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Published on Oct 10, 2009
"Hot Rod Race" is a Western swing song about an automobile race out of San Pedro, California, between a Ford and a Mercury. Released in November 1950, it broke the ground for a series of hot rod songs recorded for the car culture of the 1950s and 60s.With its hard driving boogie woogie beat, it is sometimes named one of the first rock and roll songs.
Written by George Wilson, it became a major hit for Arkie Shibley and his Mountain Dew Boys (Gilt-Edge 5021), staying on the charts for 7 weeks, peaking at #5 in 1951. Trying to repeat his success, Shibley recorded at least four follow-up songs.
Ramblin' Jimmie Dolan, Tiny Hill, and Red Foley, all released versions in 1951; Hill's became a hit on the pop charts.
Shibley's record may have climbed higher and outpaced any of the others, but his second verse opened up with: Now along about the middle of the night We were ripping along like white folks might.
Eastern radio stations, never a fan of Western swing anyway, refused to play it.
Dolan changed the verse to say "plain folks"; Hill to "rich folks"; and Foley to "poor folks".
The song ends with: When it flew by us, I turned the other way. The guy in Mercury had nothing to say, For it was a kid, in a hopped-up Model A.