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Soul on Bikes Hardcover – January 26, 2004

37 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Frost Illustrated Feb. 7, 2007

“Soul on Bikes: The East Bay Dragons MC and the Black Biker Set is a fascinating biography of a fascinating black man and an equally fascinating black movement.”

From the Publisher

The East Bay Dragons Motorcycle Club has gunned its Harleys through the meanest streets of Oakland, Calif., since the 1950s. While Rosa Parks took her historic bus ride, before Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Huey P. Newton and the Black Panthers stood bravely for equal rights, the East Bay Dragons MC risked life and limb during the days when it was a revolutionary act for a black man to ride a Harley chopper.

Here's a slice of underground American and African-American history you're unlikely to read in any history book. Tobie Gene Levingston and his colorful cast of misfits and comrades are an all-black, all-Harley, all-chopper group of motorcyclists who have found more than their fair share of violence and redemption on the battlegrounds of urban America.

Headquartered in Oakland, California, the East Bay Dragons exist alongside the Hell's Angels and the Oakland Raiders, securing their place as modern urban folk heroes. Starting out in the 1950s as a car club, Tobie Gene and the Dragons switched to two wheels and encountered street scuffles, rival clubs, ethnic stereotypes, police misconduct, and racial tensions. Their legacy is an untold portion of African-American history. From his humble beginnings as the son of a poor sharecropper, Tobie Gene became the founder and president of the nation's most elite exclusively black motorcycle club. Soul on Bikes recounts the club's adventures with humor, attitude, and most important, soul.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 263 pages
  • Publisher: Motorbooks; 1st edition (January 26, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076031747X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0760317471
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #615,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Keith and Kent Zimmerman are a unique twin-brother writing team. They have written 18 books together. Their latest projects will be published in 2014, two music projects that include Shining Star, Braving the Elements of Earth Wind & Fire, co-written with Philip Bailey of EWF and published by Viking. Published by Broadway /Random House in March 2011, Operation Family Secrets is a gripping narrative nonfiction work about the Chicago mob. It's being developed as a major motion picture. Recent published works by "the Zimmermen" include Alice Cooper, Golf Monster with rock legend Alice Cooper for Crown/Random House as well as A Personal Stand, with Country superstar Trace Adkins published by Villard/Random House.

Their first literary project was Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs, John Lydon's acclaimed memoirs of the Sex Pistols and the London punk scene. Rotten was nominated for a Ralph J. Gleason Award in 1994, was a Number One bestseller in the UK, and is in print in six languages and has recently been reissued. Immediately after the release of Rotten, they co-authored a book in 1996 for St. Martin's Press entitled Daddy-O: Iguana Heads and Texas Tales about American Southwest photorealist painter and sculptor Robert "Daddy-O" Wade.

In 2000 the Zimmerman brothers scored their first New York Times bestseller with Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Ralph "Sonny" Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club. Hell's Angel has been published in fifteen countries. Four subsequent books written with Barger include Ridin' High, Livin' Free (a short story collection) and two thrillers, Dead In 5 Heartbeats and Six Chambers, One Bullet, and Freedom: Credos From the Road, all published by William Morrow/HarperCollins. Their sixth book, Soul On Bikes, was a true tale of an all-black/all-male/all-Harley motorcycle club called the East Bay Dragons, published by Motorbooks Int'l.

In 2004 BackBeat Books published the Zimmerman brothers' seventh book (and first music book since Rotten) called Sing My Way Home: Voices of the New American Roots Rock. In 2005 Simon & Schuster/Spotlight Entertainment published Mythbusters: The Explosive Truth Behind 30 of the Most Perplexing Urban Legends of All Time, based on the popular science television show seen worldwide on the Discovery Network. Next the Zimmermen completed a biography of Black Panther Party founder Huey P. Newton with David Hilliard. Huey: Spirit of the Panther was published by Avalon Press in 2006.

The Zimmermen also collaborated with the Teutul family--Paul Sr., Paul Jr., and Mikey--on Orange County Choppers: The Tale of the Teutuls for Warner Books. The book is also partially based on their hit television series, American Chopper. The Zimmermen also wrote The Art of Jazz, the official 50th Anniversary book for the Monterey Jazz Festival.

The two brothers began their writing careers in the music industry, having spent over two decades as Senior Editors with the national music trade magazine formerly known as Gavin. In April of 2005, the Zimmermen were named 2005 Writer Laureates by the San Francisco Friends of the Library. In addition, the Zimmermen teach a weekly creative writing class in H-Unit at San Quentin State Prison.

On the film front, Huey has been optioned for a mini-series by HBO, and Hell's Angel will star Mickey Rourke with Fox studios and director Tony Scott (Top Gun, True Romance) at the helm. Operation Family Secrets is also in development as a motion picture.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By D. Sean Brickell on January 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Soul On Bikes is a terrific story and even better read. Tobie Gene provides an interesting perspective on the Old South and the rise of Blacks in America. Along the way beatnicks, hippies, urban revolutionaries, Hells Angels, and other counterculture segments of society are respectfully given proper narriative.
Most of all, the real reason to read this book is fun. Words fly off the pages faster than a chopped Harley. Every page reveals yet more interesting details about bike riders and their clubs. As a society open only to Blacks and Harley riders, the East Bay Dragons M.C. has maintained its status as one of our nation's oldest, most formidable organizations.
Here's the real test: I haven't riden in more than 30 years since the last time I put a bike down in traffic and thought it was the end. I'm white and from the east coast. There aren't too many similarities on the surface between the Dragons and me.
Nonetheless, as the book unfolds I can wholly identify with the spirit of the Dragons without having to stretch my imagination.
That's what I call an engaging book.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Dera R Williams VINE VOICE on May 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I must admit I had very little knowledge nor contact with bikers or motorcycle clubs. I had heard of The East Bay Dragons, founded in Oakland and of course, everyone knew the Hell's Angels. Both were synonymous with danger and bad news in my sheltered existence. Their rough manner and their reputation of being bad asses was reason to avoid them. So, it was with great surprise while reading Soul on Bikes: The East Bay Dragons MC and the Black Biker Set, Marcus Book Store's April book club Selection, to find out that the East Bay Dragons is an integral part of Oakland history.
Tobie Gene Levingston and his family were a part of the northern migration to the East Bay from the southern states in the 1950s; his family being from rural Louisiana. Enticed by the burgeoning factories and other labor jobs and longing to escape the drudgery and endless, vicious cycle of sharecropping that so many black families had succumbed to as a legacy of slavery, California offered new beginnings towards a brighter future. Levingston, then in his early twenties began working in an iron foundry. The work was dirty and back breaking but it enabled him to contribute to his family finances and indulge in some luxuries; one of those being cars. He formed a car club but his group ran into some trouble with the local police and as a result disbanded. Not long after that, Levingston became interested in motorcycles and formed The East Bay Dragons, a black motorcycle club that is active to this day.
Because of the problems he had with the car club, Levingston was determined to keep the MC on the straight and narrow. But as this was a group of young black men, just the sight of them on their bikes, raised fear and ire to other residents and law enforcement agencies.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Too often the motorcycle enthusiast press and mainstream media atempt to portray motorcycling as a sport whiter than ice hockey: "Soul On Bikes" provides a fascinating and wholly unexpected side of two-wheeled culture that few know of. This biograhy combines some very funny and exciting personal insights and rich historical chronicles of the African-American motorcycle scene on the West Coast during the last half century. Tobie Gene Legingston lived through the rough years of the segregated South, became part of the huge black migration to economic independence in the post WWII years and helped create a biking culture - one of working-class pride in Harley-Davidson motorcycles - that continues to this day. You won't read about this in the pages of Easyriders, but "Soul" provides evidence that custom biking is not white, nor black, not Latino, or Asian, but a uniquely American phenomenon appreciated by all kinds of riders.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A. Thompson on September 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A good read. I have lived in East Oakland all my life and know the East Bay Dragons very well, but it was great to get the uncensored history about this organization that Mom didnt want to tell me until now (after I read the book). Its a good feeling to know that there is deep history in East Oakland but many people especially of my generation take it for granted.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By sseale on April 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As a member of the younger generation, it was great to learn what happened on the set before me. It's cool to hear how the different clubs got along and how sometimes color doesn't matter, but sometimes it does. This book is great for anyone wanting to know more about the black biker set.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book and about a week later found out that tobie gene and sonny barger were going to be at the oakland,ca harley davidson signing books it truly was a pleasure meeting those two I had seen them many times before and they both signed soul on bikes, and dead in 5 heartbeats. The book was very good having grown up in oakland many times I heard the dragons roaring down the streets on their harleys. Soul on bikes is amazing and talks about him growing up and forming first a car club, and later a motorcycle club. So many people when they saw my book simply focused on the negative like the problems the dragons had with some drug dealers, which was talked about in the book briefly, (and to me just enough) but it was good to read about the positives of motorcycle clubs and how it changed some peoples lives for the better. A truly good read.
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