HOLLYWOOD’S INNOVATIVE KUSTOM KULTURE LEGEND | DEAN JEFFRIES

Dean Jeffries Pontiac GTO Monkees Car - Monkeemobile

Pontiac GTO Monkeemobile built by Dean Jeffries. The car was featured on the NBC network’s comedy television show “The Monkees” starring Davey Jones, Mike Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, and Peter Tork. Created from two Pontiac GTOs, the visually radical Monkeemobile was an instant hit with fans of the show. This shot shows the dragster-inspired parachute deployed at Dean Jeffries Automotive Styling offices on Cahuenga Boulevard in Los Angeles. 

Legendary painter, customizer, racer, and stuntman Dean Jeffries is one of those guys whose soft-spoken nature has allowed other, more self-promoting figures (read: George Barris, the Don King of Kustom Kulture) to steal a lot of his thunder. Barris has tried to hire on Jeffries as an employee many times over the years, and Jeffries always rebuffed– preferring either to rent his own space, or work freelance. Their histories are forever entwined, and the tales of rivalry, and particularly Barris’ trickery, are the stuff of legend. Many of Dean Jeffries’ most recognized works (like the Monkeemobile, for one)– George Barris came behind and unrightfully claimed credit for them. It’s dumbfounding and downright sleazy– we’ll get to that later.

Dean Jeffries grew up immersed in Los Angeles auto culture– his dad was a mechanic, and next door to his dad’s garage was a bodyshop. The young Jeffries was drawn to the creative expression allowed in bodywork over turning a wrench (“too greasy!”) like his ol’ man– the bodyshop became his hangout of choice. After returning from the Korean War, he became buddies with another future legend of Kustom Kulture— Kenny Howard (AKA Von Dutch), and started pinstriping.

“We’d do freelance pinstriping on our own, then get together and hang out. I also worked during the day at a machine shop doing grinding. But pinstriping really took off then–I was painting little pictures and medallions on cars. My first job was pinstriping a boat. I didn’t have no shop back then. You were lucky if you got $5 for a whole car. If you got $25 in your pocket in a day you were King Kong. I thought it was great.” –Dean Jeffries

More than anything else, I’ll always remember Dean Jeffries for painting the infamous “Little Bastard” badge on the Porsche owned by his racing buddy– James Dean.

“For years Barris claimed he painted it– now he just says he can’t remember and somebody in his shop painted it. Sure. I used to bum around with James Dean. I wasn’t trying to be his movie friend. We just had car stuff between us. We hung out, got along together real bitchin’. But one day Dean asked me to paint those words on his car, and I just did it.” –Dean Jeffries

Love this pic. There’s the obvious knockout pinup, Carol Lewis (Dean Jeffries’ high school sweetheart in front of his ’47 Merc), posing for his pinstriping pleasure, but also check out Dean Jeffries’ paint box. “The Modern Painter Has Arrived.” It’s an incredible piece of work in itself.

“The above shot comes from a publicity shoot done ironically, at Barris’ shop, with George behind the camera. Jeffries was just out of high school, and Barris tried to hire him, but Jeffries wanted to sub-contract to Barris, so Barris cleaned out a storage area in his shop, and Jeffries based himself out of there. Pretty slick on Barris’ part– he could grab Jeffries any time he wanted a striping job.” –Thanks to Irish Rich for the story on Carol Lewis.

Carol Lewis’ custom 1956 Chevrolet– Dean Jeffries high school sweetheart.  –image via Kustomrama “It was Jeffries who was having dinner across the street from Barris’ shop when he spotted the smoke coming from the start of the disasterous Dec. ’57 Barris shop fire. He ran across the street and broke in, and managed to get Lewis’ 56 Chevy out of there before the flames got too out of control. Lewis’ Chevy was done in a similar style as Jeffries’ ’47 was.” –Irish Rich

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THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN | BRITISH RACING LEGEND BARRY SHEENE


“Your arse, if you’re going fast enough.”

–Barry’s famous retort when asked by BBC, “What goes through your mind during a crash?”

In a brilliant racing career in which he amassed back-to-back World Championships (’76 & ’77), 23 Grand Prix victories, and 52 Podium finishes in all– the late, great Barry Sheene is one of the most loved and remembered motorcycle racing legends to this day. The victories alone, as impressive as they were, would not be enough immortalize the man. It was Sheene’s fearless spirit & iron will, a body that was repeatedly broken but not beaten, and his witty charm & handsome looks, that have eternally endeared him to racing fans around the world. It’s that old cliche– every woman wanted him, and every man wanted to be him.

Barry’s career was no doubt impacted by two major crashes that are forever a part of motorcycle racing history. The 1st occurred in 1975– at the Daytona 200, a locked rear wheel at 170 mph jerked him violently and Barry lost control. It’s a wonder he survived at all– amazingly, he didn’t even lose consciousness. In fact, he later recounted the crash in detail as the unforgiving track pummeled his flailing body. He suffered a shattered left leg, smashed thigh, broke six ribs, a wrist, and his collarbone.  When Barry awoke at the hospital, he didn’t miss a beat– asking the attending nurse for a fag (cigarette, for you Yanks out there). The 2nd came in 1982–  the two-time World Champion crashed (again going 170 mph) at Silverstone during practice for the British Grand Prix. Barry later recalled, “Wasn’t my fault; came over a hill and there was a wreck right in front of me.” They feared he’d never walk again, let alone return to the racetrack. His legs were compared to “crushed eggs,” taking eight hours to piece back together– with the aid of two stainless steel posts, two steel plates and almost 30 steel screws. After Barry was told he might be able to bend his knees in three months time, he did it in two and a half weeks– and returned to racing the following year. Some took to calling him– Bionic Barry. How you like them apples?

October 4th, 1958, Southwark, London– Motorcyclist Frank Sheene here pictured with his young son (the future legend Barry Sheene) at Club Day —Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis. Barry’s old man, Frank Sheene, was no slouch on a bike himself– and could even turn a wrench.  The young and fearless Barry was on a bike at the wee age of 5 yrs old–  a Ducati 50cc motorbike. He entered his first competitive race at the age of 17 at Brands Hatch. He Crashed, (DNF). Wasting no time, Barry entered again the very next weekend and won the bloody thing. The Barry Sheene racing dye was cast.

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1980’s OLD SCHOOL BMX RADNESS | FREESTYLE FLYIN’ & STREET STYLIN’

Full disclosure — I was the kid with the crappy bike.  No Haro, no Redline, no Mongoose.  Not even a brand new POS Team Murray.  Mom bought me a brand new bike from Pep Boys the summer before 5th grade.  I picked it out.  I didn’t know diddley yet–  I was a kid from Rochester who listened to Van Halen. I just knew it had red rims and looked like the bikes the cool kids were ridin’.  It had that tiny sprocket that couldn’t keep up.  Tiny sprockets suck. No worries, it was stolen.

I didn’t get schooled in bikes until we moved to Anaheim in 1980, and it was all about BMX… and Blondie.  Thought I’d finally made it when I bought my friend’s used Rampar with heavy duty rims. Damn bike was stolen three days later while I played Tron in the local Fry’s.

No, I never was that fly freestyle guy with the rad bike.  But I can still dream.

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Kettering, 1986. via

Old School BMX/Freestyle –All rights reserved by vincent frames

“The Condor” Mat Hoffman, mid-flight, Oklahoma City. –All rights reserved by TenEyck Media. via Snapshot from the old Hoffman Bikes HQ in Oklahoma City. Hoffman’s contests were an annual pilgrimage for serious freestylers back in the day.  Between competitions, Hoffman would get towed via motorcycle up to speed, hit the giant quarterpipe and soar. Everyone in attendance held their collective breath until he landed.

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BLUESMAN STEVIE RAY VAUGHAN | TRIBUTE TO AUSTIN’S FAVORITE SON

From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–

Life has now taken me to the great city of Austin, Texas. You can usually find me walking next to Lady Bird Lake early Saturday morning,completely stuck in my own head, and with my son in tow. He’s a bit of a freak for guitars, and on one of our walks he asked me, “Who is that statue of the man with the guitar?” As we walked closer a smile crossed my face…

It has been over twenty years since we lost Stevie Ray Vaughan in a helicopter crash– arguably one of the greatest blues guitarists ever, and one of the greatest musicians to come out of the Austin music scene. He was only 35 when he passed away, and was on a high from being clean and sober for four years. Stevie was making some of the best music of his life and then– gone in an instant.

Stevie Ray Vaughan played in my hometown of Chicago quite a bit while I was growing up. Any serious blues player will tell you that all roads lead to the Windy City– and Stevie was no different. He had a reverence for the blues and its history. Stevie was heavily influenced by Chicago legend Buddy Guy (who along with Albert King, Otis Rush, Lonnie Mack, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, and Jimi Hendrix really sculpted his style) and would show up at Buddy’s club Legends to jam after hours when he was in town. I was lucky enough to see him play there several times. You could tell that Dallas-born Stevie had cut his teeth playing the small clubs around Austin– he really liked that environment and usually played some great stuff. You had to be willing to stay well into the morning hours to catch Stevie jam with Buddy and any number of Chicago’s finest players, but it was well worth it. Well before the days of cell phone cameras and YouTube, most of these sessions will only live in the memory of those of us that were there to witness two of the greatest guitar legends take turns on classics– like Born Under a Bad Sign, Red House, Not Fade Away, and Mannish Boy.

I often pass Stevie’s statue on my Saturday walks, and wonder if others still stop and reflect on his greatness. Do they know how truly special this guy was? Sadly, time has a way of dulling our memory, and we can forget. Man, I hope not. I feel blessed to have seen Stevie play guitar back then.  His incredible sound was pure Blues and pure Texas.

Eli M. Getson

The legendary Texas Bluesman and guitar great, Stevie Ray Vaughan, going behind the back.

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HOW TO CLASH ART, MUSIC & STYLE | TSY STYLE HALL OF FAME ROCKER PAUL SIMONON

“Clothes were where my aesthetic instincts came out then. They helped make the group accessible.”

–Paul Simonon

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Back in 1976, it was the wily manager, Bernie Rhodes, who instructed Mick Jones to recruit Paul Simonon into the group that would soon become The Clash, simply because he looked the part. “I was a bit Bowie, a bit suedehead back then,” says Simonon. “And, more importantly, I was at art college. Mick liked that. He was always big on pop history. He knew all about Stuart Sutcliffe, who was Lennon’s best mate in the early days of the Beatles, and a proper artist. I remember Mick introducing me to all his mates– ‘This is my new bass guitarist, Paul. He can’t play but he’s a painter.'”

The rest, as they say, is rock’n’roll history. Together, at Rhodes’s urging, they recruited Joe Strummer to the cause, and the Clash became the coolest punk group on the planet.  When the London punk scene began, Simonon was a fledgling painter, fresh from Byam Shaw art college which, back then, was just up the road in Notting Hill. In the spirit of the times, he  drip-painted his bass guitar in the style of Jackson Pollock and learned how to play by writing out the chords and sticking them on to the instrument’s neck. His reggae-influenced bass playing soon became integral to the group’s sound.

Simonon’s traditionalist approach to painting is surprising given that, within the often volatile creative dynamic of the Clash, he was the conceptualist, the one who paid most attention to the visuals, the image. He painted the backdrop to the Clash’s rehearsal studio, and designed some of the later stage sets, including the dive-bombing Stukas that echoed their often explosive performances. You could tell the Clash were art-school punks from the start, what with those shirts stencilled with slogans and that paint-splashed bass guitar.

“That was the art student in me trying to find a look that would make us stand apart from the Sex Pistols,” he says, laughing. “The Buzzcocks were very Mondrian, and we were Pollock. As a painter, though, I’m essentially old-fashioned. Conceptualism just doesn’t do it for me. I love Walter Sickert, Samuel Palmer, Rubens and Constable. That’s just the way I am. I love putting paint on canvas, getting lost in the process of painting.”

–Sean O’Hagan

The Clash, 1982– Joe Strummer, Terry Chimes, Mick Jones & Paul Simonon.  –photo by Bob Gruen

The Clash, 1982– Joe Strummer, Terry Chimes, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon.  –photo by Bob Gruen

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DOES ELVIS PRESLEY + WANDA JACKSON x HASIL ADKINS = THE CRAMPS? MAYBE.

Not to beat this whole Cramps thang to death…During an interesting conversation (mostly one-sided, and highly enjoyable via the internets with a new found friend), the following rock equation was confirmed.  You take the schmaltz, swagger, sex, and glitter of Elvis + the thundering gal on guitar and belting vocals of Wanda Jackson + the frantic, hollerin’ and hillbilly hunchin’ of Hasil Adkins + stir it up, add some hardcore NY snips and whips, pour it generously into a raging ’70s garage band, bake at 1,000 degrees = you might just have yourself The Cramps.

Wanda Jackson briefly dated Elvis, who encouraged her to go Rockabilly with her sound and show.

Check that pickguard made of old 45’s on Hasil Adkin’s guitar on the right…. Holy hot tracks, Batman!


The Cramps famously covered Hasil Adkins’ “She Said” which led to a new found interest in his music.

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POISON IVY OF THE CRAMPS | PSYCHOBILLY GUITAR GODDESS

Now, you don’t seriously expect that I can post on Elvis and not followup with The Cramps, right? There’s something about a gal playing a sexy Gretsch guitar that makes a many a little weak in the knees. ‘Least that’s what I’ve been told…

Poison Ivy “Rorschach” and Lux Interior, R.I.P. (her husband and co-founding member of The Cramps) gave us a genre of music gleefully known and loved known as– Psychobilly.  Starting out as the ultimate garage band back in ’76, with their raw performance intensity and simple, throbbing tunes– they influenced an entire generation of rock/punk/goth bands who followed behind in their giant footsteps, and are still thrilling kids who “discover” their musical legacy to this day.  Lux is the man, and Poison Ivy is no doubt the woman. Just get a load of these epic pics, and try not to bite through your lip…

1992– Poison Ivy of the Cramps, Tamaris Rock Festival  via

1995– Pois0n Ivy of The Cramps at the University of Utah Olpin Union Ballroom. via

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THE INCOMPARABLE MARVIN GAYE | THE TROUBLE MAN PREACHES

From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–

I’ve been thinking a lot about Marvin Gaye recently.  He is, for me a least, the yardstick that all R&B singers (hell, all singers) are measured by.   His life was also something of a contradiction.  He could be religious, profane, introspective, romantic, highly political, debauched and raunchy in his music– and his personal life.  Like all of us, Marvin Gaye had a lot of layers.  His battles with his personal demons and his tragic murder at the hand of his own father are something out of a Greek tragedy.  He’s been gone for some time now, yet his music (like all great music) sounds like it could have been made today.

By the end of the ’60s Marvin was tired of the music he was making– and fed up with the state of the world.  Having built his career on the highly produced, highly stylized singles produced out of Berry Gordy’s Motown, he fought for the artistic right to do an about face and write, produce, and record “What’s Going On” in 1971.  It is without question one of the finest albums of that decade, and perhaps in all of popular music.

“What’s Going On” changed everything for Marvin– he was now perceived as a serious and complex artist.  It also veered R&B off into completely new territory.  Heavily influenced by the politics of the day, the hippie culture, and the Black Power movement– the record is a high water mark for records of that time.  It’s equal parts concept album, political album, and religious preaching.  It’s also the only album I have ever listened to that combines all these elements and puts you squarely into the black, urban neighborhoods of the early 1970s.  The joy, pain, longing, uncertainly, and ultimately wanting to escape that experience are powerful themes explored over the course of the nine songs.

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“If you cannot find peace within yourself, you will never find it anywhere else”

Marvin Gaye (Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)

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EPIC BIKER ART LEGEND | LONG LIVE EASYRIDERS’ HAROLD R. ROBINSON, JR.

Easyriders was a great biker mag– back in the day. In fact, it was the official reading resource of our household growing up.  Yeah, I read the articles, snuck peeks at pics of ol’ ladies (pre-silicone days, and looking like their upper half had been subjected to major G4-force wind, if you catch my drift…), but mostly I drooled over the mesmerizing artwork of legendary illustrators Dave Mann and Hal Robinson. Hal will always be remembered  for his “Red Rider” and the epic “Miraculous Mutha” cartoons.  What an amazing artist who influenced a generation of illustrators that followed.  Sadly he passed on to the other side back in ’84, but his art will live forever.

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MICKEY ROURKE | I THOUGHT TALENT WOULD TRANSCEND MY OUTSPOKENESS

1983 — Mickey Rourke, Motorcycle Boy, Coppola’s “Rumble Fish”  — Image by © John Springer Collection/CORBIS

 

Mickey Rourke – the most raw, intense, riveting actor of the 1980s, who slowly self-destructed before our eyes. He gained a reputation for having a chip on his shoulder, and through his pride and bravado burned a lot of bridges in the biz. Rourke brashly looked down his nose at his peers, insisting that he wouldn’t sell-out – he was pure and uncompromising. Back when Rourke was coming up on the heels of of heroes- De Niro, Pacino, Keitel, Walken – he was too young, too full of himself, and too foolish to know that at the end of the day, it’s a business before anything else – and politics reigns supreme.

Rourke then made few questionable film choices with 9 1/2 Weeks and Wild Orchid and suddenly he was no longer Hollywood’s prized young lion – he was branded sleazy Euro-trash. Disillusioned with it all, Rourke walked away – choosing to fight the inner demons that had dogged him all his life in the boxing ring.  Ironically, it was in the ring again, that Rourke fought like hell for his esteem and redemption as “Randy the Ram”, a disfigured down-and-out wrestler – and came out on top. Hollywood couldn’t have written a better comeback – in a seemingly hopeless situation, hope and hard work can get you through.

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1983 — Mickey Rourke, Motorcycle Boy in “Rumble Fish” — Image by © Sunset Boulevard/Corbis

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1983 — Matt Dillon and Mickey Rourke in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Rumble Fish”

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