Saturday, March 31, 2012

Looking For An Antique Banjo While Wanting to Channel Earl Scruggs Legacy?

With the passing of Earl Scruggs this past week, we thought it fitting to pass along this article we found over on Collector's Weekly about vintage Banjo's. Earl Scruggs is a foundation in the bluegrass community after his work with Bill Monroe and Lester Flatt paving the way for new forms of melody and picking. The article below gives much more incite into the history of the Banjo and goes into detail on the beauty of the instrument in the design compared to a variety of other pieces, enjoy.

By Maribeth Keane and Joyce Millman

Vintage banjo collector Lowell Levinger is perhaps best known to 1960s music fans as “Banana,” the bushy-haired guitarist and keyboards player for The Youngbloods. Today, Levinger is the proprietor of Players Vintage Instruments, where he buys and sells vintage guitars, mandolins, banjos, and other musical instruments. He also performs bluegrass and folk music for families under the name Grandpa Banana. Recently we spoke with Levinger about vintage banjos and the evolution of the instrument, from its African roots to its role as a bluegrass staple.

I bought my first really good bluegrass banjo in 1963 from a banjo player who lived in New York. His name was Winnie Winston, and he was a mentor of mine. It was a great banjo, a Gibson RB-1 Mastertone, and I played it for a few years. Then, in 1966, it was stolen out of my Lower East Side apartment. I looked in vain for it in pawnshops and all the old instrument shops. Finally, I gave up.

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From left to right, headstocks (pegheads) for a 1928 Epiphone Concert Recording five-string, a 1929 Paramount Style C, and an eight-string B&D Silver Bell mandolin banjo from 1927.

Then, about four, five months ago, it showed up on online. I got in touch with the guy who was selling it, and of course he had no idea what the history of it was. He had just bought it from somebody a year ago. I told him my story, but put yourself in his place: it’s a hard story to accept, and I didn’t have any proof. I filed a police report back then, but the New York City Police Department had more important stuff to do.

I wasn’t absolutely positive from the pictures and descriptions that it was mine, but it sure looked like it. We went back and forth, and he offered to sell it to me for what he had in it, which was quite a bit of money. I bought it for 600 bucks back in 1963. I had so many banjos anyway that I didn’t really need another, especially if I wasn’t totally sure it was mine. So I said, “I don’t think I’ll do it,” and he said, “Well, I think I’ll just hang on to it rather than sell it.”

Then about a month ago, I was looking through a drawer and I found this little piece of paper. I’d written down the instruments I owned in 1964. And here was this banjo and here was the serial number. I checked back through my correspondence with the guy and, sure enough, it actually was my banjo. So I paid his price, and I now have my very first bluegrass banjo back, and it plays and sounds great. To me, it’s like an old part of me has been returned.

Collectors Weekly: How did you get into music?

Levinger: My mother was a pianist, so we had a piano in the house. As soon as I could touch the keys I started messing around, and I began taking piano lessons probably at about the age of five, or something. I didn’t pick up a guitar until I was probably 14 or 15 years old and I discovered, wow, that sounds great! But I never really took lessons or anything. I just learned to play. And then when I was in my senior year of high school, I heard Earl Scruggs for the first time, and it changed my life. I had to get a banjo and learn to play the banjo, and that’s just what I did.

My first guitar was a really cheap, horrible Stella with an action that was impossible to play. After that, I got a Gibson. It must’ve been one of those mahogany B-25s or B-15s. I hated it, but at least you could play it. I had a Gibson J-50 after that, which I also didn’t like very much. I never really got a good guitar until I went to college in Boston, where I met Rick Turner.

At that point, we were both beginning to realize that new guitars were not what you wanted. And so we started cruising the antiques stores and old-instrument shops of Boston. They mostly had violins but a few guitars and banjos, too. We also traveled to the little towns on the North Shore and the Cape and found some banjos and Martin guitars.

Lowell Levinger's 1933 Gibson RB-1 "Mastertone" banjo was stolen in 1966 and recovered in 2009.
Lowell Levinger's 1933 Gibson RB-1 "Mastertone" banjo was stolen in 1966 and recovered in 2009.

This was circa 1962. We knew that the Martins were really good and we knew that Vega banjos were really good and Gibson banjos were really good. We also learned about Lyon and Healy and Weymann. And all of them were better than buying a new Gibson, or something like that. Old instruments are better, because of the sound you can get out of them, especially if you’re willing to put a little work into it to get them set up really nicely. The sound is more focused, warmer, and has more character. It’s not jangly. They feel better and are more enjoyable to play.

I currently own maybe 15 or 20 banjos. I play them all every once in a while. For bluegrass I play my Gibson Mastertone. Well, for everything these days, I play my Gibson Mastertone. For gigs, I’m only playing the one that I just got back.

I’m also a big fan of Paramount banjos. Paramount made really nice banjos back in the late 1920s. William L. Lange was involved in a few early banjo companies and then went off on his own and formed Paramount banjos. He made banjos under a lot of other names, too. Orpheum was one of them, and Lange Style was another. And boy, did he put out a lot of banjos. He was in New York. He must’ve made thousands of banjos a year. He published these very nice catalogs that are pretty readily available.

In the early years of the Depression, 1930, ’31, Lange had Martin build some guitars for him. Everybody was having hard times, but I’m surprised Martin stooped to this. They had a very radical design. You can see a few of those on the Museum page of my website. They made some tenor guitars and some six-strings, and they have these crazy resonators with the holes in the top around the edges. They made about 30 or 35 of these very strange guitars. The Martin-Paramount connection, however brief, is fascinating.

But Lange’s banjos were some of the very best for the type of music that was popular at the time. They were the precursors to the B&D Dixieland banjos, which were probably the most popular for that style of playing. Lange’s workmanship, his intricacy of design, and the complexity of the inlay—he had a really great eye. But they also sound good.

William L. Lange. I’d love to know what the L stands for. I have a feeling it might be Leo because there are these guitars called Leo Masters that really have the William L. Lange look to them. There are a couple of them on my website. And I’ve never been able to get much history on them, but I have this suspicion that they might have been made by Regal for Lange. But I have nothing to back that up, no documentation.

Paramount banjos are generally not rare. They made gazillions of them, especially the tenors. They also made a lot of plectrums, which are four-string banjos that have a longer scale length than a tenor—they have 22 frets instead of 19 and they’re tuned a little bit differently. You can find Paramount tenor banjos on eBay every day, especially the lower-end models, the style As, and below that. You get up to the style Es and Fs, which were the more expensive ones, then they become more rare. And Paramount only made a very, very limited number of five-strings, so those are exceedingly rare.

Collectors Weekly: When did the banjo gain recognition as a country, folk, and bluegrass instrument?

Levinger: Earl Scruggs made the banjo a bluegrass instrument. When he and Lester Flatt joined Bill Monroe’s band in 1946, that was a key moment in bluegrass. In fact, a lot of people say that’s when bluegrass music was born. Earl Scruggs brought with him this style of picking that he had adapted through listening to Snuffy Jenkins and a few other people who were playing the three-finger style of the time. But he took that style and smoothed it out and made it more melodic, more complex, more interesting. He was a virtuoso by the time he and Flatt joined Bill Monroe’s band.

In the mid-1950s, Pete Seeger and the Weavers launched the banjo into prominence as a folk instrument. Seeger played a custom long-neck Vega with three extra frets, so he could tune it down lower. It suited his singing, gave him an interesting tone, and let him play in additional keys with the same fingering. Pete Seeger published a book, How to Play the 5-String Banjo, that was used by every kid who wanted to learn how to play the instrument from 1959 to 1979.

1924 Paramount Style F Original Five String Banjo
A 1924 Paramount Style F five-string banjo.

The five-string banjo is actually having a bit of a heyday right now. The Dixieland banjo’s heyday was in the late 1920s, 1925 to 1929. And then, prior to that, in the late 1800s, the five-string banjo had an earlier heyday, when people played this funny Vaudevillian banjo music. It was like banjo ragtime music—they played it in blackface, using five-string banjos (some of them used four-string banjos) and it was associated with comedy and slapstick.

If you look at the old Paramount catalogs from that period, you’ll see pictures of all these banjo players who were endorsing their products. It’s fascinating to try and think about what they were like and what they were playing and whatnot.

Four-string banjos are different. They are tuned in fifths like a mandolin, mandola, and mandocello. It’s very difficult to play bluegrass on a four-string banjo tuned in fifths. But you can play all kinds of other chord voicings and melody lines on a four-string more easily than you can a five-string banjo tuned to an open G chord. It’s just two completely different worlds. Six-string banjos are just tuned like a guitar. They are really for guitar players who want to have plunky tones but don’t want to learn to how to play a banjo.

Today the banjo is associated with Vaudeville and Dixieland and bluegrass, but it originally evolved in Africa. Slaves who were captured and forced onto ships brought the instrument with them. They made them out of gourds.

The banjo is very much like a drum. The rim is made of heated and bent wood—sometimes the wood is laminated—then wet animal skin is stretched over the rim and tapped on. When it dries it tightens and, bingo, you’ve got a drum. If you put a neck on it and some strings, you’ve got a banjo. So African Americans did that when they got over here. And then white guys caught on.

Collectors Weekly: How did the banjo evolve in the 20th century?

Levinger: As banjo-making became almost an industry in the late 1800s, all kinds of different woods were used—more expensive and fancier woods in the higher-end models, plainer woods in the lower-end models. Rosewood was generally used on top-of-the-line banjos, and it went down from there to walnut, mahogany, maple.
A 1933 Gibson Granada Mastertone banjo with its original flathead tone ring.
A 1933 Gibson Granada Mastertone banjo with its original flathead tone ring.

Today maple is considered a really high-quality wood, and it is. But the reason to use different woods is so you can have different price points and basically charge different amounts of money for the same banjo. There was also all kinds of inlay and wood carving, as well as metal engraving and even gold-plating. This gave players on different budgets a whole range of models to choose from.

Wood is actually not as important in a banjo as a guitar. A maple rim and a maple neck will sound a little bit different than a mahogany rim and a mahogany neck, let’s say, on a Gibson Mastertone banjo. That’s about all Gibson used for rim wood, mahogany or maple. They didn’t get into rosewood, and they only used walnut for a little bit. Mostly it was mahogany and maple—the mahogany tends to have a slightly warmer sound than the maple.

The banjo sound, if not the banjo itself, is not unique to American culture. The Celts and the Irish have similar instruments that sound like the banjo and are constructed exactly the same. You’ll hear Eastern European and Slavic music that sounds banjo-ish. Interestingly, in the southern latitudes you don’t hear many banjo-like sounds. Their sounds are woodier.

The same thing is true with Eastern music—you get banjo-y sounds from kotos and instruments like that. They aren’t really banjos, but they do have a similar, plunky sound. So banjo tones are used worldwide, but not so much in the southern hemispheres.

In America, banjo music evolved as a reflection of the culture. Throughout different periods, it reflected what Americans were doing to amuse themselves. In the late 1800s, with no TV or radio, people were going to music halls and watching Vaudeville shows which featured guys playing banjos. In the late 1920s and early ’30s, in the Southeast and even in the Midwest, there were radio stations starting to come on, powerful ones, with signals that reached quite a ways, and they broadcast a lot of live country-music shows.
“Banjos were sold by traveling salesmen and through catalogs such as Sears and Montgomery Ward.”
A lot of the bands that performed on these radio shows included a banjo player. The bands would travel around, maybe in a 350-mile radius from their home radio station, and play at fairs, churches, high schools, bazaars, little theaters, and Lions clubs, usually having to make it back to the radio station for some dumb 7:45 a.m. show every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. That’s how the banjo was heard in those days.

During the 1960s, you could hear banjos in concerts at colleges and town halls. Same thing in Europe. There was a lot of rock ’n’ roll, too, but in the early ’60s, there was also a lot of folk and bluegrass music, which included banjos. People also heard banjos a little bit on TV, especially when “The Beverly Hillbillies” came along, with Earl Scruggs playing the theme song.

Today there’s a banjo community that extends all over the whole world. It’s pretty neat. People who are interested in banjos should know about Banjo Hangout. That is the main banjo community online, and from there you can find pretty much anything relating to banjos.

Collectors Weekly: How did World War II affect the production of banjos in the United States?

Levinger: I think it affected production in most countries. Any country that was involved in the war was using all its metal to make bullets, not banjos. That would be a great slogan—banjos, not bullets. Anyhow, during the war, musical-instrument manufacturers made just a trickle of instruments; a lot of parts on guitars that had been made out of metal were made out of wood during the war. Back then, many of the instrument factories were converted to wartime use. Gibson made toys for a while but when the war ended, they went back to making banjos and guitars.

Collectors Weekly: Who were the top banjo manufacturers?

A 1937 Gibson Charles McNeil five-string banjo.
A 1937 Gibson Charles McNeil five-string banjo.

Levinger: Gibson, Paramount, Epiphone, and Vega for sure. Bacon & Day would also be in there. B&D was their real name, but people called them Bacon & Day. The B&D Silver Bell was probably the most popular Dixieland banjo. Gibsons were the preferred bluegrass banjos because Earl Scruggs played a Gibson, so every bluegrass banjo player wanted that sound. It’s not easy to make that sound—you can do it on a Gibson but it’s almost impossible on a Bacon & Day. It’s a different method of construction using a completely different kind of tone ring. It’s fantastic for Dixieland but not good for bluegrass.

In the early days, banjos were sold by traveling salesmen, in stores, and through catalogs such as Sears and Montgomery Ward. Music teachers had classes and started orchestras in their hometowns, and the banjo companies would make the leaders of the orchestras dealers. They sold banjos to their students and their orchestra members, and that was a big, big part of the business.

Today, Gibson is still around, and I think Deering has taken over the Vega line. There are companies making copies of old banjos, too. Recording King makes copies of the old models of the Gibsons, so does Gold Star. I believe these are all made in China.

Collectors Weekly: What are some of the most sought after vintage or antique banjos?

Levinger: The most popular banjo from a collector’s or bluegrass player’s standpoint is an original mid-1930s Gibson Mastertone flathead five-string banjo. They only made about 90 of them, one of which Earl Scruggs played. Consequently, all the other concurrent, seminal, influential banjo players also wanted to play original five-string Gibson flathead Mastertone banjos. Most of those players managed to get themselves one in the late ’40s and early ’50s.

These banjos are the best sounding banjos for bluegrass in the world. I know a banjo player named Jim Mills who just wrote a book about Mastertone banjos. Of the known ones, he has pictures and the history of each one. When they trade hands, it’s in the neighborhood of a quarter of a million dollars. That’s nothing compared to a Stradivarius, but it’s still a lot of dough.

Collectors Weekly: What should a collector look for when purchasing a vintage or antique banjo?

ca. 1912 Dayton Guitar Banjo with a Venetian scene on the skin head
This circa-1912 Dayton six-string guitar banjo features a Venetian scene on its skin head.

Levinger: It has to be something that they will enjoy, assuming they’re a player. If they just want to hang it on the wall, it has to be beautiful, ornate, and really finely made, with no flaws in it. If they’re a player, it has to be comfortable for them to play and sound good. Each note must ring true, clear, and be in tune, without any buzzing, ‘fretting out’, or being sharp or flat. If they’re an ensemble player, like in a bluegrass band, it has to be able to really project and have a good dynamic range. If played softly, it has to have a good, sweet, full tone.

Condition is also a factor. Banjos that have been left in attics that go from humid to hot to freezing cold typically have cracks, or their finishes have come off, or their necks have warped. Banjos that have been stored in basements where the bottom of the case was resting in a puddle for seven months out of the year are likely to have water damage—when water seeps under the finish it expands the wood grain which cracks the wood, separates glue joints, and rusts metal. But banjos that have been kept in the bedroom right there with their owner, and maybe taken out for a few concerts, those are probably just fine.

Collectors Weekly: One last question: What’s with all the banjo jokes?

Levinger: There are a million of them. For instance, what’s the difference between a banjo and an onion? No one cries when you cut up a banjo. What’s the difference between a banjo and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle? You can tune a Harley. How about the difference between a banjo and a trampoline? You take off your shoes when you jump on a trampoline. Why are there no banjos in Star Trek? It’s the future. I have no idea where they all came from, but being a banjo player, you get exposed to them over the years.

(All images in this article courtesy Lowell Levinger, Players Vintage Instruments)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Fear And Loathing Finds New Visuals With GoodBooks International

Have you ever thought about doing something worthwhile and for a cause? Yes, we are asking if you have ever donated your time. In this go around, its not being mandated by the state for any sort of restitution. Here is another question, have you ever heard of Goodbooks International? 

Lots of questions for sure, but one that thing we should all realize, is that no man is an island. We all need help from time to time. There is a cool company out there called Good Books International out of Auckland, New Zealand and they work on the premise that all profits go to charity. Its a cool concept and the crazy part is that its actually working. Another cool aspect about them is they get help promoting literature through outside resources who are down for a good cause.

The Belated Hunter S. Thompson on his Evo Softail, photo by Annie Leibovitz

The video below comes from a link we found over on Vimeo and is an animation promoting the work of Hunter S. Thompson in his feature novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Overall the work was done as a promotional piece for Goodbooks and damn if they didn't knock it out of the park.

Find out more on Goodbooks International

Good Books "Metamorphosis" from Antfood on Vimeo.

"We dug through the darkest recesses of our minds and studio to create original music and sound design for this Buck masterpiece. Working with squirming, analog-tape leeches, moaning coeds, screaming guitar goats, and brain-exploding psychedelia, we were certainly in our element. Plus, it's always fun to rock out and get a little weird for a good cause!

Good Books, an online bookseller, passes all of its profits through to Oxfam. Our hats go off to Buck and String Theory.

Enjoy the trip!

Client: Good Books Agency: String Theory Director: Buck Music & Sound Design: Antfood

DISCLAIMER: What you will see is an entirely fictional and completely unendorsed representation. [Though we humbly suggest Hunter S. Thompson might have liked it.] We are devoted fans paying homage. No disrespect is intended." 


Below are a few killer portraits of Hunter S. Thompson

Fear and Loathing Portrait by SketchDamn

Illustration of Fear and Loathing by Kaiser-mony
Illustration By Ben Templesmith
Illustration By Someofthathomegrown

More about Goodbooks International

The Good Books model is simple. Every time anyone buys a book through the Good Books website, 100% of the retail profit from every sale goes to support communities in need through Oxfam projects.

As a result, charitable donation is built into an everyday activity at no extra cost.

No one at Good Books is paid and we have zero operating costs. All time, professional services and resources are donated.

Good Books is about creating positive and enduring connections between commercial worlds and wider, less advantaged communities. Rather than fight a system that privileges a few over many, we wanted to transform it from within to constructive effect. Now, each time you buy a book through us you challenge traditional barriers that prevent commercial involvement in reducing poverty.

Our key partners:

Our customers: The most important of all our partners is our customers: By choosing to be a Good Books customer you are making a difference - thank you. You can be part of making Good Books a global force. If you like what we are doing please tell people about us and keep coming back.

Our distributor: To create Good Books we teamed up with an international book distributor: The Paperback Shop UK (PBS). PBS provides the 'back-end' of what we do: sourcing huge ranges of books (over 4 million titles and growing), managing distribution and negotiating post. However, unlike similar operations we provide local, and very human, customer care. We pride ourselves on offering a personal service and we will always go the extra mile for you. If we can't supply what you want, we will try and find out who can.

PBS has been a major support to this project and supply all our web site programming development and management for us for free.

Our advertising agency: String Theory is an innovative brand building agency. They supply support and resources to this project, designing the site, developing our media campaign and helping negotiate media space. Executive Creative Director, Jeremy Taine is also a member of the Good Books Trust Board.

Our legal support: Simpson Grierson has provided us with sound legal advice and fully supported the project as it has developed.

The media: Aotearoa New Zealand's Media have shown great interest in, and support for, the Good Books project. Without them you would not know who we are. They are a vital and much appreciated part of what we do.

The Good Books Trust Board Rob Fisher: Practicing barrister working as legal advisor to the Auckland Transition Agency developing 'the Supercity'. Kevin Clapperton: Financial Director to Oxfam New Zealand Barry Coates: MD of Oxfam New Zealand Jeremy Taine: Executive Creative Director, String Theory Dr Jane Cherrington: MD of Good Books & Head of Strategy at String Theory Malcolm Boyle: Company Director at Star PR Paul Knight: CIO at Fletcher Building NZ

If you wish to find out more about us or how we work please feel free to get in touch. We are at:

Email: Phone: +44 (0) 1285 715 127

Good Books Private Bag 47 910 Ponsonby Auckland

If you would like to contact the Good Books Charitable Trust Head office you can do so via email or phone. If you wish to check on your order please use the details above. + 64 (0) 9 376 6649

Lens Of Anarchy - Baltimore City Paper's Write Up On Qball's Legendary Photography Of Biker Culture

Damn stoked to see our good buddy Qball made the cover of the Baltimore City Paper a couple years back. He has worked his ass off to become the great photographer that he is and has the journal entries of stories mentally logged to talk on at any given time. If you ever get a chance to see Qball at a run, rally or just milling about waiting for miscreants to enter stage right, shoot the shit with him as he is as genuine as they come and most of all is a true rider.

Doug Barber aka Qball, featured in the Baltimore City Paper for his photography

Motorcycle Diary
Doug Barber captured old-school biker life through his camera's lens
By Christianna McCausland | Posted 6/30/2010

"Doug Barber never set out to publish a book. In fact, sitting in the park at the foot of Broadway in Fells Point outside his former house, he appears downright nervous about sharing his story. Perhaps it's not surprising for someone who has lived much of his life quietly and on the edge of the grid.
A professional corporate photographer by trade, Barber has been in hard-core motorcycle clubs (please, don't ever call them "gangs") much of his life, using his camera to record the rough-and-tumble lifestyle. By being a part of what bikers call "the life," he had unprecedented access to a notoriously camera-shy population. Earlier this year, Barber self-published a collection of his photographs, coupled with verses by poet Edward Pliska, aka "Sorez the Scribe," entitled living the life, one man's perspective inside what Barber refers to as "the old-school biker's world."
"It's a collection of personal statements not meant to explain or justify the biker existence," Barber says. "Those who find inspiration and solace living outside society's conventions will take this book to heart."

Barber, who goes by Q-Ball in the biker world, started to step out of the boundaries of societal norms as a military brat living in Okinawa where his stepfather was stationed in the 1960s.

"I was the red-headed stepchild," he says. "There's a lot to being a red head that people don't understand. You're treated a certain way and because you are you get pushed in a certain direction. I became an outlaw of sorts at that time of my life. And motorcycles were the quintessential status symbol of being an outlaw."

He was 16 when he bought his first motorcycle, a Honda. He loved the freedom--and the fear. "Anything that would intimidate me I'd come at head on," he says. "Even today there's aspects of riding a motorcycle that are frightening and once you survive it, the feeling is probably the same as bungee jumping or sky diving."
Though he was never a malicious kid, Barber was always in trouble. A high school teacher in Okinawa saw some promise in him and helped to get him a scholarship to the Maryland Institute College of Art, where he found photography and his wife, who he's been with since 1976. Shortly thereafter, he was asked to photograph the funeral for a member of a major motorcycle club, which began Barber's slow and cautious integration into "the life," with his Nikon in hand.
Barber looks as much like Santa Claus as he does a biker and is just as gentle. Now his thick flowing beard is more white than red. He's raised two daughters and abided by his non-biker wife's one request of no tattoos. Some of his friends from his club have passed away. Those that remain encouraged him to publish his photographs. In 2006, Hot Bike Japan found his photos on the internet and asked Barber to create a year's worth of covers and a calendar. More press followed and the pressure increased to publish a book.

Ever one to defy authority, Barber turned down an unfavorable publishing deal. Then he fortuitously met Richard Gohlinghorst of Ridge Printing when he snapped his picture at a motorcycle event. Gohlinghorst had launched a design and publishing venture called Lowside Syndicate. Barber got Sorez on board and living the life self-published in January.

To choose the photos for the book Barber sent a large collection to Sorez (based in New Jersey) who matched his poems or created original works to go with the images. "This brought me back to a simpler time," Sorez says by phone; he's been in the life over 30 years and is part of a club called "The Highway Poets." "Back then, as long as you had a motor, a frame, and wheels, you'd build [a bike] and ride it. The people were real. It brought me back to being younger."

Doug Barber Photography © 2012
Barber confesses that he is drawn to seedy subject matter, which abounds in the biker culture. The photos begin in 1972 and are predominantly taken in Baltimore, including shots of one-time owner of the Cat's Eye Pub, Kenny Orye (now deceased), and swap meets on Eastern Avenue. The images are raw, in black-and-white, sometimes grainy. There's plenty of booze, boobs, bushy beards, and lots of ink. Flipping through the book you can feel the dirt in your mouth and smell gasoline.

In a photo coupled with the verse "No Other Way," a group of bikers gather around a campfire in a muddy lot surrounded by scrubby trees. They look cold and tired and dirty. Barber looks at that and explains that it was trips like this, when he and his buddies spent days riding with no money sleeping on the side of the road, that gave his club its name.

"We went into a Harley-Davidson shop to get some coffee and the owner saw us and said, 'Here comes dirt that moves,'" Barber recalls. The club took Dirt That Moves as its name and set up a clubhouse on Falls Road near the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.

Doug Barber Photography © 2012

Barber explains that bikers live life as if on steroids, doing everything from laughing to drinking in extreme. He says that the first thing club members did when they stopped riding for the day was to break out the booze, if for no other reason than to work out the aches and pains from hours of riding. That is recorded in images and words in "Name Your Poison," where a visibly blitzed couple stagger into the frame while a disembodied hand offers them a cigarette from outside the camera's lens.

Barber is adamant that he wanted to record the biker lifestyle without sensationalism. "It's not glorification and it's not judgment," he says. "This isn't a group of animals in a cage for your viewing pleasure."

A book about the motorcycle lifestyle would not be complete without touching on the mostly mutual disdain between bikers' and police officers. Barber won't deny that some of the bad reputation bikers get is legitimate. "In the '70s, half the fun was getting in a fight," he says. "But fighting was different back then. You mostly fought with your hands and the loser bought everyone beer."

He had his share of police run-ins, particularly when he'd try to take photographs when the police would stop his club, a frequent occurrence. Trying to explain the relationship between bikers and cops is complicated. Barber says that many bikers end up in trouble with the law because the system pushes them around until they lash out against it. He says the "love of a good woman" and his camera kept him from falling entirely off the outlaw precipice. "I'm not saying all cops are bad and all bikers are good," he says. "In every organization you have the good, the bad, and the ugly. I've found through life that if you treat someone with respect, that's what you'll get back."

Generally, bikers take to the road because they want to be left alone. Many of the photographs and poems in the book underscore the freedom and solitude of the lone rider as much as the brotherhood of clubs. The cover photo says it all: "Ricky," the president of Dirt That Moves, popping his sidecar up and out of the waves at Daytona Beach with the glee of a child.

It's a lifestyle that, once begun, is not a weekend hobby or something to walk away from. "I try to live my life by a code I have for myself, to be true to myself, give and get respect, and never take anything for granted, to live in the moment," Sorez says. His favorite photo (joined with the poem, "Road to Redemption") of a solitary rider looking pensively into the distance on a cold, wet winter day encompasses everything he loves about the life.

Doug Barber Photography © 2012

"This is a 24-7 lifestyle," Sorez says. "I don't just go out on a nice weekend, put on my leathers, and have a nice ride. I'm out there when it's 19 degrees out, when it's pouring out, when it's hot out. Basically out there living the life."

A photo of a man called "Righteous John," a surly looking dude holding a nub of a cigarette in his huge paw in his grease-covered shop, demonstrates what Barber wanted to capture in the book. "I knew that shops wouldn't look like this forever," he says. However, there is a photo taken more recently of a more pleasant-looking guy working on a bike in his own, modern shop. It's this demographic, in addition to the old-school brothers, who are buying up living the life, a new generation of young riders resurrecting the old ways of tinkering with their own bikes.

That's exemplified in the final photograph of the book that depicts a young boy on a big wheel surrounded by motorcycles, grinning at the camera and giving it the finger. "That kid is about 30 years old now and rides a motorcycle," Barber says. He contemplates the image and adds, wistfully, "Ah . . . another generation of degenerates."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Billy Don Burns Is Like A Modern Day, Motorcycle Gang Version Of James Dean With A Guitar Slung Over His Shoulder

Corporate Nashville and Hollywood are not that far apart in how they create new characters. One glaring difference between the two though, is that we all know Hollywood is about fiction, but Nashville seems to think they can pass off their "outlaw" crap and think folks will believe it.

Read a few of the quotes below directly pulled from Amazon as they are under the reviews of the various album's by Billy Don Burns. With his new album coming out early this summer Billy Don Burns is poised to turn some heads and show the masses what living on the edge is all about.

Billy Don Burns jamming with Hellbound Glory and Ronnie Hymes & Carolina Freight

"This collection is a celebration of two cultures. Classic Country from one of it's founders( Hank Cochran has had 8 thousand songs recorded and discovered Willie Nelson). Billy Don Burns is like a modern day, motorcycle gang version of James Dean with a guitar slung over his shoulder, and a lifetime of adventures in the form of songs. For people who live way out on the edge, or for those who just want to hear about it from the experts, THIS ONE IS FOR YOU!! It's hard to find great music these days, but these guys did, and it's on this CD." 


Billy Don Burns jamming with Hellbound Glory
"Whoa! This guy's one piece of work. Billy's had a long history of friendships with Nashville, and Texas' baddest hombres (Kristofferson, Haggard, Paycheck, Cash, Jones, etc), but his music was never released until a few of years ago. I'm mighty grateful I've discovered this guy. This is what real outlaw country music stands for. This guy is so brutally honest that there's no chance you'll hear this on mainstream anything. He duets with Tanya Tucker, and Willie Nelson on this, his fourth release (only two are available), but he's twice as gritty as anyone out there today. There's no comparisons. He sings of addiction, drug smuggling, love gone wrong, and Patsy Cline; what more can you ask for? He also produced an album by Paycheck that was recorded when Johnny was in the "Pen" some years ago, but that's never seen the light of day.......yet. That story is pretty amazing. Discover Billy Don Burns today."

"It's proof the "real deals" survive! Billy Don puts "COUNTRY" back on the charts. The likes of Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Willie and Waylon,Tanya Tucker, Hoyt Axton, Webb Pierce , Johnny Horton, Patsy Cline, Johnny Paycheck,and those of their "grit" will be proud to add him to their peer group. Billy Don Burns has the courage to be honest and the compassion to be sincere....and that's country in my book."

"This isn't your Nashville garden variety sugary what a prefect life I have music. If you want music about that look elsewhere. If you want the raw, the real the honest, the soul filled music get a copy of this cd. Billy Don Burns is amazing. His skillful songwriting and vocals is second to none.

Here is a tiny peak at this masterful lyrics

"His silhouette stands against the wall, The shadow of a man who lost it all. It helps conceal the pain, He rides though the night down a lost highway through a hole he made in is vein, to a plastic place where desperate dies on a dirty street called shame?

From "The Dark Side of The spoon"

"She'd go screamin cross the plains of my soul like a train runnin wild. From "Sailin Down the Nile"

He is kind of a Waylon sings David Allen Coe.

The majority of the songs are stripped down. It sounds like it was done live in the studio without those nasty overdubs that robs the music of it's soul.

The only song that get tuned up at the end of "Runnin Drugs out of Mexico" but the song calls for it

He pays tribute to his heroes

Pasty Cline, Haggard, Keith Whitley, Johnny Cash and Hank Sr."

Pasty a duet with Willie Nelson who also plays guitar as well. Which is obvious to the listner

His cover of the Cash classic "Give My Love To Rose" is filled with emotion. His 1997 cd knocked Cash (his hero) out the number one spot on the Amreicana charts.

I've been on the net for almost 10 years I've found alot of indy artists but Billy Don is hands down the best I've ever heard."

1970 Harley-Davidson Flat Tracker

"1970 Harley davidson XR750 Iron Competition. First year production race bike. Number 106 of 200 made in 1970. Original Frame & engine (survivor bike). These were recalled after a few months of racing because the frames & engines were too heavy and Harley davidson deamed them not race worthy. At that time Only 100 were sold. 80% of the bikes were disassambled and destroyed by Harley Davidson. The 20% were in private hands and not returned to Harley Davidson. This makes very few of the original bikes still in existance. This bike is one of only a handful with the original frame.

The 1970 XR750 is a destroked XLR/KR Hybrid single carb Ironhead motor. A quicky effort on Harley Davidsons part to meet the new 750cc OHV limit. It was a direct link to the all alloy 1972 XR750 which in 1974 was creating an unstopable force in flat tarack racing.

Approximatley 520 Total XR750 were made covering 1970, 1972, 1977, 1980. 1980-1988 Only motors were sold.

Explaining the serial# 1C stands for the model XR750. 10106 is the production number 106 out of 200. H stands for 70's decade. 0 indicates 1970.

The motorcycle has a mikuni carb on it now but I have the original carb as shown in the pictures. The bike also has a tail section from when it was raced at pikes peak July 4th 1980 in Colorado. It spend most of its time being raced in the south. Included is all the paperwork giving the history of the motorcycle including, invoices, and canceled checks for repairs which include a complete engine and transmission overhaul. The bike was last run at Jim's Harley Davidson in ST. Petersburg Florida in 2011 where it was gone over by the dealrship, serviced, and ran on a dyno which can be seen on youtube under 1970 Harley XR750. This bike has been listed on the XR IRON historian roster.

The Harley Davidson XR750 is a rare motorcycle indeed. To find one is possible, but to find one that RUNS with an ORIGINAL FRAME is extremely rare." 

Bid on this bike now

1970 Harley Davidson XR750 Flat Track racer in original frame
XR750 Tank on classic frame
1970 XR750 is a destroked XLR/KR Hybrid single carb Ironhead motor
1970 XR750 is a destroked XLR/KR Hybrid single carb Ironhead motor
1970 Harley Davidson XR750 Flat Tracker in original factory working order

Monday, March 26, 2012

Digging Into Vintage Adding Machines With Kevin Twomey

Kevin Twomey is creating quite a name for himself with his photography of vintage adding machines. What his photographs help to portray is the mechanical complexity to which numbers could be added up to infinity, through a physical and extravagantly designed solution. This setup was commonplace for many decades and now with the advent of hi tech computing these mechanical devices have gone the way of the dinosaur due to their singular function, weight and inability to compete in today's market place of apps on mini computers.

Check out more of Kevin Twomey's work

Kevin Twomey's photo of a vintage Adding Machine

They may seem like Rube Goldberg machines today, but mechanical adding machines were considered the closest thing to computers not long ago: heaps of gears, levers, and springs engineered to do the work of a $3 calculator. The San Francisco–based photographer Kevin Twomey has produced a wonderful series of these mechanical relics, selected from a collector’s private stash.

“The community of people who collect this cumbersome, not-so-valuable, obsolete machinery is pretty small,” Twomey tells Co.Design. Nonetheless, his research quickly led him to Mark Glusker, a collector and mechanical engineer living just a few miles from the photographer’s studio who agreed to bring over a few prized pieces. “As we laid them out on tables, Mark pulled off the covers on some of the machines to show me the guts,” Twomey recalls. “Instantly I knew what this project was about: the intricate and complex inner workings of these machines.”

Kevin Twomey's photos show the depth and soul of a vintage adding machine
He used hot lights to illuminate the details: “Arri hot lights have a crispness about them, so when objects like these machines are bathed in that kind of light, they just sing,” he says. And his affection for vintage technology extends to his own choice of equipment: a Hasselblad. “I am still in love with the older Carl Zeiss lenses.”

Kevin Twomey photograph of vintage adding machine
Kevin Twomey photograph of vintage adding machine
Kevin Twomey photograph of vintage adding machine
Kevin Twomey photograph of vintage adding machine

1966 Harley Shovelhead Wants A New Home

Buy this bike now on ebay

"This bike is featured in this months (April) issue of CYCLE SOURCE Magazine.This is a fresh build. New tires front is old school ribbed type, rear is a Shinko re pop of the old Goodyear. New chain,It has a brand new Cycle Electric generator with built in regulator. The engine was completly rebuilt by Slims garage in Atlanta. Its an 80 inch with std cases, Harley heads etc. S&S carb. It has mallory electronic aluminum oil pump. New plugs wires, breaker, battery. Brand new pipes. Brand new BDL 1 1/2 primary. five finger clutch.The transmission is a ratchet top 4 speed. Its jockey shift now it has a custom made brass shift knob, if you cant ride it that way its easy to change back. The frame is a Paugcho wishbone, brand new. No rake or stretch. The rear has new Harley disc brakes with new lines. No front brake but the mounts are on the forks if you want it.The bars are some I had for a while,not sure who made them,they have a good bit of pullback to them,I would say from the 70's.The front end is a brand new DNA stock length.The gas tank is a real Wassell that has been friscoed the right way, The tunnel was redone, not just some mounts welded on. It has a polished brass petcock. The rear fender is an old spare tire cover. The oil tank is a horseshoe type that has been narrowed to tuck in the frame.The paint is House of Kolor, its a custom mix of rootbeers and golds over a flake base with old school lace work.the side mount has the old style tailight, and a remote filter. The seat is custom stitched, not just store bought. This is a really clean, really tight shovel.There is a lot of stainless and chrome hardware, clamps etc. Some of the chrome on the bike is old and shows wear and scratches. This bike has less than 100 miles on it. This bike has a clear title, not titled as a Harley. It is titled as a jailhouse chopper, they are a licensed manufacturer, this is not some home built backyard title, or assembled, or BS crap. I have the reserve set lower than the sum of the parts if you ordered all this and it was just laying in the floor in boxes. Please be serious about bidding. I will ship wherever you like as long as you chose a company you like. I prefer cash in person,or a certified check. I do not do paypal. Thanks for looking and good luck. I am also listing another bike and parts soon. Also the bike is for sell locally. and I may end the auction early."

1966 Harley Shovelhead Chopper
Custom paint with lace inset and orange in deep metal flake with hints of root beer colors
Rear view of ultra clean Shovelhead chopper
Right side view of Shovelehad chopper
Right side of 1966  Harley Shovelhead chop in workspace
Detail on brass plumbing fittings from gas tank top of rocker boxes

Ideas First - Safety Last, Creating A Custom Shop Sign

On any given sunday, we took the time to recharge the batteries and came up with something motivational for the shop. The decision was made that we needed to do some hand lettering, paint work and keep it under a couple of hours in actual time spent. With a huge project looming on the horizon that will require quite a bit of paint and massive scale for hand lettering, this was the perfect warm up project.

Piece of plywood to prep for painting
Measuring text to scale to draw in
Sketching in text after measuring size
Adding in red background with some latex paint
Basic idea is starting to come through
Laying down the white lettering
Black ink put down around white lettering
Bottom white lettering painted down
All lettering in white put down
Final sign completed and ready to hang on the wall to promote shop safety