“If you ever plan to motor west
Travel my way
Take the highway that’s the best
Get your kicks on Route 66.”
Bobby Troup was inspired to write that little tune during his trip west to California where he hoped to make it big as a song writer. Shortly after arriving in Los Angeles, Bullet Durgstrom, an agent and talent scout, arranged for Troup to play the song about US 66 for Nat King Cole who recorded the song on March 16, 1946. For eight weeks that ditty about getting your kicks on Route 66 topped the charts. Today it is one of the most recorded songs in history. That has ensured that Kingman, Arizona is forever linked to this storied highway.
As might be expected, Route 66 landmarks such as Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner that opened in 1940 as the Kingman Cafe abound in Kingman. But Kingman is a town filled with surprises. Did you know that there are two award winning craft breweries in Kingman? Did you know that Desert Diamond Distillery at the Kingman Airport and Industrial Park was awared a gold medal at the Los Angeles Spirits Competition and two other gold medals from similar competitions in San Francisco? Did you know that the world’s only museum dedicated to electric vehicles is located in the Powerhouse Visitor Center?
Counted among the many surprises awaiting discovery in Kingman are the murals and sculptures created by internationally acclaimed artists, and displays of fine art by local artists in galleries on Beale Street. During the National Road Trip Day celebrations in May, 2022, a statue of author, historian and humorist Jim Hinckley created by sculptress J. Anne Butler was unveiled in the Depot Plaza along Route 66 at the historic railroad depot.
English born J. Anne Butler is acknowledged as a leading figurative bronze sculptor of her generation and has been commissioned to create works for an array of prestigious clients. These clients include HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Sultan of Oman, Val Bunting, Bordeaux, France, Colleen Jackson and John Cranston, Azizah Arabians International, Australia Mystic Arabians, Sarah, Duchess of York, England, Ms. Bo Derek, Towerlands International Arabian Horse Association, England, and Barclays Bank, Great Britain.
The late folk artist Bob Waldmire is a revered celebrity for Route 66 enthusiasts. His intricate pen and ink post cards and posters are treasured momentos, and his murals are destinations for Route 66 travelers. His trademark VW bus that served as a home and studio while he was on the road served as the inspiration for the Filmore character in the animated movie Cars.
When in KIngman his van was serviced at TNT Auto Center housed in the historic 1960s era McCarthy Motors Ford dealership on Andy Devine Avenue, Route 66. Over a two year period Waldmire transformed a wall of the auto center into a map of Route 66 with his signature styling.
JC Amberlyn who studied at the Art Institute of Phoenix has created a diverse body of work that includes painting, photography, and animation. She is the author and illustrator of nine how-to-draw books with Penguin, Random House and Monacelli Press. Her work has received accolades, awards, and international recognition. In 2008 she was the recipient of the Arizona Game and Fish Department Outdoor Writer of the Year award. Amberlyn has also been recognized for contributions to the Kingman arts community with the Women Making History in The Arts award.
Working with the Kingman Powerhouse Visitor Center in partnership with Arizona@Work Mohave County, Amberlyn designed the “Wish You Were Here” mural in the style of postcards from the 1940s and 1950s that used blocky, three-dimensional letters packed with illustrations of scenic or local sights. Working with four young area artists she completed the mural at the visitor center in 2020.
The historic heart of KIngman, Arizona with its galleries, wine bar and microbreweries, eclectic array of shops, diverse restaurants, and colorful murals has a surprising vibrancy. That infectious excitement is magnified during the Chillin’ on Beale events held on the thrid Saturday afternoon of each month, March thru October. Downtown Kingman is a compact district that is ideally suited for walking. That makes the innovative, narrated self guided historic district walking tour developed by Kingman Main Street an ideal way to discover the many surprises in a town known as a stop on the way to somewhere else.