How Did This Teenager's '55 Really Get It's Name?
writer: Darrell Mayabb
The greatest thing about hot rodding is that every car has a story. This one came to us from automotive illustrator Darrell Mayabb, who wrote to us with his own "old rusted and busted young gun story."
My high school days in the late '50s were spent dreaming about hot rods. I had three hot rods back then: a '39 Chevy sedan named Lil' Honey Pot, a '34 Ford sedan that came and went before I had a chance to name it, and a red '55 Chevy 2-door post, Red Headed Flea.
It was common to name our cars in those days. In fact, I helped relieve my economic struggle at the time by pinstriping and lettering names on people's cars. We took the names from titles of popular songs, our girlfriends' names, or whatever struck our fancy.
The second lady I fell in love with has always accused me of naming my hot rod '55 after the first lady I fell in love with. Sharon and I have been happily married for 38 years, but Nancy was my high school sweetheart. Her name and mine were lettered on the glove compartment door of the Chevy, but the car was not named after her. It was actually named after an instrumental rock song of the day. For more than 40 years, I have asked every disc jockey I've met, and anybody that I thought might know, "Have you ever heard the song Red Headed Flea?".
The answer was always the same, "No. Never heard of it."
Then one day, some time back, I was working in my studio listening to a new radio station in town that played old rock 'n' roll. A song came on that sounded like the Red Headed Flea. I got in touch with the disc jockey and told him that he had played a song that I had been hunting for more than 40 years. As it turns out, he said he had never heard of the Red Headed Flea. The song he had played was Green Mosquito by The Tune Rockers. I got off the phone dejected. I still couldn't convince my wife. Instead, this just reinforced her contention that I had named the Chevy after my high school sweetheart.
I thought about it and figured that maybe I really had heard the Green Mosquito all those years ago, but since I drove a red car, I had turned Green Mosquito into Red Headed Flea.
Earlier this year, I was attending a car show in Milwaukee. When I got there they asked me if I would be willing to promote the event on a local radio station. I agreed to do an interview with Mark Dietrich on his program The Gearhead Show on WMSE. Dietrich turned out to be a real motorhead, and well-versed in old rock 'n' roll. As we talked about my art and my hot rods, he said he had found something interesting while looking into my past.
"You had a hot rod in high school named the Red Headed Flea, did you not?" I jumped right on his question and told him all about my recent realization that the car was, in fact, misnamed based on the song, Green Mosquito. He then informed me that he had a surprise for me, and proceeded to play the song Red Headed Flea by The Caps. After 45 years years, I was vindicated. My high school hot rod really was named after the old rock 'n' roll song, Red Headed Flea!
It's the Red Headed Flea, parked in front of Darrell Mayabb's house in Belmont, Ohio, in the winter of 1960. The song of the same name was released a year earlier.
Olds taillights and some elaborate pinstriping done by teenage Darrell distinguished his red '55.
Wanna go for a ride in the RHF? After almost half a century, Darrell can prove that his Chevy was not named for his high school sweetheart, although her name and his are letter on the glove box door.