Charlie Ryan was born Dec. 19, 1915. He grew up riding horses in Lewistown, Mont. At age 15, he began writing songs with his guitar and formed his first band: The Montana Range Riders.
Eventually, like so many kids from his generation, Charlie's interests shifted from horses to horsepower. And although the Hot Rod Lincoln's twilight race through California was pure fiction, there's more than a bit of reckless truth behind the famous tune that chronicled his real-life races up and down the old Lewiston grade in Idaho traveling to and from gigs.
The popularity of his self-produced recording of "Hot Rod Lincoln" landed Charlie Ryan his first recording contract. In 1960, Charlie's version lingered on Billboard's Top 40 for four weeks, peaking at No. 33. At the same time, however, singer Johnny Bond's take did even better. Bond camped out on the Top 40 seven weeks and made it all the way to 26.
Charlie began landing tours with the big name country stars of the day. Over the years he rubbed elbows with greats like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Buck Owens and countless others.
Charlie created an actual Hot Rod Lincoln by merging a 1930 Model A Ford with a wrecked '48 Lincoln. The Ryans hauled that dream machine with them to county fairs, concerts and car shows.
Charlie & his wife Ruthie wrote and recorded many more songs over the next few decades including his two final albums with Mission Control Studios in 2000 and 2002.
One of Charlie's proudest moments came in 2003. A Spokane bookstore held Charlie Ryan Day to honor the singer/songwriter. Then-Washington Gov. Gary Locke dubbed Charlie a "state treasure." U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell acknowledged Hot Rod Lincoln as a true "American classic."
Charlie passed away on February 16, 2008 at the age of 92. His music and legend as a Rockabilly icon will live on forever.