculture of the 1960s’ back-to-the-land movement, Wilson’s lyrics are ambiguous:

Now baby pack your leaving trunk, you know we’ve got to leave today
Just exactly where we’re going I cannot say, but we might even leave the U.S.A.
‘Cause there’s a brand new game that I don’t wanna play.

Canned Heat performed “Going Up the Country” at the Woodstock music festival in August 1969. The song has been described as the “unofficial anthem” of the festival and is featured early. In the film, Woodstock, Canned Heat’s spoken introduction to their performance of the song is heard, but the movie then cuts to the studio recording played over a montage of festival attendees. The 1970 soundtrack album Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More features the festival performance of the song, but without the spoken intro.

In 1994, Pepsi used the song in a TV commercial to promote Woodstock ’94.

In 2017, it appears in a TV commercial for Geico’s motorcycle insurance.

Several musicians have recorded renditions of “Going Up the Country”, including Luca Prodan, Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, Deerhoof, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.