Almost sixty years ago a young man walked by the storefront news racks grabbing every hotrod book and magazine that caught his eye. Seeing the art work of legends like Kenny Howard and Ed Roth plastering the pages and covers of everyone that he picked up, it didn’t take long for him to realize what he wanted to do with his life. Sonny Keeton began to pinstripe and paint before he was old enough to drive. He has seen over half a century of new styles, fads and old styles reborn, because of this Sonny will be the first to tell you there is “no such thing as old school just school”.
Walking up to the plain set of double doors I felt as though I was gaining access into a secret room that most have never seen. The simple wooden walls of his work space are covered with full size prints of magazine cover pages, amazing artwork, paintings, pictures and autographs. I tried to keep count of all the various magazine covers which either featured a bike Mr. Keeton built, or a cover spread about him. After a few minutes I gave up and knew that over the last 50 years it has been a lot. Walking further into his world I began to notice bikes that I remember seeing as a young man flipping through the glossy bold pages of motorcycle magazines or at shows behind velvet ropes just close enough to catch glimpses of the amazing craftsmanship that went into every aspect of building them. It was like walking through a museum filled with childlike excitement, knowing that all of the things there on every bench and shelf as well as the pictures of the men standing next to him on the walls were the very reason I feel so passionate about not only my love of motorcycles but also the culture that seems to engulf every aspect of it. Sonny welcomed me in without hesitation and began to show me things that to the normal passerby would just look like a bunch of random items, but to the biker community priceless pieces of Americana and history. We walked around the rest of his shop to see projects he has done or that are in the process of being completed. The faint smell of fresh welds and primer filled the air and seemed about as familiar to me as my father’s Bay Rum aftershave. We sat down and spoke for hours and I probably could have stayed for days. Not wanting to take up too much of his time I gathered my things to leave; he gave me a handshake and a smile as if he had known me my whole life, and reminded me to “keep my rubber side down”. In a modern world filled with overnight parts and vinyl stick on graphics it gave me hope knowing that tucked away behind simple wooden doors the things I love have not been lost, but are still there waiting for the next young man who spends his time in storefront news racks staring and dreaming; to absorb, learn, and share with many generations to come. Until next time keep it shiny side up and enjoy the ride.