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Toronto, Ontario, Canada
"To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart. It's a way of life." ~ Henri Cartier-Bresson

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Hells Angels by LIFE Photographer Bill Ray

From Jesse James to Tony Soprano, outlaws have always held a singular if ambiguous place in America's popular imagination: we fear and loathe their appetite for violence, yet we envy and covet their freedom. In early 1965, LIFE photographer Bill Ray and writer Joe Bride spent several weeks with a gang that, to this day, serves as a living, brawling embodiment of our schizoid relationship with the rebel: the Hells Angels. Here, in a gallery of never-published photographs, Ray and Bride recall their days and nights with Buzzard, Hambone, Big D, and other Angels (and their "old ladies") at a time when the roar of Harleys and the sight of long-haired bikers was still new, alien, and for the average, law-abiding citizen, simply terrifying. [via LIFE]

This was a new breed of rebel, they, of course, didn’t have jobs. They despised everything that most Americans pursue — stability, security. They rode their bikes, hung out in bars for days at a time, fought with anyone who messed with them. They were self-contained, with their own set of rules, their own code of behavior. It was extraordinary.’ ~ Bill Ray

Bill Ray vividly remembers the moment he truly felt accepted — or as accepted as he was ever going to be — by the Angels. Ray says that ‘he got in a bit of trouble one day, in a bar. Some bikers — guys who weren’t Angels — saw me taking pictures. They didn’t like it, but they didn’t realize that I was a sort of mascot of the real tough guys. I was about to be attacked by one of these guys when a Hells Angel standing next to me made it clear that if a hair on my head was touched, the other biker was a dead man. From that point on, I felt …. well, not safe, because I never felt safe with those guys, but as if I’d passed a test, somehow.’ 

Big D, a member of the San Bernardino, a.k.a, Berdoo Hells Angels, during a ride from San Bernardino to Bakersfield, California, 1965.

Bad boy writer Hunter S.Thompson defends his book against a Hell's Angels biker. 

Hunter S. Thompson & Hell's Angels (1967)

naked on wheels from lord black on Vimeo.

Great TV series on a Biker Gang. Sons of Anarchy


  1. Do you happen to know who is in the picture with the fur hat

    1. Big D, a member of the San Bernardino, a.k.a, Berdoo Hells Angels, during a ride from San Bernardino to Bakersfield, California, 1965.

  2. The lone biker looking over his shoulder was Stephen Graff. He said he was paid $25 in 1966 to have his picture taken, then found it in a head shop being sold as a poster in 1967. RIP 7/2/1944 - 11/29/1968

  3. I am looking for a photo of Homer Turner president of the Berdoo Chapter, taken by Ed Roth in the 60’s.
    There is a girl on the back of the bike. I am the girl.
    If anyone has the photo, I would like to see it.
    Thank you,

  4. How about the 'ole lady with black hair dancing with the blonde. She has the cut on.she is in most of the pics. One is where she was sitting drinking a beer... What was her nickname from the club and who's ole' lady was she...