Q: Greg, you once printed your most popular car songs. I remember your top pick was thought not to be a car song, right? Do you still have your old albums? Paula K., email from Michigan.
A:Yes to both, Paula.
My favorite car song of all time is "Don't Worry Baby," by the Beach Boys. This song, if you listen to the words, has to do with a drag race. The guy in the song was bragging up his car to his friends, and they challenged him to a race. Now, he's real concerned, but his girlfriend tells him "Don't worry baby, everything will turn out all right," and so on.
The other car groups of the day (this is the early sixties to mid-sixties) were Jan & Dean, most famous for their album “Drag City,” and hits "Dead Man's Curve," and all-time great "The Little Old Lady From Pasadena." Jan & Dean and The Beach Boys are well known to this day, the latter also scoring big with the flip side of "Surfin' Safari" called "409," in addition to hits "Little Deuce Coupe," and "Shut Down."
One artist that pre-dated these groups where cars and surfing are concerned is singer and guitar extraordinaire Dick Dale, whose songs both solo and with his backup group “The Del-Tones” were very popular.
Two albums I remember are "Checkered Flag" and "Mr. Eliminator," both having lots to do with fast cars and the surf scene. At over 70 years of age, Dale is still performing to this day, and received a well earned career recharging when his early Sixties song "Misirlou" was used in the Hollywood hit "Pulp Fiction" in 1994.
Ronnie and the Daytonas (Little GTO) and the Rip Chords (Hey Little Cobra) were two others that made the charts. Other car songs were big, like Commander Cody's "Hot Rod Lincoln," the funny “Beep-Beep” by The Playmates, along with the teenage tragic songs like "Last Kiss" by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers and Ray Petersen's "Tell Laura I Love Her."
However, when it comes to racing, muscle cars and the like, I'd go with the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean for both longevity and cool songs. And yes, I still have my original albums from back in the sixties, along with a record called "The Big Sounds Of The Drags," which I used to crank up on my dad's huge stereo system when I was about 11 years old.
Thanks for the letter.