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The History of Biker Poetry

The Whole Sordid Tale In Rhythm

By Panhead Josh with photos from Bob T.
6/11/2009 12:11:14 PM


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You can ask twenty poets about the history of Biker Poetry‚ and you will get twenty completely different accounts of the same events. This is my version of the History of biker poetry. Find a comfortable chair and sit, this may take some time.

Before you can ask where and when did biker poetry start, you first must ask what is biker poetry? Biker poetry is a combination of rhythmic tales of the road combined with the unmistakable feel of Freedom. Notice the capital in the ‘F‚’ of Freedom. This is one word I believe so strongly in, I think it has earned its right to be capitalized. I challenge you to find an organization that embraces life’s freedoms more then bikers. Now that we have defined biker poetry lets assemble a timeline to go with it.

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The 1960s The Haight Ashbury Years

A little history, The 60s were a time of change, We were at war, when all we wanted was peace. Those who did not support the war chose to grow their hair and expand their minds. Many of them moved to California. In the Haight Ashbury area there was an explosion of culture. You had bands such as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane along with Big brother and the Holding Company. All did their own thing in their own time living an almost communal life. People were speaking their mind and you could find poetry in every coffee house and on crowded corner.

You may ask what do Hippies have to do with Biker Poetry? You have the question, and I have the answer.

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At the very same time the Peace and Love hippy movement was forming a new breed was forming as well, Leather clad chopper riding outlaws, Bikers but not just any bikers, Outlaw Bikers. The AMA labeled these non- conformists 1%ers. They stripped their bikes down and made them an extension of their own being. The Hells Angels were often used for security by concert promoters at this time. It was only a matter of time before the Outlaw Bikers‚ and the Hippies co- mingle. After all they had the same views on a lot of subjects and were more similar then you might think.

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This time period brought a lot of people together that normally wouldn’t cross paths. You had the Merry Pranksters and the Hells Angels expanding their minds together. In a nonjudgmental environment. Some of the beatnik poets became Bikers and some of the bikers became poets. Biker poetry is born.

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The first real biker poet who comes to mind wasn’t a biker at all, but he could have been. His name was Hunter S Thompson. A well known writer/poet, he produced some very psychedelic works while running with the Hells Angels. Later on he even wrote a book about his experiences, which later became a movie. There are two real bikers that come to mind though that produced some great works around that time as well. Their names escape me right now, but the names are not important, the words are.

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The ‘70s, The Out Of Control Years

The summer of love was dead. There was a major struggle for power in the biker scene. People were literally dieing in the streets. The hippies all got scared and ran away. I imagine a lot of them got jobs and blended in to society. Not bikers though, it got real bad for us a group, thanks to the media and stereotypical movies that portrayed bikers as long haired smelly killers. Some were, but that was a very small number.

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JJ Solari reciting poetry in the Easyriders Studio.

Poetry faded away in the early to mid ‘70s. You would see you occasional poem in one of the biker ragazines of the time, but it was what you could call an accepted media form for a biker. Besides we were not allowed anywhere around poetry. We scared people and we knew it. There were a few poets out there though. They were not well known at the time, two of them were The Reverend K. Peddlar Bridges, Colorado T Sky and Renegade from Easyriders. They had a big role in biker poetry, so I will speak of them more later on.

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The ‘80s Poetry reborn into a new life

The biker of the ‘80s was starting to grow strong and shed some of the stereotypes Hollywood had thrown at them. Bikers grew as a whole and so did the poetry. Magazines such as Easyrider and Outlaw biker had house poets, and poetry once again was seeping back into the coffee houses, but this time the movement takes us out east.

Peddlar and Sky hooked up, and they were making some noise. People were listening and taking their poetic words to heart. People could identify with what they were saying. Biker poetry didn’t only appeal to the biker. It also gained the interest of the working man and the college student.

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The poetry told a story that many could place themselves within. Bikers were still outcasts but they were starting to gain acceptance. Some of their edges had smoothed out over time. Another biker on the Scene was New Jersey native Eddie “Sorez the Scribe” Pliska. He reached bikers all over the country thanks to his gig in Outlaw Biker .

Things were on the move upward for us poets, but we were still a cult type subculture.

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Notorious Hamsters in Sturgis, Dave Perewitz on left, Bob Clark and Donnie Smith.

The 90’s A New Generation is on the rise

In the early ‘90s poetry took a brief hiatus. Things sort of stalled out. The writing didn’t stop but the live gigs slowed down and magazines didn’t publish our works as much as they once did. Some of the well known poets got by, raising a family and working a 9-5. The starving artist was tired of starving. This is about the time I hit the scene.

I’d been riding since I was 15 and writing even longer than that. I was on a search for others like me via the new found internet. I searched long and hard for biker poets like myself and had no luck. It was as if I was the only one.

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In the late ‘90s I started placing my poetry on line and kept the search up for others like me. The first one I came across was Sorez. I knew of his work from my vast collection of old biker rags I had saved from the dumpsters over the years. We shared each others’ works and we both grew as poets. We became blood brothers and continued the search together. The next poet I ran into was Keith “Bandit” Ball. He mentored me and taught me form. And even offered to post my works on his website. (he wrote poetry for Easyriders in the ‘70s under a pen name, but wouldn’t give it up.) We were on a move!!

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The New Millennium

Biker Poetry was really getting somewhere. At the Beginning of the Millennium we had old biker poets schooling new biker poets, and working as a well oiled machine. Some old favorites were in the light and some new ones were on the rise. This is about the time Sorez and I hooked up with Sky and Peddlar we brought the words of the seasoned biker poets to a new generation eager to listen, but not only listen participate! A rash of poets came to the surface and joined in with our movement. From all parts of the United States and even a few in Canada.

If you Google “Biker Poetry” a large number of names will jump right off the page at you. A few of them are, but not limited to the following Peddlar, Sky, Sorez The Scribe, Bear, Wolf, as well as myself Panhead Josh. But it’s not just male driven anymore, we got Gypsy Passion, the first Female Biker Poet Laureate! There are many others I have left out, but their part is just as important as the ones I have mentioned.

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New old school from Australia. Photo by Matt Black, of TCB Magazine.

We now have Biker Poetry month, you can hear our words echo through the camp grounds once again, but now its not just limited to around the fire, in small groups, or down the block at the local coffee house. You can hear the poetic words flow from Laughlin and the Redwoods, from Laconia to Daytona. It’s been a long hard road full of twists and turns but you won’t find us backing off the throttle anytime soon I assure you! This decade has proven to be monumental in proportion. Biker poetry is on the rise, as each poet grabs the pen and scribes the words that drive them as they ride.

Bikers are now writing more then ever, whether it be poetry, biographies or true stories of the road. Sonny Barger has a number of books out that tell tales of biker life. A couple have even been on the best sellers list. Sorez, The Scribe, has a Great book out called Saddle Baggage, and I am working on my first book as we speak. In closing I’d like to leave you with a couple poems that I have carried with me for many years. Below you will find the very first Biker poem I ever read. It was published in a biker magazine long ago. I can’t even tell you which one anymore. The second one I wrote a few years back. It defines the true meaning of being a biker.

I hope you have enjoyed my little history lesson. Some of you will agree with it, some of you will not, and that’s ok. It’s all part of the freedom we all embrace as bikers.

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What in the World’s Come Over You?

By Filthy Bill

What in the world’s come over you, Bob?
You used to be so neat.
I bet you haven’t taken a bath in six months.
Hey, man -- smell your feet.

Your zits are as big as nickels
And full of yellow puss.
And I hear you’re living in a junkyard,
In the back of an old school bus.

Your blue jeans are so greasy,
They’ve turned a dull black.
And I see you took to wearing
A skull and crossbones on your back.

But Bob, you done good
When you bought that Hog.
And that young girl you got there
Sure ain’t no dog

Yeah, Yeah , I Know
They like to toot that coke,
And smoke that good ol‚
Colombian dope

And stay up late and
Ride that highway bike.
Yeah, man I know what
Them young girls like

Well, man, I got to go
Thanks for the buzz.
I’ll try to get back soon,
And watch out for the fuzz

Now if you need any help
With that young girl you got,
Don’t hesitate to call
I’m Johnny- on-the-spot

Now when others have kissed you off,
I’ll be your friend still.
Live to ride and ride to live,
Your bro forever, Flithy Bill.

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Before Old School Was Cool

By Panhead Josh 7-3-04

Old School
When It Was New
Old School
Before It Was Cool

Tattooed
When It Was
Still Taboo
Webs, Crosses
Points Of Light

Long Beards
Long Hair Too
Fighting The Man
Beating Him Too

Swastikas, Iron Crosses
SS Bolts Too
On Our Vests
Trophies Taken
From You Know Who

Bikes Long And Lean
Less Is More
Bob It, Chop It, Mold It
Keep It Clean

Dirt Bike Tanks
Old Bicycle Handle Bars
Square D Headlights
King And Queens
Sky High Pipes

I Remember
The Days
Before Old School
Was Cool

Before It Became
A Fashion Statement
Never Did I Think
I'd See The Day
When Doctors And Lawyers
Put The Iron Cross
Proudly On Display

Paulie, Jesse, Bourget Too
Fucking Rolex Rangers
Sell Outs
Each And Everyone Of You

Don't Call Yourself Old School
You Don't Have The Soul
You Sure As Hell Don't Have
The Heart

Media Mongers
Hooked On Fame
Scripted Lines
Your Not Bikers
Not Old School

Your Entertainers
Reading Cue Cards
Trying To Act Bad Ass
Turning Ol Skool‚ Trendy
Looking Like Fools

While The Greybeards
Laugh Out Loud
And Cry Inside
You Sold Our Identity
You Made Old School Cool
For This We Will
Never Forgive You

Dedicated To The True Old School

--Panhead Josh
panheadjosh74@hotmail.com

Vincent

The Redhead Called

Pavement as slippery as snot
Visibility non-existent in front of rain-soaked shades
A night as cold as a North Pole grave
But her silken memory never fades

Ninety miles an hour on a flat desert freeway
My front wheel slicing the rain like a skater on ice
Heart pounding against my leather clad chest
Until I find her, I continue to roll the dice

She called me screaming, panic in her voice
He spit her lip in a jealous rage
I whistled to my iron steed, like Roy to Trigger
My eyes went blood red, time to cut the sage

Her eyes as green as emerald marbles
She left me and the city for another venture
But her dire drug slipped under my skin
The sound of her voice on the phone was pure torture

Just 400 miles of rain and terror
An asphalt ribbon of wet careening trucks
I twisted the quick throttle, as if the doorknob to my future
It wouldn't open, just my luck

I rode into the drizzling night without hope
I rode like my tires were on fire, with my heart bungied to my sleeve
I rode because I had no choice
I rode because my soul bereaved

The rain and darkness clouded my vision
My heart clouded my senses
The longing pulled me like a tug pulls a ship
Nothing would stop me, not even chain link fences

What makes a man insane with love?
What tears his brain apart?
What causes him to destroy his life?
For the dream she has a heart

In the speeding darkness I heard the blaring horn
I caught the blinking hi-beams through gray spray
The Harley screamed to stay in line
I had to find a way

The lights bore down upon me
I twisted the throttle once more
Her twinkling eyes held on strong
The big twin locomotive forced me to find the whore

My heart held onto her haunting words
My wind whipped whispers begged for her love
Death would be a welcome escape
From this spellbound emotion, like an iron glove

My chrome grip intensified
I'd free her from violence
Stand tall against her assault
Make her mine, or would she jump the fence?

Facing him was easy
Facing her brought pain
Riding hard delivered nothing
But more dread in the rain

Could I survive the strain?
Would 18 wheels end my plight?
I mentally rolled the dice
And tore into the Arizona night

Alongside pulled the brazen truck honking
The cab lights on
An angelic blond driving
Was she singing a song?

She followed me to the gas stop
Her azure eyes spoke overt joy
I pressed my cold against her full warmth
Suddenly Dale Evans found Roy

Could a tortured asphalt cowboy finds relief
With a voluptuous cowgirl on a leather seat?

--Renegade
2004

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Reader Comments


I am looking for a poem published in Easyriders in the '80s or '90s called Clean him up for his ol' Ma's sake (I think) I believe the author was Jody Via.

Charlie Float
Pittsburgh , Pa.
Thursday, December 15, 2016
Editor Response Ah Jody was a master. We will look around.
--Bandit
A good read. Bought a bike & learned to ride at 13. At 16 a friend's friend said ,"I'm going to kill myself." That Hells Angel taught me well. Had a few lessons since that first one. Today, I'm in a bike club, the Safety director. I look at websites such as yours for ideas to promote safe riding.

Bob Baines
Delta, BC, Canada
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Editor Response I hope you study the FEMA research papers. They put a lot of emphasis on training and infrastructure such as roads, signs, road guards, etc. Check it out. Some of their material is published on Bikernet.
--Bandit
Looking for poem by renegade about pausing when a woman slips onto his seat. Another life I hold.

Steve Hunter
Charlotte, NC
Sunday, May 29, 2016
Editor Response I would love to find it, since I wrote it. My brain doesn't seem to function in the Poetry mode these days.
--Bandit
I am looking for any Easyriders poet who was published during the 1970+1980s.
The poet went by the aka Popeye.
He use to come hangout w/ us back in the '80s.
Over the weekend we all lost a brother. I’m hoping to find one of our old friend's poems to easy our troubled minds.

Luanne Bogart
Pekin, IL
Tuesday, December 08, 2015
Editor Response Hey, I'll reach out. I published poetry during this era under the name Renegade.
--Bandit

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