Hot Rod Race

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"Hot Rod Race"
Song by Arkie Shibley
Form Western swing
Writer(s) George Wilson
Language English

"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.[1] 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.[2] 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 version reached #7 on the Country charts and # 29 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.[3]

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.

These lyics set the stage for an "answer song" called "Hot Rod Lincoln", first recorded in 1955.


  1. ^ Hoffmann, Sports and Recreation Fads, p. 179: "The record industry was particularly successful in eploiting the craze [hot rodding]. The first genre recording, "Hot Rod Race," released in November 1950, sold 200,000 copies."
  2. ^ Whitburn, "The Billboard Book of Top 40 Country Hits", p.313
  3. ^ Grushkin, Rockin' Down the Highway, p. 54-55: "... but stations back East considered themselves too progressive to play such intimations of racism on the air."


  • Grushkin, Paul. Rockin' Down the Highway: The Cars and People That Made Rock Roll. Voyageur Press, 2006. ISBN 0-7603-2292-9
  • Hoffmann, Frank W.; Wiliam G. Bailey. Sports and Recreation Fads. Routledge, 1991. ISBN 1-56024-056-3
  • Whitburn, Joel. The Billboard Book of Top 40 Country Hits. Billboard Books, 2006. ISBN 0-8230-8291-1

External links[edit]

  • - Short article about Arkie Shibley and his difficulties in releasing the song.