LAUREL CANYON DAZE | CSN, JONI MITCHELL, JACKSON BROWNE, MAMA CASS, THE EAGLES

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

Joni Mitchell home Lookout Mountain Avenue Laurel Canyon 1970 © Henry Dilitz

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LEGENDARY CHEVY II FIBERGLASS FASTBACK | BILL THOMAS’ BADASS BUILD FOR CKC RACING

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 Kristek orange car team's Chevrolet small-block-powered AA:FD ran 190.00 Bill Thomas Race Cars '64 A:FX Chevy II powered 427 Z11 carbureted big-block

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

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THE RUNAWAYS | LA’S YOUNG CHERRY BOMB QUEENS OF NOISE WHO WERE BIG IN JAPAN

runaways joan jett lita ford cherie currie1976

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.

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WHEN PLAYBOY INFORMED SEXY DESIGN AND MADE THE BACHELOR PAD A CULTURAL ICON

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.

Playboy-townhouse-may-1962-5-xray

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THE LEGENDARY ARMOND BLETCHER | FALLEN HELLS ANGEL OF UNHUMAN PROPORTIONS

“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

ARMOND BLETCHER EASY RIDER

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.

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“PENTON: THE JOHN PENTON STORY” | FROM THE WOODS TO THE WORLD

“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.”

John Penton_June 10 1959_Trascontinental 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.

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ZZ TOP, THE MOVING SIDEWALKS & THE 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS | TEXAS MUSIC LEGENDS

zz top chevy lowrider el dorado

“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

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Young ZZ Top Prom

“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

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RANDY RHOADS’ RIVALRY WITH EDDIE VAN WHO…AND THE RIFF THAT SAVED OZZY’S ASS

Whenever I hear ‘Crazy Train’ I’m immediately transported back to 8th grade Guitar class. One dude will forever be etched in my mind. Dave was 1/2 Japanese, all of about 5 ft tall, and probably weighed 80 lbs soaking wet, if that. His hair, alone worthy of open adoration, making up the bulk of his weight and height. This ‘Metal Mane’ was streaked, sprayed, and stood a good 6 inches above his head, cascading down to the middle of his back in perfectly teased strands. My 13 yr old brain could not fathom the ridiculous routine and expense this must have required. But damn if he didn’t more the rockstar part than 90% of the bands on the cover Cream and Hit Parader magazine. His bare arms were like sinewy, wire pipe cleaners. And I’d never seen jeans that tight in my life. Not even on a girl. No sir. I don’t know where the hell he found them, or how he breathed. The entire situation was delicately perched upon tiny black (or white) Capezio, soft-as-hell-leather lace-up dance shoes. Boom. Mind blown. Only a handful of dudes had the nuts to wear these. Dave’s look was definitely balls-out for West Phoenix. But nobody questioned him, because Dave was the reigning guitar badass. While the rest of us fumbled through the opening of ‘Stairway to Heaven’, Dave was staring at the ceiling tiles, biting his lip, soloing like the Segovia of Heavy Metal.

Dave even brought his own guitar to class. Lugged it around in a case thicker than him, covered in cool stickers. Rather that than play the nylon-strung acoustic beaters they had in class. I don’t remember what kind of acoustic it was, but the strings (always Dean Markley) were so light that you could hardly see them, let alone feel them. You had to lean in to hear a damn thing, but it was worth it. And the action was set so low that you could run scales faster than a hot knife through butter. But if you strummed it would buzz like crazy. No worries. No one was strumming shit. Everyone was shredding– with varying degrees of success. Dave was a Rock God in the making, and everyone at Maryvale High School seemed to sense it. Dave was into the hot, new Japanese Metal bands that no one else even heard of. And he spoke of Yngvie, Eddie, and Randy in hushed whispers like they were comrades. Knew all their solos and tricks, and could perform them on cue. Eruption, Spanish Fly, Dee, and of course, Crazy Train were all in his finely honed repertoire. We moved from Phoenix to Tempe that year, and I changed schools, so I don’t really know whatever became of Dave. But my fascination with the marvel and mystery of Randy Rhoads was firmly cemented. No head-banging hooligan. A sensitive, immensely talented man taken too soon.

Ozzy and Randy Rhoads

Ozzy Osbourne & Randy Rhoads playing that epic polka dot Flying V! — photo by © Paul Natkin

“I never really got into Black Sabbath when I was in England. Right? And then Ozzy came out with this great first album, you know, it really was good. And we got to see them play after that, like almost every night. And so, Randy Rhoads, although being a wonderful guitar player, could not play Asteroids for shit. I beat him right across this country. From East coast, to West and back.

Randy Rhoads was like just, brilliant. You know, I mean of course he got better after he died. You know, because everybody does. Right? But uh, I loved Randy, yeah. He took risks. He wasn’t scared, you know. I mean, he knew his instrument, you know? So he’d just go for it. That’s what I used to like about him. And you could…like, Ozzy used to just throw him around, throw him up on his shoulders while he was playing. And he never missed a note.”

–Lemmy from Motorhead

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DOES ‘RUSH’ REFERENCE THE BLACK SPIDER THAT FATALLY STRUCK SEBRING BACK IN 1957?

Formula One World Championship
“Niki Lauda had raised concerns about the safety of the track at the German Grand Prix at Nürburgring, but couldn’t convince other drivers to join him in protest. Due to a reported rear suspension failure, coupled with a wet track, his car swerved off course, hit an embankment, and burst into flames. Trapped inside the car, Lauda inhaled toxic gases and suffered severe burns to his entire head, including his scalp and eyelids. Lauda lapsed into a coma and nearly died. Yet just six weeks later, he was back on the track—and on James Hunt’s tail.” via
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This past week, Lee Raskin (motorsports historian, author, and vintage racer) wrote and said he’d recently gotten some racing friends together for a Rush viewing night in Baltimore. He shared his educated theory on a deeply intriguing scene that seems to nod to an old school racing superstition. So with all due respect, esteemed Director Ron Howard, there’s a question that begs to be asked here…
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BON SCOTT, RENNIE ELLIS & RICHARD RAMIREZ | THE HIGHWAY TO HELL IS PAVED IN MYSTERY

Bon Scott Heathen Girls Rennie Ellis

1978, Bon Scott and the Heathen Girls, Atlanta, GA. — Image by © 2011 Rennie Ellis Photographic Archive. “Up in his room, Bon orders one of those fancy American cocktails, then dials California for a 20 minute call with an old girlfriend. Lead guitarist Angus Young, the ‘enfant terrible’ of AC/DC, arrives closely followed by Rose Whiperr and the Heathen Girls– four stunningly beautiful, heavily made-up girls who’s singing act at the local gay bars could loosely be called ‘bizarre chic’. The girls and the band had met at the backstage party that manager Michael Browning had thrown an hour or so before at the end of a typical raging AC/DC concert.”

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