I love a car show, the chrome, the gasoline, the stories and all those great car songs on the loudspeaker.
As we got ready to hold the show on the square at Portales last week and we were thinking about the music I told one of the car show planners I would burn a CD with some good car music on it. It turns out my collection was pretty weak. It appears I might be more of a train man from looking at my iTunes library.
In my defense, I do have the song that topped several Internet lists of Top 100 car songs. That song would be “Hot Rod Lincoln,” the Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen version.
The song, written by Charlie Ryan in the early 1950s describes a guy in a Model-A Ford equipped with a 12-cylinder Lincoln engine chasing a Cadillac through the hills of California. After he gets thrown in jail and his “pappy comes down to throw his bail,” he tells his son “You’re going to drive me to drinking if you don’t stop driving that Hot Rod Lincoln.”
That might be the best line ever in any car song.
A close second in car song lines comes in the Beach Boys “Little Deuce Coupe,” about a 1932 (thus the deuce) Model-B Ford. Brian Wilson’s lyrics contended he’s not bragging but he’s got the fastest set of wheels in town. The chorus repeats “My Little Deuce Coupe, you don’t know what I’ve got.”
The Beach Boys and other surfer-era bands scored hit after hit in the 1960s with car songs.
Those are the ones you hear at a lot of car shows. The Beach Boys had “Shut Down,” “409,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” and “Don’t Worry Baby.” Jan and Dean had “Dead Man’s Curve” and “Drag City” and Ronny and the Daytonas had “Little GTO,” with lots of wah-wahs and the line “C’mon and turn it on, wind it up and blow it out GTO.
Goofiest car song, yet in the top 10, is “Beep, Beep,” by the Playmates. A song made popular on the Dr. Demento Show about a hot Cadillac that couldn’t shake a Nash Rambler. The Rambler was a pretty good car and the seats reclined, too, but not exactly a hot rod.
Janis Joplin sang acappela when she pleaded for a Mercedes Benz, but far and away there were more songs written about Cadillac than any other car. My favorite is Dwight Yoakum’s “Long White Cadillac.”
Chuck Berry catches his best girl “Maybellene” riding in a Cadillac with another man but after some adversity and a rainstorm manages to outrun the Caddy in his Ford. Yeah those Cadillac cars got beat a lot in verse.
Springsteen had a “Pink Cadillac” but Johnny Cash had a black one that was perhaps the most famous Cadillac in song. Just don’t ask Cash what year model it was because he built it “One Piece at a Time,” and carried it out of a GM plant in his lunch box over several years.
I’d like to write a song about one of the cars I’ve owned in my lifetime but nothing I can sing on the radio rhymes with bucket.
Karl Terry, a former publisher of the Quay County Sun, writes for Freedom New Mexico. Contact him at: