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Jesse Lee Shibley, known as Arkie Shibley (21 September 1914 – September 1975) was an American country singer who recorded the original version of "Hot Rod Race" in 1950. The record was important because "it introduced automobile racing into popular music and underscored the car's relevance to American culture, particularly youth culture."[1]

Arkie Shibley
Birth nameJesse Lee Shibley
Born(1914-09-21)September 21, 1914
Van Buren, Arkansas, U.S.
DiedSeptember, 1975 (aged 60)
Van Buren, Arkansas, U.S.
GenresWestern swing
InstrumentsVocals, Guitar
Years active1950s
Labels4 Star (Gilt-Edge)

Shibley was born in Van Buren, Arkansas. After relocating he acquired the nickname "Arkie" and, around 1948, began hosting a regular country music show on radio station KBRG in Bremerton, Washington.

Although the writing credit for "Hot Rod Race" is given to George Wilson, this may be Shibley's pseudonym. He offered the song to 4 Star Records in Los Angeles, but was turned down, and Shibley decided to release the song on his own Mountain Dew label. The record was credited to "Arkie Shibley and his Mountain Dew Boys", the line-up being Shibley on rhythm guitar, Leon Kelley on lead guitar, Jackie Hayes on bass and banjo, and Phil Fregon on fiddle.

The record became popular and was reissued on 4 Star's Gilt Edge imprint. Shibley's record raced into the country charts in January 1951, peaking at # 5, with cover versions on major labels by Ramblin' Jimmie Dolan on Capitol, Red Foley on Decca and Tiny Hill on Mercury. The Hill version also crossed over to the pop charts (# 29).

In 1951 Shibley recorded four sequels to his hit, all performed in a Woody Guthrie-like talking blues style: "Hot Rod Race # 2", "Arkie Meets the Judge (Hot Rod Race # 3)", "The Guy in the Mercury (Hot Rod Race # 4)" and "The Kid in the Model A (Hot Rod Race # 5)". He subsequently disappeared into obscurity. He died in Van Buren, Arkansas, in 1975.

"Hot Rod Race" prompted the even more successful answer song "Hot Rod Lincoln", a hit for Charlie Ryan (recorded 1955 and 1959, charted 1960, # 33 pop), Johnny Bond (1960, # 26 pop) and Commander Cody (1972, # 9 pop). Shibley's record also directly influenced Chuck Berry's "Maybellene", Gene Vincent's "Race With The Devil", and the succession of hot rod records by the Beach Boys and others in the early 1960s.


  1. ^ Jim Dawson; Steve Propes (1992). What Was the First Rock'n'Roll Record. Boston & London: Faber & Faber. ISBN 0-571-12939-0.

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