The auto world has lost one of its legends; Carroll Shelby, the visionary designer and race car driver who created the iconic Shelby Cobra and Ford’s Shelby Mustang sports cars, passed away on Thursday at the age of 89.
To remember his life and legacy, one of the people who was closest to Shelby, two-time Oscar-winning singer/songwriter Carol Connors, called in to share her memories of the racing legend. Connors, most famously known for writing the “Rocky” theme song and the hit single “Hey Little Cobra,” which was written about Shelby’s famous car, tells us how she met Shelby and the story behind the hit song.
Connors first met Carroll Shelby after she had broken up with the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley. After smashing the front of her then boyfriend’s AC Bristol car, Connors was sent to find Shelby to see if he could put a Cobra front on an AC back.
“So there I am in his office…I said ‘Mr. Shelby…is there any way you can put a Cobra front on a Bristol back?’ Well he became hysterical. He just couldn’t stop laughing,” remembers Connors.
“He looked at me and said, ‘you know little girl, if you write a song about my car and it goes to number one, I’ll give you one’…and the rest was history,” she added.
That song of course was the 1964 single “Hey Little Cobra” sung by The Rip Chords and peaked in the top five on the Billboard Charts. The famous lyrics “Hey, Little Cobra/Don’t you know You’re gonna shut’em down” became a phrase synonymous with Shelby’s racing wins during his career.
When the song was at the peak of its popularity, Connors remembers a funny meeting with The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson coming up to her and saying “We knew that song was written by a girl.”
“I said, ‘Brian, how did you know that?’ and he said ‘because you can’t take your Cobra out of gear and coast to the line!'” remembers Connors. “I said, ‘if you’re that far in front, you can do that.'”
Connors always had a special place for Shelby in her heart, and will always remember her close friend and race legend.
“I will remember him as being bigger than life and I will always say to myself, ‘Carroll Shelby shut ’em down,'” said Connors. “He was one special dude.”
Listen to our full interview for more of Carol Connors’ memories of Carroll Shelby: