Charlie Ryan and the Timberline Riders

Charlie Ryan is remembered for one hit that he wrote and recorded in the 50's. It was covered by another group and went into the top ten in early 70's.

Charles Ryan was born in Graceville, Minnesota in 1915 and grew up in Polson, Montana. He had an interest in cars, and in writing and recording music. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II and by the age of 30 had made a permanent home for himself in Spokane, Washington.

Following the war Ryan found work as a musician and songwriter, and he liked to tinker with automobiles. He toured with performers such as Johnny Horton and Jim Reeves. Ryan acquired a used '41 Lincoln Zephyr and set to work on it, replacing the body with a Ford Model A and adding a V12 engine under the hood. Ryan made other adjustments, including a three-speed manual transmission (with overdrive, of course) and a custom wheelbase. He painted it black except for the wheels, which he painted red, and eventually, he had his own custom made hot rod. And while working on it, he wrote a song about his his pride-and-joy.

In 1955 he recorded the song, Hot Rod Lincoln, on Souvenir Records, calling himself Charley Ryan and the Livingston Brothers (note the spelling of "Charley"). It met with little success but Ryan did not give up on it. In 1959 he re-recorded Hot Rod Lincoln on the 4 Star label, released this time as by Charlie Ryan and the Timberline Riders. In August, 1960 it went into the top forty nationally, where it remained for a scant four weeks, peaking at #33. Johnny Bond's cover version joined it in the top forty a mere two weeks later. Others have recorded the song over the years, including Roger Miller and Asleep at the Wheel. Former University of Michigan student George Frayne put another version in the top ten in 1972, with his group Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen.

Hot Rod Lincoln is a novelty song, with some snappy lyrics and winsome background music, and the record took its place in the annals of rockabilly. Some sources claim it was written in 1955, as a response to another song about a hot rod race, Arkie Shibley and the Mountain Dew Boys' appropriately named 1951 hit, Hot Rod Race. Others say Ryan began writing it in 1950, with W. S. Stevenson, before the other song was released. He recorded other songs, including Hot Rod Race, Side Car Cycle, Hot Rod Hades, and Hot Rod Rocket.

And what became of the original Hot Rod Lincoln -- the car itself? Charlie Ryan continued to tinker with it for more than fifty years, until his death at age 92 in Spokane in 2008. He entered it in car shows and used it for fundraisers. After he died his widow sold it, but the orginal Hot Rod Lincoln is still intact, and still runs and looks great. A short video can be viewed at

Ryan's only top forty song has endured, and he is well remembered for Hot Rod Lincoln.

Most Recent Update: September 1, 2014

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