Whether you’re watching the sun break over majestic Mt. Taylor to the east, or setting behind Tucumcari’s neon motel row to the west, New Mexico’s stretch of Route 66 is iconic at every hour, through every era. At once hauntingly desolate and vividly alluring, it is easy to understand how and why this legendary road has been the source of so much inspiration and creativity since its completion nearly 90 years ago.
During the 66 heyday legends of every ilk used this bedazzled roadway, and were often seduced by the same mysterious quality it continues to capture imaginations with today. Local legend has it that the Catholic Indian Center in Gallup was the occasional venue for private Johnny Cash or Bob Dylan shows, artists that would put on charitable performances for the local, predominantly Navajo community when they passed through town. Folks that would have been little children at that time tell stories of seeing The Man in Black perform at the Indian Center. Cash’s love of New Mexico is no secret and if you are fortunate enough to visit his museum in Nashville, you’ll find his thoughts on the state written in his own hand.
All along the 300-some miles from one end of the state to the other you will find other similar stories, tucked into the fabric of historic buildings, their neon signs lit all in a row like the glowing stones of a cosmic bracelet. You will find stories of men and women who’s art and music shaped our country, and everywhere extraordinary ghosts waiting to be rediscovered.
I think about all of this when I’m traveling the route, in particular the contributions Route 66 gave American music as it created a transcontinental roadway that allowed front porch musicians a pathway to places like Chicago and Santa Monica.
On a recent trip down the old 66 I took along a selection of Jennifer Nettles jewelry designed for American West. As a musician who is holding her own in the legacy of transformative American musicians, I felt there was no better collection of accessories to amplify the history and mystique of Route 66. These timeless pieces draw from the spirit of antique Native American jewelry, whose roots are inseparable from Route 66 history and the trading posts that line it from Lupton to Glen Rio. But the real magic of Nettles’ jewelry is in the free spirit they represent in pieces such as the “Believe” inscribed necklace. Or in her star rings, that can symbolize how an angel-voiced girl from Georgia can become a star bejeweled in stars. Above all, these iconic jewelry pieces tell the story of America, a place where dreams come true and freedom reigns.