Charles "Charlie" Ryan (December 19, 1915 in Graceville, Minnesota – February 16, 2008 in Spokane, Washington) was an American singer and songwriter, best known for co-writing and first recording the rockabilly hit single "Hot Rod Lincoln".
Ryan grew up in Polson, Montana and moved to Spokane in 1943. He served in the United States Army during World War II. After the war, he worked as a musician and songwriter, touring with artists such as Jim Reeves and Johnny Horton.
In the late 1940s, he purchased a used 1941 Lincoln Zephyr four-door sedan. After a couple of years, he decided to make a hot rod out of it. He removed the Zephyr body, cut two feet off the frame to shorten the wheelbase and dropped a 1930 Ford Model A coupe body on it. At first, the car was painted black with red wheels. Charlie installed a '48 V-12 engine in it along with the 3 speed with overdrive '48 transmission.
While he was working on the car, Charlie was thinking about the song. By the early 1950s (as "Charley Ryan and The Livingston Brothers"), he had the lyrics worked out and began performing it. Charlie Ryan recorded 'Hot Rod Lincoln' in 1955; it was released as a single by Souvenir Records in 1957. It became a major hit in many regions of the United States. While travelling to perform, Charlie and his wife Ruthie often took the Hot Rod Lincoln on tour. Ryan released a remake in 1959 as "Charlie Ryan and The Timberline Riders", By 1960 the hot rod needed another engine. Charlie installed a 1939 Lincoln V-12. It's still powering the car today.
During his later years although semi-retired, Charlie would still occasionally perform 'the song.'
Charlie and Ruthie have been awarded lifetime memberships in the Lincoln & Continental Owners Club. They spent their summers at their Spokane, Washington home; winters were spent relaxing in Arizona. And, after many years, they still had the Hot Rod Lincoln. Charlie and Ruthie often trailered it to events pulled by Charlie's big 1979 Lincoln Continental Mark V Cartier Edition coupe.
Charles S. 'Charlie' Charlie Ryan died in February 2008 at age 92. He was survived by his wife of over 70 years, three children, 14 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren. Charlie always had a kind word for everyone and had lots of stories about his cross-country travels as a musical performer. He was a real gentleman and was a delight to all those who knew him. As for Charlie’s car, well it’s still going, although having changed a few owners.
'Hot Rod Lincoln' has been performed by many artists - Johnny Bond had a regional hit with the song in 1959; Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen covered it in 1972. In the 80s, Asleep At The Wheel released a very nice version. In 1995, Jim Varney (aka: Ernest) recorded a cover which was used in 'The Beverly Hillbillies' movie. (Info edited from Wikipedia & joesherlock.com)