CHOSEN FEW & EAST BAY DRAGONS | AMERICA’S BLACK BIKER SET REVISITED

chosen few black motorcycle club

Chosen Few Motorcycle Club– Photography by Gold Mustache Photography, Elliot M. Gold

Soak in the retro soil & oil biker shots from the Chosen Few, and East Bay Dragons motorcycle clubs… In 1959, the Chosen Few MC officially formed out in LA on the cusp of the chaotic 60s.  As they tell it — “The 60s was a hell of a time. With the Civil Rights Movement, The Viet Nam War, Flower Power & Free Love. Sex, Drugs, and  Rock & Roll. Also the Crazy World of the Outlaw Bikers.”

If this sounds as foreign to you as it did to me, a kid who grew up in the world of white biker culture — well, consider the cultural stereotypes around bikers.

TAKE NONE, GIVE NONE – THE CHOSEN FEW DOCUMENTARY FILM

From the Chosen Few history–

“When you talk of the Outlaw Bikers you automatically think of ‘Them Crazy White Boys’ doing what a lot of folk wish they could do. Live Life Like You Want & F*ck You And Your Rules. Well Guess What? There was some crazy Black bikers who felt the same way, and didn’t give a F*ck. Thus was born the Black Outlaw Bikers!”

Black motorcycle clubs emerged throughout Cali in the 50s & 60s, and fought against racism and stereotypes of the day for their right to live the outlaw biker lifestyle — like the East Bay Dragons, Fresco Rattlers, Outlaw Vagabonds, Defiant Ones; down South in LA were the Choppers, Soul Brothers & of course, the Chosen Few.

Chosen Few motorcycle club

Chosen Few Motorcycle Club– Photography by Gold Mustache Photography, Elliot M. Gold

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SOUL ON BIKES & BLACK CHROME | THE HISTORY OF BLACK AMERICA’S MOTORCYCLE CULTURE

Growing-up in and around Harley biker culture, there was never any talk of African American riders– let alone that may actually have a part in contributing to American motorcycling culture. It was like Black riders flat-out didn’t exist. Now finally, their incredible story is starting to emerge through books like Soul On Bikes and the Black Chrome exhibit at California African American Museum. The images and accounts are not just amazing to look at and enjoy– they are also incredibly inspiring.  Many thanks to The Vintagent (one of my favorite blogs) and The Onyx Rider from which many of the pics & stories came.

East Bay Dragons Motorcycle Club

East Bay Dragons Motorcycle Club– circa 1960s.

When Sonny Barger formed the Oakland Hells Angels in 1957, a few miles up East 14th Street in East Oakland, a young black bike rider from Louisiana named Tobie Gene Levingston was soon to follow in his footsteps. The two knew and respected each other, and had ridden their Harleys together in the same East Bay neighborhood.

In 1959, Tobie Gene organized the Dragons, a loosely knit, all-black men’s club, one of the first of its kind. The dragon’s earliest incarnation began as an all-black car club and originally stemmed from Tobie Gene’s big brother role to keep his younger brothers and friends occupied and out of trouble. The Dragons became ten strong, including members like MacArthur, Hooker, Tobie’s brothers Joe Louis and Jonas, Baby Joe, Sam and Cousin Rabbit. Tobie Gene became the East Bay Dragons MCs first and only president, still reigning and riding after forty-four years.

soul on bikes the east bay dragons and the black biker set book

 

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The Schott Perfecto- The Original Wild One.

 

 

The Schott Perfecto 618

My last post on Evel Kneivel really got me thinking about motorcycles and their impact on American fashion and culture.  There is no better example than the Schott Perfecto 618.  First introduced in 1928– and still made here in the U.S.A.–it is the original motorcycle jacket and still considered the gold standard to which all others are compared.  The now classic double riders zip-front design was prized by bikers not just for it’s tough looks- when fully zipped it kept the wind and chill out.  

 

The Wild One-  Marlon Brando & company 1953.

Marlon Brando as Johnny, leader of the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in The Wild One.

 

The Perfecto took on cult status thanks to 1953’s The Wild One starring Marlon Brando.  It soon became a symbol of rebellion and was widely banned from schools during the 1950s.  The vintage Perfectos (and a lot of the motorcycle jackets back then) were made of thick horsehide– durable as all hell, but they took some breaking in.  If you’re lucky enough to find a vintage Perfecto, snatch it up- they are rare and highly coveted.  

 

Link to Schott Perfecto

 

 

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American Icons – Johnny Cash & Martin Guitars.

Country/Western singer Johnny Cash in recording studio.  Nashville, TN 1969

Johnny Cash is as real as they come, brother.  I feel sorry for poor lil’ Juaqiem Phoenix – trying to fill those big (white) shoes on screen.  The hard livin’, honky tonkin’, God lovin’ man in black.  God rest his soul.

The Legendary D45 by C. F. Martin & Co.

C.F. Martin & Co. have been making top quality guitars since 1796, and are still family owned and operated out of Nazareth, PA.  Martin is truly a guitar with few rivals in terms of quality, tone and boom- played by the likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Guy Clark and many other music legends.  Martin is probably best known for their D-45 Dreadnought model (a little wider body and more squared shoulder), first crafted for Gene Autry in 1933.  In my book, both Johnny and Martin are true American Icons.

Link to Martin D45

 

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