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Ridin' High, Livin' Free: Hell-Raising Motorcycle Stories

Ridin' High, Livin' Free: Hell-Raising Motorcycle Stories

4.1 16
by Ralph (Sonny) Barger, Philip Bosco (Narrated by), Kent Zimmerman (With), Keith Zimmerman (With)

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Sonny Barger is the number-one spokesman for the motorcycle experience. His New York Times bestseller, Hell's Angel, was an exhilarating history of his adventures with the world's most notorious motorcycle club. Now he brings us rousing, moving, and wildly entertaining true stories of his renegade brothers and sisters in the relentless pursuit of


Sonny Barger is the number-one spokesman for the motorcycle experience. His New York Times bestseller, Hell's Angel, was an exhilarating history of his adventures with the world's most notorious motorcycle club. Now he brings us rousing, moving, and wildly entertaining true stories of his renegade brothers and sisters in the relentless pursuit of liberty, individuality, and the "ultimate ride."

And what stories he has to tell -- freewheeling, bare-knuckle tales of brawls and battles, brotherhood, breathtaking adventures, crazy quests, and the inevitable classic scrapes with "John Law." The most colorful legends and unforgettable characters of biker lore come alive in this book. In addition, celebrities like Steve McQueen, Johnny Paycheck, and David Crosby thunder through these pages in a sensational collection of rebel tales that runs the gamut from poignant and inspiring to thrilling and utterly outrageous.

Whether you ride, have never ridden, or dream of riding, Ridin' High, Livin' Free is a reading experience you won't soon forget -- a fascinating glimpse into a unique culture of freedom that recognizes only one commandment: the code of the road.

Editorial Reviews

Hell's Angel leader Sonny Barger is a contradiction wrapped in leather. He's an outlaw biker who sculpts and a former brawler who has a New York Times bestseller to his credit. He revels in stories of his roughhouse past but lives a sedate life as a husband and father, running errands for his third wife and gently scolding his stepdaughter about brushing her teeth. In Ridin' High, Livin' Free, this American legend shares stories about high-speed biker buddies and gothic tattooed mavericks who took the ultimate ride.
Publishers Weekly
The latest literary effort from Hell's Angels chieftain Barger is "a collection of true stories, modern myths, and biker tales" submitted to him by other bikers. As such, few of them actually involve the legendary Barger. Barger selected and rewrote the stories himself (with help from the Zimmermans). He concedes that some are true while others are apocryphal, and it's up to the reader to decide which is which. Depicting fairly unspectacular hell-raisers including characters like DOA, Loaded Linda, Freewheelin' Freddy and One-Armed Paul most of the 38 tales are too uneventful to be mistaken for myth, leaving one to wonder if Barger is holding back the good stuff or whether he used up most of it in his earlier memoir, Hell's Angel. Some of the stories are engaging and even informative, such as the profile of an African-American motorcycle club and the piece detailing singer David Crosby's biker connections. But most meander toward abrupt endings, closing with a trite moral or clunky shoutout to the story's principal character. Barger illustrates a kinder, gentler rider; his characters are certainly not above wreaking a little havoc, but they're also quick to help a fallen biker or spread the word of God. The book works best when describing the simple pleasure of cruising through the American landscape at sunrise. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Abridged, 4 Cassettes
Product dimensions:
4.44(w) x 7.22(h) x 1.30(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Wandering Gypsy
and the
Silver Satin kid

Before Gypsy ever met the Silver Satin Kid, he saw his motorcycle parked outside the Continental Can Company. That's where "the Kid" worked. When Gypsy went to work there, too, he checked out the bike up close. You could tell the Kid had worked on it. There were brand-new high bars and extended chrome exhaust pipes, stuff you never really saw that much on bikes in 1957. The bike was an eighty-inch stroker from the 1940s, a Harley-Davidson with a small headlight. it didn't have a paint job. Not yet, anyway. "Silver Satin Kid" was temporarily scripted in ink on the gas tank along with a drawing of a naked girl.

The Silver Satin Kid earned his nickname from his favorite drink, Silver Satin Wine. He drank it out of a bottle in a brown paper bag when he hung out on the Oakland streets with his bike-riding buddies. To his friends, the Kid was a born leader. A big, screaming double-headed eagle — just like the wine bottle label — was painted on the back of his leather jacket in silver. The eagle's sharp claws were drawn out in attack mode.

The Kid was just like that eagle — usually in attack mode. Sometimes around midnight, he'd come tearing around the corner of East 17th Street — right outside the apartment where Gypsy lived — gunning his Harley full throttle, waking up the entire east side of Oakland. The Kid usually had a pack of three or four guys from his motorcycle club right behind him, trying to keep up. They all wore matching colors on their backs and during theday they hung out at the Circle Drive-In, where their bikes took up most of the sidewalk. It would be through the Kid that Gypsy would fall in with "the Club."

Richard Charles Anderson, aka Gypsy, had wanted to ride motorcycles ever since he saw The Wild One back in 1954. He was seventeen and like a lot of guys, the movie put the zap in his head. In Brando's honor, Gypsy bought a used Ariel one-cylinder English bike off a car lot in Oakland. He bought himself a cool leather shirt and wore black highway patrolman boots. He got a small tattoo on his right arm that said "El Lobo." He not only looked the part, but now he rode just like Johnny, Brando's character in the movie. He took the little one-cylinder out to the drag races. Gypsy loved that bike from day one. He'd sit on the porch and just stare at it, then jump on it and ride it around town, then park it in front of his house and look at it for a little while longer, then go riding around again. That routine could go on all night.

Gypsy hit the road impulsively for long rides alone just to clear his head. Once, on a whim, he rode from Oakland to Monterey with seventy-five cents in his pocket. When he got back, one of his friends remarked, "Man, you're just like a roamin' gypsy. Traveling all over and always alone." The name "Gypsy" stuck, so Richard had that name sewn onto his riding vest.

One night Gypsy was drinking at the Come-In Club with a young bike rider named Rebel. Rebel was short and skinny, and didn't look much like a rebel at all. He looked more like Sal Mineo than James Dean, but he wore a V-neck T-shirt and kept the required cigarette behind his ear. Just then three club guys came into the Come-In.

"See those three guys?" Rebel whispered. "Man, they're from the roughest, toughest motorcycle club in..."

As usual, Rebel kept talking, but Gypsy didn't hear much after that. Transfixed, he wanted to be just like those guys. He wasn't scared of them; he wanted in on their action.

As the three bikers approached the bar, Rebel called out nervously, "So guys, what's happening?"

Walker was the leader, a tall, lanky dude with a thin face and cold, mean eyes.

"What's happening?" Rebel repeated.

Walker ignored Rebel's small talk. "Who's your friend here?"

Rebel introduced Gypsy to the Club guys. The second fella was a dude named Crazy Cal. He was Walker's brother-in-law, not as tall as Walker, but a real stocky guy, strong as a bull, only meaner. The third member was Dakota, another serious-looking guy. Walker's first words to Gypsy went straight to the point: "What are you doing with this asshole?"

Gypsy could tell they were sizing him up. He didn't know whether they wanted to hang out and drink or kick his ass. "Come on by the Star Cafe tomorrow night," Walker said to Gypsy. "That's where we hang out, man." There was an awkward silence; then the Club guys walked off.

An old Greek owned the Star Cafe on 23rd Avenue in East Oakland. The Star Bar was right next door. The Star Bar was also where a lot of bike riders and early club members hung out. A lot of them were ex-servicemen and juvenile delinquents. The Star Bar had — how do you put it? — atmosphere. In blue-collar Oakland in 1957, there was a tavern like the Star Bar on nearly every street corner.

The very next day there was an empty space out in front of the Star Cafe. As Gypsy backed his bike into the curb, he noticed the Silver Satin Kid's motorcycle at the end of a long row of Harleys. The Kid had finally finished painting the frame an outrageous burnt orange with the naked girl emblazoned in yellow and black two-tones. He called it the Orange Crate. Gypsy jumped off his bike and combed his hair back to make just the right entrance.


Ridin' High, Livin' Free. Copyright © by Ralph "Sonny" Barger. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Ralph "Sonny" Barger is the author of Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club. A master mechanic who has owned and operated his own bike shops, he currently lives in Arizona, where he rides every day.

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Ridin' High, Livin' Free: Hell-Raising Motorcycle Stories 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very well written book addicting and fun to read. The way it's written it's more like a movie reel in your head.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great tales and well written... some true some not(?)
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Another book showing what life is like throghout the years. Sonny Barger again tells it like it is. His opinions and stories of confrontation and survival is inspiring.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My husband and I have followed such stories since the late 60's. We were intrigued with Sonny's first book. We could not put it down. We were so excited to read his second book but we were unhappy to find that most of the stories were from other people. It is not what you would expect and it is not at all like his first. All of the best material was used in his first book and the second is more of the 'scraps' left over.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book cover to cover and then read it again.... It is far from boring. The stories and characters of this book come from a special breed of Americans. These are the types of Americans who settled the west. They are their own men and women and these stories of theirs could be told by only this man. He was there through all of the roadhouse brawls to the Altimont. Is there a danger in making heros of such folks - I think there is a danger in not giving them the credit they are due - Just for being the amazing people they are. It would be a pretty awful world without them (shades of Orwell's "1984"). I'd just like to be able to give it more than 5 stars...
Guest More than 1 year ago
I rather enjoyed Barger's first book. I have followed his career since the early days being a motorcyclist from California since the early 60's. Unfortunately, everything interesting that he had to say was apparently related in the first book. This book is filled with a bunch of rather boring 'so what,' in many cases not particularly well written stories.