Co-writer of ‘60s rockabilly hit song ‘Hot Rod Lincoln’
Charles Ryan, the musician and songwriter who co-wrote the hit song “Hot Rod Lincoln,” died Saturday in Spokane, Wash., after a long battle with heart disease, his family said. He was 92.
Ryan and W.S. Stevenson wrote “Hot Rod Lincoln” and in 1955 Ryan first recorded the song with the rockabilly beat and the vivid lyrics describing a nighttime car chase:
“My fenders was clickin’ the guardrail posts; the guy beside me was white as a ghost.”
It began with the line “My pappy said, ‘Son, you’re gonna drive me to drinkin’ if you don’t stop drivin’ that Hot Rod Lincoln.’ ”
The song was inspired by Ryan’s commutes in his 1941 Lincoln from Spokane to play gigs at the Paradise Club across the state line in Lewiston, Idaho.
It has been recorded many times since.
Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen made it a hit in 1972, and it has been a mainstay of popular culture for decades.
Ryan was born in Graceville, Minn., on Dec. 19, 1915, grew up in Polson, Mont., and moved to Spokane in 1943. He served in the Army during World War II.
He worked as a musician and songwriter, touring with Jim Reeves, Johnny Horton and others.
Ryan’s version of “Hot Rod Lincoln” hit the Billboard Top 100 charts in 1960 and stayed there for six months. Many versions exist, with the words often altered by each new group.