MAY 29, 2017
“HOT ROD LINCOLN” (WRITERS: CHARLIE RYAN—W.S. STEVENSON)
ARTIST: JOHNNY BOND
RELEASED 1960 ON 7” 45 AND ON HOT ROD LINCOLN LP
People don’t really write a lot of car songs any more. Oh, they may mention sitting in the back of a Cadillac, but that’s not really a car song.
This is a car song. Written in the early 1950s by Charlie Ryan and Bill McCall (a record mogul using a pseudonym) and as a response to the new hot-rodding trend, “Hot Rod Lincoln” imagines a world where the drag-racing show-offs are driving big domestic American boats.
Johnny Bond, an experienced and successful country singer already in his 40s, covered this utterly swinging fusion of country, rockabilly, and western swing in 1960. Like the recordings of Pigmeat Markham and Lord Buckley, this is evidence that rapping started well before the late 1970s.
Complete with sound effects, volume swells, and a laid-back delivery of some pretty funny lyrics, “Hot Rod Lincoln” deserved to be a hit, and it was, reaching #26 on the Billboard singles charts.
The picking is done by Joe Maphis, a country veteran of classic pedigree who finds time to put in some hot slapback-echo riffs while Bond gets through an incredible amount of words in less than three minutes.
It’s not surprising that the song had its biggest success on the west coast, as it was recorded, released, and referenced greater Los Angeles. But “Hot Rod Lincoln” was also top 20 in Chicago, Minneapolis, Toronto, Denver, Boston, Houston, and Philadelphia.
A lot of you may have grown up hearing “Hot Rod Lincoln” as done in 1972 by Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen. I dig that version a lot. But this one, to me, is even more off the rails, both over-the-top and tongue-in-cheek at the same time.
And if you’re lucky enough to find the Johnny Bond 45, there’s the great “Five Minute Romance” on the flip side, too.