Tag Archives: Matchless motorcycles

The passing of a legend…not a motorcycle this time

A week ago I brought you a story from a riding friend about guitars and music; The Gibson Les Paul and the Matchless G50. A perfect combination and a great story, thank you Bernie. The Matchless G50 passed away decades ago but, Les Paul was still playing guitar in New York. Two days later and at ninety four years young, Les Paul passed away. A sad day in so many ways for so many people. LesPaul_pic

When I came up with this idea of pairing up guitars with motorcycles, it was over a few beers, a number of interesting combination’s came up including the Harley Davidson XR750 and the Fender Stratocaster, but the most common guitar regardless of the motorcycle, was the Gibson Les Paul. My friend Marilyn Elmore www.chessiestales.blogspot.com sent a picture of a custom Les Paul with the Indian Motorcycle logo…Indian Les Paul Pretty cool stuff. My son who rides an old Honda Hawk also plays a Les Paul.

The Les Paul guitar transcends riding styles, playing styles and generations. Thank you Les Paul. R.I.P and God Speed

Ah, the beautiful music of motorbikes and guitars

A while back I posed the question, what motorbike would you pair with what guitar? The look, the sound, the feel…the image. This story comes from my friend Bernie Ayling. A skilled roadracer, an amazingly talented guitar player and an all around good guy..considering he rides a 1972 BMW

The Matchless G50 and the Gibson Les Paul Model guitar. Perfect!

Fifty Seven years of roadracing motorcycles and playing electric guitar in various bands have been the only things (aside from the very obvious ones) that have made time stop still and make me absolutely live in the moment. So where do I put the two together?

The Matchless G50 is perhaps the most successful production singles racer of all time. Only 180 original examples were built between 1958 and 1962, when production ceased due to financial problems. Also called the ‘Golden Eagle’(perhaps due to the particular hue of some of the visible magnesium castings, but more likely due to the marque logo’s wings) it is an elegant motorcycle, perfectly proportioned as only a dedicated racing motorbike or a beautiful woman can be. The design is sparse and elegant, with every detail looking like it belongs and nothing extraneous to bother the eye. In stock trim the single cylinder motorcycle produced 51 horsepower and propelled the little 320 pound roadracer to a 135 MPH top speed. Today, they would have arguably become the holy grail of production singles racers. The great Mike Hailwood raced a G50.1960_Matchless_G50

So, if you rode a Matchless G50 and played guitar, what guitar would you play? A Gibson Les Paul.

The Les Paul was Gibson’s answer to Fender in 1952, a modern solidbody to counter the upstart from California. Named for the famous guitarist, it was a great success at the start, adapting Gibson’s reputation for old world craftsmanship and beautiful materials of the modern era. By mid 1958 though, the model was close to being discontinued due to lack of sales. In an effort to revive the Les Paul model, a three color ‘Sunburst’ finish was applied to show off the beautiful Maple top. Newly designed ‘humbucking’ pickups were added to the package as well. The enhancements failed to produce better sales results and production ceased in 1960.

During the three year production run approximately 1600 original Les Paul Sunburst models were produced. In the early 1960’s the heavy guitars languished in pawnshops around the nation, mostly unloved and unplayed. in 1965 a young Eric Clapton saw a picture of his guitar hero, Freddie King, playing an older gold topped Les Paul but the closest he would come was a used Sunburst model found in London. The combination produced the ferociously aggressive playing made famous on John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton that same year.tn

Today, original Sunburst’s are the Holy Grail of electric guitars. The perfectly balanced body with it’s arched carved top and sometimes wildly figured Maple has become another widely imitated iconic design.

You can’t pin down the success for either the G50 or the Les Paul Sunburst to any one thing as it’s the sum of the parts and the intangible qualities the comprise the mystique. Oh, and there is the spectacular performance of them both as well.

Guitars and Motorbikes

A little while back I wrote a story called ‘The Sound of Music’, my friend Bernie on his motorcycle at Willow Springs and on stage playing guitar with his band ‘Turn 9’. The synergy of the two.

Last weekend while celebrating a friends birthday over some of Kentucky’s finest, we expanded the idea…matching up classic guitars with classic motorcycles or maybe iconic guitars and motorcycles. We started with a Gibson Les Paul mated with a Matchless G50 Single, perfect. A Fender Telecaster with an early model Harley Sportster..well, maybe? Then another perfect fit hit us, an Indian Chief with a National Steel guitar.

As the evening continued on and more Makers Mark was consumed, the match ups got better and more difficult. Now the disclaimer here…nobody in this discussion was riding or driving…we all have very tolerant,wonderful and sober wives.

I put this concept out to friends and got some good match ups..interestingly enough though, most of of the pairings involved Harley Davidson. Fender guitars used to place ads in magazines such as Surfer in the 1960’s featuring their guitars alongside either a woody, a Triumph Bonneville, even a little Honda step through..you remember them..”you meet the nicest people on a Honda”, and of course, a Harley Davidson Sportster.

Then the e-mails started coming. After sorting through them I pulled a few that I thought interesting. My friend John Wayne, yes thats his real name, is the best automotive exhaust guy just about anywhere..he knows sound and flow..his pairing was his own 1965 Harley XLH and his Gretsch Country Gentleman guitar. I liked it. Josh Chinn submitted his chopped ‘67 Triumph alongside his Fender Sunburst Telecaster, he even painted the bike to match the guitar. Next up was Susan Elliot from Chicago, her match up was her dad’s old Martin acoustic and his old Harley Electra Glide. She couldn’t remember the year of the bike or the guitar, they have both been sitting in her garage for almost 20 years since her father passed away.

And lastly…and certainly the best… Ian Livingston of Casitas Springs California..I hope you’re ready for this one…a 1959 Gibson Flying ‘V’ guitar and…and…his 1967…Vespa. I kid you not. I laughed so hard I scared my dog, but then, it made perfect sense. Why would that make sense you ask?? Ian used to live in Europe, played in a band and raced scooters. Too cool.Ian and his Vespa2

This is only the beginning of this train of thought..there have been a good number of friends who have come up with great motorcycles and music ideas. Some are old and worn out and some intriguing. Let’s see where this train takes us.