50s rock and roll music is a little before my time even though I am pretty familiar with the sound.


One of the coolest songs from the 50s was ‘Mary Lou’, a 1959 Ronnie Hawkins & the Hawks classic about a ruthless gold digger named Mary Lou.





Ronnie laments about how Mary Lou “took the keys to his Cadillac car” in the song, but the frightening part of the song was the point where she grabbed his ’55 Ford when she returned to his life; “I had a ’55 Ford and a two dollar bill and when she took that, man it gave me a chill.”


I always liked the look of the 1955-56 Fords. The Blue Oval Boys did exactly what the Bowtie Boys did in 1955: both car companies unveiled a completely new car for the back nine of the 1950s. GM and Ford made radical sheet metal changes to their flagship cars and produced well over a million apiece of the new models for an eager buying public.




By 1959, Ronnie Hawkin’s ’55 Ford was a minor footnote in automotive history, so it served him well in ‘Mary Lou’ as an example of a guy who was down on his luck because she had taken everything (including an upscale newer Caddy) from him the first time around.




Consequently a ’55 Ford was proof positive Ronnie’s life had hit rock bottom in the song and when she grabbed the lowly used Ford from him, it proved Mary Lou was a stone-cold conscience-free female predator. One can only assume Mary Lou was also one of the hottest babes in the history of songs to grab two cars from one hapless loser.


The mention of the ’55 Ford always drew me to the song for a different reason because I always thought the car looked pretty cool when I was a kid. The line about the ’55 Ford was made ultra-cool when sung by the Hawk and it tuned ‘Mary Lou’ into an instant classic for me. The ’55-56 Ford was always a classic to me so it was a good marriage of lyrics and car.




However my personal sentiments are not shared by as many people as the Tri-Five fans. In fact Ronnie Hawkins would have made a big musical mistake if he had used a ’55 Chevy in ‘Mary Lou’ because a Tri-Five Chevy was always cool for many car guys.




Fewer people would have bought the notion of Mary Lou as a femme fatale with ice water in her veins if Ronnie owned a ’55 Chevy in 1959. He needed the ’55-56 Ford to make a stronger down-and-out image in the song.




The high water mark for the 1955-56 Fords was the Crown Vicky models and Hawkins was careful not to include this high end model Ford in ‘Mary Lou’. He needed a garden variety sedan to set the mood in the song and a base model Ford was the right car for his song in 1959.




These days a 1955-56 Ford of any style or model will draw plenty of attention at a car show and it would be difficult for Ronnie Hawkins to sell the down-and-out concept if he penned ‘Mary Lou’ for release in 2013.


The Fords are a cool addition to any show, even though they still live in the shadow of their Tri-Five rivals.


Jim Sutherland

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