Howdy! Grab a chair an’ a beer! I’ve been diggin’ through my old vinyl, thinkin’ about how music plays such a big part in our lives. I dug out my old two-album set of Chuck Berry’s Golden Decade, an’ I’m listening while I’m writing this. I still have the first song about motorcycles I ever heard, back around 1955, called “Black Denim Trousers and Motorcycle Boots,” by The Cheers. The ol’ 45 rpm record is scratched, but still plays. At the time, my dad had a flathead 80 that he’d stuffed into a modified 45 frame, and he used to race it on the old Cotati (California) clay track on weekends until Mom put a stop to it, citing three kids and no insurance. I remember askin’ him why they never found the “Terror of Highway 101,” and he said, “Because he didn’t want to be found.” Not sure about that, but it shut me up at the time.
Along came the ’60s, and the Beach Boys’ “Little Honda,” which is what I was ridin’ in 1965. I remember cruisin’ up to Millerton Lake with “first gear, it’s alright, second gear, I’ll lean right…” running through my head. A full 1.5 gallon tank, and I was free as a bird! My dad bought the little Honda 50 in several boxes and a potato sack, bought me a repair manual (which I still have), and told me to put it together. Clawson Boat Works was the Honda dealer back then, and they still are today, only they’ve been Clawson Honda for many decades, with nary a boat to be seen. I’m looking at a receipt from June of ’65 where I bought a piston and rings for $10, a head gasket for 55 cents, and an O-ring kit for 60 cents. Such was the price of freedom back in those days. The first thing I did when I got it running was take a hacksaw to the muffler. That urge has never left me, and my present Bassani Pro Streets have been without baffles since day one. That little red Honda may not have been the coolest thing on the street, but I was the only kid in 9th grade who rode his own motorcycle to junior high, and I wanted everybody to know it! By the next year, I’d graduated to a Triumph 250 Cub, and that’s when Davey Allen and the Arrows impacted my youthful imagination like a runaway train, and a lifestyle was born.
About that time, I got a part-time job at KYNO Radio, which was the hot rock ’n’ roll station in Central California, and music became even more important, with the British Invasion bringing The Beatles, Herman’s Hermits, and dozens of other British bands to America’s ears. I remember those times, and those songs, by what I was riding and driving, and the girls I knew back then.
Before long, there was the movie Easy Rider, starring Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson, with “The Weight” by The Band leading us into a smoky world of freedom, drugs, and violent death, all on two wheels. Anyone who’s seen the movie, (and who hasn’t?) will always associate the songs with those two wild choppers, and the hippies who rode them.
About that time, along came The Wild Angels, with Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra, with Davie Allen and the Arrows playing the iconic “Blue’s Theme.” I also still have the original soundtrack album for the movie. Other movies followed, including the Billy Jack movies that popularized Coven’s “One Tin Soldier.” All you have to say to a Billy Jack fan is “white sunglasses” and they’ll know the exact scene you’re referring to.
While we’re having travel adventures on two wheels, let’s not forget “goin’ down that long, lonesome highway” with Bronson! I always loved that little XLCH he rode in the hit TV series Then Came Bronson and was really pissed when in one episode he rode it onto the beach, dumped it on its side, and ran off. I (I told myself) would never treat a motorcycle with such disrespect! I actually wore a black wool watch cap for several years because Michael Parks looked so cool in one. I still wear one when I’m freezin’ my penguin ass off, but I no longer look cool in them, if I ever did.
It wasn’t long before print media jumped on the biker bandwagon, and I remember me and my bro “Varmint” (a name my dad hung on him in 1962 that remains to this day) buying a copy of Argosy magazine with “the wild initiation rituals of the Hell’s Angels” on the pages inside. We collected, read, reread, and lived it along with those wild men on Harley choppers in our imagination, waiting impatiently for a real Harley to come within our meager budgets.
Over the ensuing decades, we both lived the two-wheeled lifestyle, owning dozens of Harleys, with me building them, and the Varmint tearing them up. There in the shop, we were accompanied by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band with “Roll Me Away,” Bon Jovi with “Wanted Dead or Alive,” David Allen Coe grinding out “Panheads Forever,” and anything by my friend Charlie Brechtel that helped get us through the cold, rainy winters when rebuilds, new builds, and much-needed repairs kept us on four wheels for months that seemed like years.
If ya ever get the chance to grab a chair an’ a beer at the ol’ Buckshot Ranch, (an’ I hope ya do!) we’ll share the best music the “good ol’ days” has to offer, the best booze Tennessee has to offer, an’ a kinship born and raised on two wheels!