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Old 04 November 2016, 07:59 PM
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Icon106 "Little GTO" was an advertisement for Pontiac

I'd always thought of it as just another 1960s hot rod song, like "Hey Little Cobra" and "Little Deuce Coupe", but at least according to Jay Leno in one of his YouTube videos, the song "Little GTO" by Ronnie and the Daytonas was actually created by Pontiac's marketing department as part of the advertising for the car. That is to say, while it was released as a single and played on the radio like an ordinary pop song, it was written by Pontiac (or more likely their ad agency) who presumably hired Ronnie and the Daytonas to record it. It wouldn't be the first time a company released a pop song for marketing purposes; IIRC Ford was doing that back in the 'teens or '20s, but I can't find any other information regarding the GTO marketing.

Here's the link to the YouTube video. Jay makes the comment at around 12:30 if you're not interested in watching the whole thing.
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Old 04 November 2016, 08:18 PM
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It isn't the original, but the copyright renewal for "GTO" (no "Little" in the title) shows that the words and music were written by John Wilkin.

If Pontiac were going to write a car song for advertising, why would they use an unknown artist instead of an established group?
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Old 04 November 2016, 08:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WildaBeast View Post
according to Jay Leno in one of his YouTube videos, the song "Little GTO" by Ronnie and the Daytonas was actually created by Pontiac's marketing department as part of the advertising for the car. That is to say, while it was released as a single and played on the radio like an ordinary pop song, it was written by Pontiac (or more likely their ad agency) who presumably hired Ronnie and the Daytonas to record it.
It's possibly that it may be an urban legend.

I find it somewhat unlikely, because right after singing Little GTO (a Pontiac car), they recorded and had a hit with a song called "Bucket T", which refers to the Ford Model T. Switching brands wouldn't be too likely.

Just my 2 cents.

OY
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Old 05 November 2016, 01:46 AM
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Originally Posted by GenYus234 View Post
If Pontiac were going to write a car song for advertising, why would they use an unknown artist instead of an established group?
It costs far less to hire an unknown act.

However, a quick search reveals that "GTO" was written by teenager John "Bucky" Wilkin, whose mother had a music publishing company and allowed her son to record the song backed by studio musicians.

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Bucky, a senior in high school in Nashville at the time Pontiac unveiled its GTO, wrote a song about the car, sprinkling the lyrics with plenty of "gearhead" slang phrases [...]

Here's where having a successful music-biz mom comes in handy. Marijohn started a publishing company, Buckhorn Music, with former Sun Records ace Bill Justis (of "Raunchy" fame), who produced the young Wilkin with top Tennessee session musicians and backing vocalists in a west coast style consistent with the Beach Boys-inspired surf and drag hits of the day. Bucky made up an appropriate-sounding name, Ronny and the Daytonas, leading to the inaccurate impression that an actual group existed...from Florida, home of the Daytona International Speedway, no less! "G.T.O." (flipped with "Hot Rod Baby") came out in the summer of '64 on Mala, a subsidiary of Larry Uttal's New York-based Bell Records. The guy who now had two nicknames watched as his unauthorized ode to Pontiac's in-demand muscle car spent several weeks in the top ten in September and October.
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Old 05 November 2016, 08:20 PM
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Hijacking my own thread a bit, and in a direction that maybe belongs in Automobiles or Business, but there's another claim in that video sounds kind of ULish. A few minutes into the video Jay's guest claims that GM had a rule in the early 1960s that forbade putting big engines in small cars. It makes for a good story, painting John DeLorean as a rebel who broke the rules and put a big engine in the mid-sized Tempest and invented the muscle car. Except he doesn't really explain why they had that rule to begin with. Jay even asks him directly, but his response basically boils down to "Because the CEO said so." So, did GM really have that rule, and if so, why?

From a little research on Wikipedia, it looks like the Oldsmobile "Rocket 88" (not sure if "rocket" was officially part of the name), introduced 15 years earlier, also used a big engine from the company's full sized car in a smaller body, and apparently is considered to be the first muscle car by some (And coincidentally was another car to have a song written about it). So there's another GM car that could be said to have violated that rule, although the guy in the video does imply that the rule came later than that. ETA: Looking at Wikipedia, it looks like the Olds 88 of the early '60s was actually offered with an even bigger engine than the one in the GTO, but it's possible that GM considered the 88 a full sized car by then, and therefore one that was allowed to have a big engine.

Last edited by WildaBeast; 05 November 2016 at 08:30 PM.
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Old 05 November 2016, 11:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WildaBeast View Post
Hijacking my own thread a bit, and in a direction that maybe belongs in Automobiles or Business, but there's another claim in that video sounds kind of ULish. A few minutes into the video Jay's guest claims that GM had a rule in the early 1960s that forbade putting big engines in small cars. It makes for a good story, painting John DeLorean as a rebel who broke the rules and put a big engine in the mid-sized Tempest and invented the muscle car. Except he doesn't really explain why they had that rule to begin with. Jay even asks him directly, but his response basically boils down to "Because the CEO said so." So, did GM really have that rule, and if so, why?
If I remember correctly, the rule stemmed in part from the voluntary ban on factory backed auto racing by the manufacturers, instituted by the AMA in 1957 - limiting capacity on some models would discourage GM's divisions from backing racing teams. The other factor was simply to try and keep the smaller A-body cars from siphoning sales from the larger model ranges, the idea being that if you wanted to buy a fast car from the factory you had to pony up and get the more expensive, big car (or a Corvette). I don't know why it was formally instituted with that particular generation of A-body cars (introduced in 1964), although my theory is, again, that they were a new design, much lighter than previous A-body cars, so they didn't want to lose B-body sales.

Bear in mind that, while Ford didn't have a set rule about engine sizes, they did the same thing with the Falcon/Comet and Mustang, which weren't available with anything bigger than a 289 V-8 till the later 60's. If you wanted a big block you had to get a Fairlane.
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Old 06 November 2016, 07:42 PM
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Hijacking in a completely different direction, I can't listen to "Little GTO" without thinking of this commercial:

https://youtu.be/3zcm4oS9IaM
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Old 07 November 2016, 02:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cervus View Post
It costs far less to hire an unknown act.
Yes, but a known act is a lot more likely to be played on the radio.
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Old 07 November 2016, 04:31 PM
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DJs were regional powers in their own markets then. A good A & R man could get unknowns on the air. Also Rocket 88 was a hit in 1951 meaning that the engine designation pre-dated muscle cars.
GM had a ban on racing, but they would sell to dealers like Don Yenko in Washington PA who would build cars for the "enthusiast" market--like the Yenko Corvair Stinger--180 hp (at the most expensive end) Corvair for street or track.
And there was the song about Honda motor bikes from the same era--I always thought that was a pure advertisement. Never thought much about GTO.

Ali
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Old 07 November 2016, 05:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ali Infree View Post
Depends on how you define a muscle car. At least according to Wikipedia, many consider the 1949 Oldsmobile 88 to be a muscle car.

Quote:
Oldsmobile introduced the 88 badge in 1949. It was named to complement the already-existing 76 and 98, and took the place of the straight-8 engined 78 in the model lineup. The new car used the same new Futuramic B-body platform as the straight-6 engined 76 but paired it with the powerful new Rocket V8 engine. This combination of a relatively small light body and large, powerful engine made it widely considered to be the first muscle car.
I've also seen the Hudson Hornet from the same era called a muscle car.
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Old 08 November 2016, 03:30 PM
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WildaBeast: Like many Boomers, I tend to be 1960s centric. I have to agree about the Olds 88 and the Hudson--a power house in its day. The Hudson Hornet was a winner in early NASCAR days (hence the homage to it in Cars with the Sherrif). Also important in On The Road as the vehicle of one of the cross-country trips.


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