Paul Newman with his 1963 VW convertible Beetle, shooting an ad for Volkswagen in the late ’60s. Soon afterwards race car builder Jerry Eisert was enlisted to stealthily turn this little bug into a covert Corvette killer. Paul Newman’s “Indy VW” would become one of the most radical VW Bugs of its time, and a sleeper legend was born.
Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin and his beloved ‘Strider’, named after J. R. R. Tolkien’s character ‘Aragorn’ from ‘The Lord of the Rings.’
Bron-Y-Aur Stomp was penned by Robert Plant and Jimmy Page back in 1970, and named after the tiny cottage in Gwynedd, Wales where the band holed-up after coming off their North American tour. The rustic, old home (with no power or running water) was a welcome escape to refresh the road-worn band and inspired several epic songs for Led Zeppelin III, including Bron-Y-Aur Stomp. “There ain’t no companion like a blue-eyed Merle,” was Robert Plant’s tender, lyrical nod to his sweet lil’ pooch, Strider in this song. Tolkien references can also be heard in a few other Led Zeppelin songs– Ramble On, The Battle of Evermore, and Misty Mountain Hop.
“Me and some buddies of mine had traveled to Daytona hoping to see Leo Payne. There were rumors he was going to come there and kick ass. All the fast street bikes parked on Main Street to show off your stuff and get up races but there was no Leo Payne. One sinister looking Sportster was parked there when we arrived. It looked like a Cafe racer. After looking at more “fast looking” bikes I went back to be with mine. Soon a guy came up and started looking my bike over thouroughly. It had twin Linkert carbs and Dytch big bore cylinders on it, a dead give-away. This guy asked who it belonged to and I proudly raised my hand. “Want to go out in the country and race” he said. That’s what I’m here for I said. He went to get his bike ….and it was the Cafe looking bike. It was about 10:00 pm as we headed out and at least 25 bikes went with us to watch. We found a long straightaway and decided it was good. The guy asked if I wanted to start from a dead stop or a rolloff. I said a rolloff. We were both side by side at about 20 mph when we turned the throttles at exactly the same instant and the other bike jumped out to a bike length lead on me and it stayed that way through all the gears up to about 130 mph, the fastest my bike would run with the gearing I had and besides it was pitch dark on that lonely highway. I was VERY disappointed to have lost as we rode back to downtown Daytona, trying to get back before the law got to us. As we parked I introduced myself and he said “I’m Danny Johnson.” It was the beginning of a friendship that lasted until his death.” ~Frank Spittle via
“A Mind Shredder, two Harley-Davidson engines, each stretched out to 107 cubic inches, power this 460 pound Goliath. The thing has already devoured a quarter mile in 8.51 and its teeth haven’t been honed. Does the monster have a seven second future?” Motorcycle Journalist, Sandy Roca, on Danny Johnson’s Goliath, ca. 1973
Danny Johnson’s rolling flame burnout on a single Harley-Davidson Ironhead drag bike.
The epic tales of Laurel Canyon’s heyday continues to linger like the warm smell of colitas rising up through the air… It’s here that the SoCal sound was born out of an era of relaxed morals (
fucking sex), folks expanding their mental horizons (drugs), and a wave of eclectic misfits coming from all over to launch, reinvent, or escape their musical careers (rock ‘n’ roll) in this sleepy, smoky, winding hippy enclave. And the women, Mama Cass & Joni Mitchell, were the (wise and worldly beyond their years) matriarchs watching over over this peaceful, easy-feeling, community headquartered on Lookout Mountain. Henry Diltz was a friend and photographer to many in the scene those days, and his visual record and memories of these times is priceless.
“When I first came out to L.A. [in 1968], my friend Joel Bernstein found an old book in a flea market that said, ‘Ask anyone in America where the craziest people live and they’ll tell you California. Ask anyone in California where the craziest people live and they’ll say Los Angeles. Ask anyone in Los Angeles where the craziest people live and they’ll tell you Hollywood. Ask anyone in Hollywood where the craziest people live and they’ll say Laurel Canyon. And ask anyone in Laurel Canyon where the craziest people live and they’ll say Lookout Mountain.’ So I bought a house on Lookout Mountain.” —Joni Mitchell
The amazing story of Bill Thomas’ Race Cars badass (pre-Charger) Chevy II / Nova Fastback, bought by CKC Racing Team back in 1964 for $2500! Supposedly it has survived and resides somewhere in PA after changing hands–
“Up until that time, the fastest car I had ever driven was a Corvette. That Chevy II used to do some incredible wheelstands, which made it a handful to drive. There was no way you could get off the throttle and get back on it again once it stood up on the back bumper, and it used to do that a lot! I remember one time at Houston Raceway during a match race with Dickie [Harrell], we both stood our cars up on the back bumpers, and the crowd went absolutely wild. Another time, I bent the front axle so badly on re-entry that J.E. had to use a floor jack and a torch to straighten it out just so we could load the car back on the trailer.” –Driver, Cal Callier via
1964, Callier and Kristek posing with the “orange car,” the team’s Chevrolet small-block-powered AA/FD that ran consistently at 190.00, and the team’s new Bill Thomas Race Cars ’64 A/FX Chevy II powered by a 427 Z11 carbureted big-block. Photo by Peter Peters via
1976, The Runaways — Lita Ford, Joan Jett, Jackie Fox, Sandy West, Cherie Currie — photo by Tom Gold
The Runaways teenage, all-female rock band was co-founded in 1975 by guitarist Joan Jett and drummer Sandy West. The two were joined by Cherie Currie, Lita Ford, and Jackie Fox and became the main core of the group. Vicki Blue, Micki Steele (who’d later join The Bangles), Peggy Foster, and Laurie McAllister also flowed in as others dropped-out, and they eventually broke up in 1979. The Runaways actually saw greater success in Japan than here in the US, where many critics and serious rock fans alike had a hard time taking the sexy teenage girls from LA seriously. Their mania and memory largely slipped into a slumber until being sparked again by the 2010 biographical flick, The Runaways.
Being a child of the ’70s & ’80s I was aware of The Runaways, but was exposed more to TV than the live music scene. Suzi Quatro (who inspired Jett) was riding a wave of curiously sexy, somewhat androgynous, lady rocker vibe and saw decent TV airtime. I’ll admit, I was intrigued. Pinky Tuscadero definitely had my attention too. Then Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and Lita Ford (now a pursed-lipped, metal guitar goddess), shot back into the rock limelight wiser, and with stronger musical chops. Looking back at The Runaways, one thing I’ll say is that they were well-merchandised, as witnessed by the great archive of images that have successfully survived the test of time.
Debuting in 1953, Hugh Hefner’s Playboy magazine represented the ultimate liberated lifestyle for men of the 1950s, ’60s and beyond. Some called Hef’s imaginative, artistic spreads on architecture & interior design nothing more than self-indulgent, male sexual fantasy cloaked under a flimsy cover of so-called culture. For the man that wanted to be (or fantasized of being) the master of his own hedonistic domain — Playboy was his blueprint. And Hef perfected his own personal blueprint for tapping directly into the wallet of a new consumption-based male ideal that thought (and bought) with their crotch. The Playboy man now sought the aspiration of sleek, modern design that Hugh brilliantly linked with the primal desire of getting laid.
Whatever the angle, it cannot be denied that scores of men were introduced to, and educated on, the finer points of Mid-Century Modern Design and the masters behind the movement that is now an iconic part of our history. And the Bachelor Pad, dripping with sexy, come-hither vibe, an inhibition-busting bar, and the latest modern marvels to dazzle her, was born thanks to Hef — who literally fleshed-it-out and showed us just how good it could look, make you feel, and improve your net worth with the ladies.
“Hell’s Angels love to fistfight. There’s never a shortage of drunks or foolhardy motherfuckers willing to take us on, and a lot of times we’ll take on each other. Armond Bletcher stood 6″8″ and weighed 350 lbs. He was so strong he could pick up a couple motorcycles and put them on the back of a pickup truck. In the early ’70s Armond could bench 705 lbs., but he had to arch his back to do it. He was never in competition, but he took steroids and was unbelievably big.”
–Ralph “Sonny” Barger
Jesus-H-Christ this was a big ass dude. Depending on who’s telling it, Armond Bletcher was somewhere between 6′ 3″ – 6′ 8″, and tipped the scales around 300 – 350 lbs. A friend of the Fresno Hells Angel, and a feature favorite with the staff at Easyriders magazine, Armond was literally a giant among men and a controversial figure to this day. There are many colorful tales– It’s reported that as a doorman he got away with shooting a man to death, that he was a known hitman, also Frank Sinatra’s bodyguard, and that he took horse steroids to achieve and maintain his enoromous size.
“After losing his wife (and mother of their 3 boys) in 1958, John Penton went on an absolute tear on the enduro circuit trying to outrun his grief. Family members cared for his boys while Penton dismissed the winter cold and rode off for Daytona on his 175cc NSU motorcycle. Stopping in Atlanta, Penton won the Stone Mountain Enduro, then rode the NSU to Florida winning the Alligator Enduro, and racked up a few more wins across the Midwest– including his first victory at the Jack Pine.
Penton closed out 1958 with a road trip to Mexico. Upon hitting California on the way up the Pacific Coast, he decided it was time to return home to Ohio and did so non-stop– inspiring his brother Ted to challenge him to break the New York to Los Angeles transcontinental record.”
“On June 8th, 1959 John Penton recorded his time and location with Western Union in New York City and set off for California on a BMW R69S outfitted with an oversized gas tank. On June 10th, just Fifty-two hours and eleven minutes later, Penton rolled into Los Angeles. His record was heavily advertised by BMW, and newspapers all over the world covered the record run. Penton was now a legend in motorcycling.” via
But the story of John Penton’s awe-inspiring career does not end there. Find a screening of “Penton: The John Penton Story” near you by going to http://pentonmovie.com/see-the-film/ and reserving your tickets. I’m also proud to announce that the film will be entered in the 2nd Annual Motorcycle Film Festival in Brooklyn, NY held Sept. 24th – 27th.
“Our ’65 Chevy low rider convertible, flying the colors of ZZ Top’s El Dorado Bar is solidly a Texas car yet, equally at home on the streets of LA, Fresno, or Bakersfield.” –Billy Gibbons. This pic of ZZ Top has it all, in my opinion. Just checkout that custom-built Texas state Gibson guitar! The band has acquired an enviable car collection over the years, and is out and about in the custom scene. “We attend the Mooneyes Festivals in California and Japan and always make the SoCal Speed Shop summer ‘Open House’ gathering. Always a terrific time. As far as clubs are concerned, we think of ZZ Top as one. We hang out, we shoot the breeze, we get down, we move on to the next town and, of course, it’s all about the arrival. Loud, low, while you Rock and Roll…!” –Billy Gibbons
“Dusty Hill, Frank Beard, and Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) playing the Senior Prom in May, 1970 at Little Cypress-Mauriceville High School in Orange, Texas. Apparently sometime between signing the contract and the actual prom itself, the band broke-out big. They tried to get out of the contract, but the school couldn’t find a replacement on such short notice so ZZ Top still performed…people were climbing through the windows, crashing the prom, just to hear the band play. This was all at a really small school with a graduating class of around 100, maybe less.” via