July 12, 1957 – April 25, 2020
Words and photos by Felicia Morgan
Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past 20+ years, we’re more than certain that you’ve heard of the illustrious musician, Charlie Brechtel. Matter of fact, you’ve probably even met the gregarious performer since he was one of the most outgoing, chatty and charming showmen to ever hit the spotlights of a concert stage. Familiar to the world of motorcycling as well as the blues community, the man truly never met a stranger and more often than not, he brought new acquaintances into his family to become part of the ever-growing clan of fans. Charlie is known around the globe for his own personal brand of motorcycle blues. Having performed abroad in Europe, Thailand, Russia and beyond, the world collectively mourns his passing last month after suffering a freak motorcycle crash while riding just two miles from his home in Northern California.
As a musician, Charlie was a singer/songwriter who worked in all aspects of production as well as performing with such greats as Freddy King, Dr. John, B.B. King, Gregg Allman, John Lee Hooker and many, many others. From the time he was 19, the Louisiana-born Charlie graced stages with a guitar in his hand and an energy that electrified his audiences. He viewed the veteran blues musicians he played with as mentors and often shared tales of his youthful travels as a troubadour. But our larger-than-life visionary, Goodtime Charlie, was certainly not one-dimensional. In the early 2000s, Brechtel broke new ground with his wildly popular Internet radio site, Bikers Inner Circle, from his dining room as his kids did homework. From a time before podcasts and live feeds, Brechtel built his underground network into a franchise with various DJs across the nation that reached more than a quarter of a million viewers as he worked to promote what he called, “motorcyclism.”
However, not one to rest on his laurels, Charlie took things a step further when he donned a producer’s hat by launching a movie production franchise with his best friend and business partner, Dennis Sanfilippo. The fact that he knew nothing about movie making didn’t concern the man since he was not afraid of failure, so casting real riding personalities to portray themselves in his productions made perfect sense to him and the motorcycle community stepped up to do their part to support his efforts. His first flick, Rebel on the Highway, is now sold on Amazon and the second, Rough Boys, was in the final stages of edits at his untimely passing. The feature-length film will be released later this year.
There was always some new project swirling around in the overly active imagination of his inspired mind. The next project was to be a documentary series, since it was his focused goal to preserve “motorcyclism” history by highlighting the participants who made said history. His love for our lifestyle and constant need to put it all on film consumed the consummate performer. However, what he didn’t realize was that in the process of honoring our riding past, Charlie managed to secure himself a place in the annals of the very history he was trying to preserve.
“I just want to be remembered as the guy who is known for doing motorcycle music,” Charlie shared with anyone who would listen. But in actuality, he managed to do so much more, and that will surely be his legacy. Godspeed, Charlie.