Hot Rod Race

"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.

"Hot Rod Race"
Single by Arkie Shibley and His Mountain Dew Boys
ReleasedNovember 1950 (1950-11)
GenreWestern swing
Songwriter(s)George Wilson

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 seven weeks, peaking at number five 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 number seven on the Country charts and number 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 lyrics 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 linksEdit

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