THE LITTLE OLD LADY (from Pasadena)

The Little Old Lady (from Pasadena)

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Released June 8, 1964
Format 7″
March 21, 1964
United Western Recorders
Hollywood, California
Genre Car song[1]
Length 2:45
Label Liberty Records
Songwriter(s) Jan Berry, Don Altfeld, Roger Christian
Producer(s) Jan Berry for Screen Gems, Inc.

“The Little Old Lady (from Pasadena)” is a song written by Don Altfeld, Jan Berry and Roger Christian, and recorded by 1960s American pop singers, Jan and Dean. The song reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1964 and number one on Canada’s RPM chart.

The session musicians who played on this record (who were collectively known as The Wrecking Crew) included Leon Russell on piano; Tommy Tedesco, Bill Pitman and Billy Strange on guitar; Ray Pohlman and Jimmy Bond on bass; and Hal Blaine and Earl Palmer on drums. Tommy Morgan provided the song’s harmonica solo.

Jan & Dean reworked the lyrics from “The Little Old Lady (from Pasadena)” in 1967, renaming the track “Tijuana” and releasing it as a single that same year. The lyrics were now drug related. “Tijuana” was finally released on their 2010 album Carnival of Sound.

The song was performed live by The Beach Boys at Sacramento Municipal Auditorium on August 1, 1964 for inclusion on their No.1 album Beach Boys Concert. The Beach Boys, and particularly Brian Wilson, who co-wrote several of Jan & Dean’s biggest surf hits, had supported Jan & Dean in the recording studio to initiate them in the surf music genre.

The origins of “The Little Old Lady (from Pasadena)” stem from a hugely popular ad campaign that the Dodge automobile maker debuted in early 1964. Starring actress Kathryn Minner, the commercials showed the white haired elderly lady speeding down the street (and sometimes a drag strip) driving a modified Dodge. She would stop, look out the window and say “Put a Dodge in your garage, Hon-ey!”. The song soon followed and she enjoyed great popularity until she died a few years later.

From this premise came the comic song, about a little old lady from Pasadena who had a hot “Super Stock Dodge” in her garage. (These vehicles had low production number “Max Wedge” (Maximum Performance Wedge Engine) lightweight race specials built in 1964 for drag racing and are highly collectible today.) The song’s twist was that, unlike the subject of the usual story and joke, this little old lady not only drove the hot car, but also was a peerless street racer on Colorado Boulevard, the main route of the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena.