SONS OF SPEED | A RACE OF PRE-1925 BOARD TRACK MOTORCYCLES

Matt Harris of 40 Cal Customs racing his 1923 Harley-Davidson – Sons of Speed

Billy Lane of Choppers Inc. had a vision to race vintage board-track motorcycles with his friends, family, and other respected builders and racers. Sons of Speed finally kicked off in Daytona during the 76th Bike Week at the New Smyrna Speedway on March 18th, 2017, after having been cancelled due to Hurricane Matthew.

Waiting outside the New Smyrna gates, there was definitely some anticipation and excitement to see these bikes perform on the track. Since these vintage bikes have no clutch or gearbox, the four riders are positioned at the top of the banked track and are push-started with the help of gravity and some manpower. It’s so great to hear the bikes fire up once the twin engines roar to life, propelling the riders down the paved track.

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THE RACE OF GENTLEMEN 2016 | FACES BEHIND THE RACES– SHOT BY SEAN MADDEN

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Sara Francello — To say she’s the TROG flag-girl is like saying Michael Jordan was a Chicago Bulls’ guard. I don’t know where the hell Sara gets the energy to jump and do what she does out there time and time again with such oomph and enthusiasm. When the racers line-up there’s no question who is in charge, and who has everyone’s attention. You may not remember all the hot rods and bikes at TROG– but you will remember Sara and how she gave it all out there on the sand for 2 days straight.  Photo © Sean Madden

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BILLIE HOLIDAY’S SWEET MISTER THAT CHASED HER DOGGGONE BLUES AWAY

There was a lot of love between Lady Day Billie Holiday and her beloved pooch, Mister. She had other dogs in her lifetime– a Standard Poodle, and pet Chihuahas she bottle fed and whisked around in her pocket– but none as close to her heart as Mister. He was widely thought to be a Boxer, but there are some who disagree saying he was perhaps an American Staffordshire Terrier. One thing is clear, he was a loving and protective companion, and trusted by Holiday above all others– humans included. It’s no wonder these touching photos mean so much to Billie Holiday fans and dog lovers alike. He would chaperone her to the clubs where she performed, and stood watch over her in the backstage dressing room. Billie would sing to Mister, and reward him by cooking him juicy steaks. 100 years after her birth, she is still bedeviling our ears with her sweet, sorrowful tunes and haunting us in pictures. RIP Lady Day, and her sweet Mister.

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Originally included in a 1949 cover story for Ebony magazine, this photograph shows Holiday at home in her Harlem apartment cooking a steak with her beloved boxer, Mister. The article, titled “I’m Cured for Good,” came after numerous incidents with the law due to Holiday’s ongoing struggle with narcotics. This was the first time Leonard had ever met the singer. “On arriving, I was greeted by a woman in an apron and housedress,” recalled Leonard, “whom I initially mistook for the maid, until I realized she was the great Billie Holiday.” –Photographer Herman Leonard via

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Portrait of Billie Holiday and Mister by William Gottlieb at the Downbeat in New York, Feb. 1947

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1967 SANTA POD RACEWAY SPRINT PICS | WHEN IT WAS JUST AN OLD RUNWAY…

In 1966, Santa Pod Raceway was humbly born on an old, unused WWII English air base, RAF Podington. It has since become the fastest all-asphalt dragstrip in the world, and home of several legendary world land speed records. The following photographs are from the very first bike meet back in 1967, a few of which were published at that time in Drag Racing & Hot Rod magazine. There are several sick bikes, like Les Field’s 4638cc Sunbeam/Chevy powered beast, and the ‘Strip-Teaser’ twin 2T Villiers sprinter below. All photos by Derek Harvey who originally shared them with VMCC Sprint. Check these out.

STRIP TEASER TWIN ENGINE MOTORCYCLE

‘Strip-Teaser’ twin-engined 2T Villiers sprinter motorcycle (R. Perkins)

Unknown Triumph DCS2 DRAGSTER MOTORCYCLE

Unknown Triumph motorcycle DCS2 – (K. power)

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

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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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ELVIS PRESLEY KING OF HOLIDAY ROCK | THE “WHITE CHRISTMAS” COVER CONTROVERSY

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1957 – Elvis Presley poses beside a Christmas tree in his home in Memphis, Tennesee. When Elvis recorded a cover of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas, it made him livid, and he launched a campaign to have it banned from radio airplay. Berlin despised Elvis, and felt that he was degrading the song, which held a very personal and painful meaning for him, long kept secret.

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BETTIE PAGE QUEEN OF CURVES | BUNNY YEAGER WORLD’S PRETTIEST PHOTOGRAPHER

For me, Bettie Page & Bunny Yeager epitomize iconic American pinup photography. Not just of the 1950s… Ever. In 1954, Bettie Page was working with Irving Klaw in NYC and decided a break was in order, so she headed south to Miami for relaxation and fun in the sun. That’s when fate struck. Bettie met Bunny, and the rest is pinup history. Bettie Page never looked better than in the capable hands of Bunny Yeager (herself a former model) who arguably shot the best and most famous images of the black-banged beauty– like the epic Jungle Girl shoot (shot at the Africa USA safari Park in Boca Raton), and the game-changing image of Bettie posing nude in a Santa cap for Playboy magazine in 1955.

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“When I first saw Bettie in the nude, I was pleasantly surprised; she looked great. She walked into the room on tippy-toes, like she was wearing high heels, which made her look taller and more natural at the same time. The first thing I noticed was that for some reason when she was nude, she did not seem naked. I had never seen anyone with an allover tan and she looked like the perfect doll or mannequin. Bettie was a true nudist and maintained her glorious golden olive color by sunning herself everyday. She would lie on the banks of the miami River. Maybe it was her tan, or maybe it was her attitude– she seemed completely at ease.” –Bunny Yeager, excerpt from Bettie Page, Queen of Curves

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JOHNNY CASH & SAN QUENTIN | SETTING HAGGARD STRAIGHT & THE UNSEEN PHOTOS

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Photographer, Jim Marshall, stated the this shot of Johnny Cash warming up for his 1969 concert at San Quentin Prison is, “probably the most ripped off photograph in the history of the world… There was a TV crew behind me and John was on the side of the stage. I said ‘John, let’s do a shot for the warden.’” Well, that was all the motivation Johnny Cash needed to look straight into Marshall’s lens and emphatically flip him the bird.

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The first prison concert Johnny Cash ever played was at San Quentin back on January 1, 1958. Little did Johnny know that In the audience was a young man from Bakersfield, CA who’d go on to become a Country Music star in his own right with the hit Okie from Muskogee — Merle Haggard. People talk a lot about New Year resolutions, but for Merle this would be the real deal — he decided to straighten out his act, and try to carve out a music career for himself like Johnny Cash. And he did, even appearing later on The Johnny Cash Show twice. Just goes to show that wherever you are, and whatever you’re facing, never stop believing that you can turn things around.

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GEORGE SMITH SR. FOUNDER OF S&S CYCLE | TALE OF THE H-D KNUCKLE DRAGSTER “TRAMP”

The story of a young man’s need for speed that would lead to the founding of the legendary S&S Cycle Equipment is chronicled in these amazing archival images on their website. They show founder George Smith Sr. as he builds his Harley-Davidson Knucklehead racer called “TRAMP” that became the testing ground for innovative after-market performance parts that are now the gold standard for the industry– S&S Cycle.  

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1941– George Smith Sr. pictured here at just 19 yrs old on his 80″ Harley-Davidson Knucklehead. He would go on to found S&S Cycle Equipment with Stanley Stankos in 1958. (via)

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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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