From Sweet Home Alabama to New York, New York, one couple turned an epic playlist into the road trip of a lifetime

U.K.-based Alice and Clive Cooper's dream vacation to 1399 places mentioned in song titles had been two decades in the making

The Old Seward Highway. | Photo: Shutterstock

Nothing—including tornadoes, a hip replacement, or a cancer diagnosis—could stop Alice Cooper and her husband Clive from completing their ultimate music road trip. The couple’s goal was to visit every single place in the U.S. that had been mentioned in a song title. Their final list of 7241 songs and 1399 places turned out to be significantly longer than Alice’s initial estimate of 150 locations. 

The idea for such an ambitious journey stemmed from a casual dinner conversation around the Coopers’ kitchen table in Ringwood, England one evening. Although retirement was years away, the Coopers, along with their 24-year-old niece Charly, began to discuss possible long-term travel plans. Alice said the couple was keen on visiting all 50 U.S. states.

2300 Jackson Street.
2300 Jackson Street. | Photo: Shutterstock

“Suddenly, ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ began to play on the radio,” Alice says. It prompted their niece to say, “Why don’t you make it more interesting and go everywhere with a place in the song title?” 

“Something was ignited in us at that moment and we both knew, we just had to do it. That one sentence changed the path of our life,” Clive says.

Although Charly’s offhand suggestion sparked a journey that spanned two decades and 50 states, Alice says, “It seems she doesn’t even remember saying it.” 

A master list

It would be 16 years after that dinner before the Coopers set foot in Seattle, Washington, the first stop on their lengthy tour. The couple spent thousands of hours listening to, logging, and compiling songs in preparation for the trip. 

Deadwood, South Dakota.
The Coopers in Deadwood. | Photo courtesy of Alice and Clive Cooper.
Sweet Home Alabama
With the Sweet Home Alabama sign. | Photo courtesy of Alice and Clive Cooper.

“For years, whenever we mentioned the idea, people would begin rattling off songs to add to our list,” Alice says. But not just any tune was added to the couple’s master list. The song had to be written before the time they started the trip, it had to be professionally recorded, and the place itself had to be in the song’s title, not just in the lyrics. 

“We covered not only towns but mountains, rivers, street corners, shops, restaurants, nightclubs, landmarks—literally everywhere in the USA,” Clive says. They visited 2300 Jackson Street, the Gary, Indiana address of Michael Jackson’s childhood home; Prince’s Paisley Park in Minnesota; Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison in California; the notoriously rough streets of Compton; and the Old Seward Highway in Alaska.

Paisley Park.
Paisley Park. | Photo: Shutterstock

Songs and setbacks

But compiling songs was just the beginning. Since Alice and Clive are British, visa restrictions made it impossible for them to complete their itinerary in one shot. They planned their trip in four phases while trying to figure out how to self-fund the expedition. 

While the two continued planning and dreaming of the wild adventures they were about to have, several traumatic incidents shook their world. “We’d always said, ‘What’s the worst that could happen to us? We lose our jobs, can’t pay our mortgage?’” Clive says. “And then, just like that, it actually happened to us.” In 2000, both spouses lost their jobs within two months of each other. 

“There are the types of people that talk about what they should have done, they should have all over the place,” Clive says. “We aren’t those types of people. Don’t get me wrong, we’re rubbish about lots of things, but our strength is focus.” 

8 Mile Road.
8 Mile Road. | Photo: Shutterstock

Despite the setbacks, the Coopers maintained a positive attitude and kept on planning. Within a year, they were financially back on their feet, working again, and even able to pay off their home in full. They began buying up other houses in England and renting them out, which created an additional income stream. 

In 2007, when Alice’s job with the Carnival Cruise Corporation took them to Australia, they rented out their home and moved. “We told ourselves, ‘We are doing this because we are doing [the music road trip].’ Anything that stops us is just an inconvenience,” Clive says.

The two discovered an ad for house sitting in The Sydney Herald and, shortly after, they retired from corporate life and found themselves house sitting full-time. Caring for other people’s homes and pets around the world finally allowed them plenty of time to plan the details of their upcoming road trip.

Fit as a fiddle

In 2012, Clive received a cancer diagnosis. “We put things on a slow burner, but we had no intention of giving up,” Alice says. 

Wild West.
Wild Wild West. | Photo courtesy of Alice and Clive Cooper.

They built a website so family and friends could follow their journey once they finally hit the road. They also taught themselves how to film and edit videos, and in 2014, they finally set off on their adventure, beginning in the Western United States. They visited the mountains and the Pacific Ocean, from Hawaii to Alaska and everything in between. They traveled from El Paso, Texas to the Canadian border at Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan and then back again. Along the way they drove across the Great Plains and through the Midwest. 

When the Coopers were driving through the Deep South and the South Atlantic states, Clive found out that he needed a hip replacement surgery. “We’re not into mollycoddling and so we got on with it,” Clive says. “Nothing ever happens to Alice. Everything happens to me. She’s fit as a fiddle.”

What’s next

After covering all their song locations in New England and the East Coast, from New York to South Carolina, their last port of call was New York City. The couple had 217 locations to visit in Manhattan alone. “We walked to all of those places over the course of four days since driving and parking in the city is such a nightmare,” Alice says.

Empire State of Mind.
Empire State of Mind. | Photo: Alexandra Charitan

After their journey came to an end, the Coopers discovered songs that hadn’t made their initial list. They wasted no time in hitting the road again to visit spots such as Turkey, Texas and Florence, Alabama.

“This has been our life force for the past 20 years,” Clive says. “The magnitude of it doesn’t sink in right away.” Alice agrees, confirming that their days of travel are far from over. “Now we can look in the mirror and say, ’Well, we did that, what can we do next?’”

If you can name a song with a place in the title that the Coopers haven’t visited yet, they want to know about it! To see where they’ve been, visit their website.