I had just started my new job and was googling something on the web, enthusiastic to be putting my writing skills to work for my new employer, but my hands froze on the keyboard and my blood ran cold when I saw the headlines pop up: a local automotive journalist had gone missing. Clicking on the banner, I was stunned to read that the missing journalist was Davey G. Johnson, a one-time editor of Gearhead Magazine.
I read with shock and numbness the details of his disappearance. Traveling back to Sacramento after taking a bike out on a test drive for an article he was writing, he was just a few hours from home when he stopped at the side of the road, apparently to rest and take a quick dip in the snow-fed river that wound through the mountain pass he was traveling on. There were pictures of his last text to his girlfriend and a photo he had texted of himself to a buddy; he is bare-chested sitting down.
The authorities had found his motorcycle parked purposefully, with his helmet and gloves balanced on the seat. Further away, his laptop, phone, some clothes, and his backpack rested on the shore. Search teams and sniffer dogs scoured the area over the next 10 days looking for traces of Davey, always leading back to the river’s edge. Late in the day June 20, 2019, they found his body, washed downstream in a local reservoir ending the worry and anxiety that had gripped our close-knit community of automotive and lifestyle journalists for almost two weeks. Accidental drowning is the believed cause of death, but there were few clues about what happened to a man who spent his life on the road.
Shock, disbelief, and a deep sadness filled my heart. And yes, anger. Anger flooded my body as quick as molten lava in the next split second because he grew up in an area where late spring snowmelt turns rivers and lakes into surging death traps; he should have known better! I was angry at him for leaving his new fiancé alone to struggle with the unanswered questions, never knowing for certain what happened.
It had been many years since Davey and I spoke. We were once so close as we worked together on Gearhead issues #12, #13, and #14 in the early 2000s with Davey sporting the editor's cap and me supporting him as owner/publisher. Being close to fifteen years older than he, our relationship was more that of big sister and little brother than that of editor and publisher.
His giddy joy at being tapped to head up Gearhead bubbled out of his body like so much foamy beer poured too fast in a warm glass. He was ecstatic, ebullient, literally bouncing with joy and enthusiasm at the opportunity that landed at his feet.
But on the flip side, like the two sides of a tarnished coin, he was also crushed with heartache and struggling with depression and despair, lacking confidence and consumed with grief from having just been dumped by a girl he thought he would share his life with.
We spent many hours together in person and on the phone; me encouraging him to focus on his work as therapy and healing, and he wallowing in heartache. Flipping back and forth between gratitude for his new position and despair at ever finding a partner to share his life with, he proceeded to produce three of the best issues in the Gearhead library.
His style of writing was just like his style of living: a mash-up of punk rock attitude and clear-cut automotive authority. Snarky and pointed at times, but also sweet and complimentary, I was amazed at his ability to mix these various attitudes and write with such a clear personal voice that it felt like he was there talking to you.
After those three issues, Davey stepped down, handing back the editor hat to my former partner, claiming it was just too much responsibility and too overwhelming to continue. He was so dedicated; he threw his whole heart and soul into his work. But he was also deeply self-critical.
He worried he wasn’t living up to our expectations, but I encouraged him to keep going, but he declined and went back to freelancing, doing what he loved; prodding and poking and being free to work when he chose, with no rails closing him in.
He moved on to write for many well-known publications and we lost touch. I had reached out several times over the intervening years but was met with silence from the other end. I don’t know why, but I never stopped being proud when I read one of his amazing articles, his voice shining out loud and clear, that giddy little kid thrilling in the ability to shock people with his punk rock references and then pulling them in with his stunning automotive knowledge.
Mixed emotions still tumble around in the pit of my stomach like river rocks being tossed by a violent current. Right after his death was announced many tributes that flooded the Internet honoring this incredibly complex man; some beautiful, some thoughtful, all impressed with his knowledge and style. It has been a year since his passing and I am still struggling to put words to what I am feeling. I wasn’t sure I had the right to pay tribute to him. But throughout this year, I’ve thought a lot about how much his life and death impacted my life.
.These memories will forever be frozen in time. We will never have the chance to reconnect, and I will never have the chance to tell him how proud of him I am, and how happy I am to see he finally found the love of his life.
As I write, I wonder, do I have a right to mourn someone who no longer was a part of my life? The tears well up and spill down my cheeks when I think of his deep yearning for love and companionship and I ache for the woman he left behind. Even now, one year later, I struggle with this bitter twisted mix of anger and sadness, numbness, and grief. His giddy giggle haunts my dreams now.
What happened? Why did we stop talking? I don’t know. When my former partner in Gearhead and I split up, deep gaping crevices in both our business and personal relationships appeared. It’s like a divorce you know? Once a couple splits up, friends inevitably take sides. I don’t know if that caused our drifting apart but it could be. I will never know.
We use to talk deeply and personally about our heartaches and shared experiences of longing for love only to have those hopes and dreams smashed to the ground by betrayal or apathy. We didn’t talk about cars much; music was our shared language of pain and grief, hope and excitement, and joy.
He touched my life at a pivotal moment in time when I was struggling after my divorce to find my voice and authenticity and to define myself separately from the looming shadow of my business partner. Davey helped me find my voice as he searched for his. He gave me the freedom to dig deep into my soul and share the language of passion as it related to our silly little punk rock hot rod world of Gearhead. His voice gave me the courage and confidence to write with my voice.
When I wanted to write about Dwight Yoakum, he encouraged me, even though country music at that time was far from cool. He urged me to explore it because it mattered to me. That is what I most remember and mourn now as I think about Davey.
He was fearless in exploring his overlapping passions, mixing them into the same article with such authenticity and sincerity that it left those reading his words laughing and shaking their heads in amusement. I wonder if he knew how much he was admired, and how inspiring he was.
This morning, I crawled up in the hot dusty attic looking for the old cardboard box of Gearhead press clippings I have saved over the years. I have a vivid memory of a story Davey did for Drive magazine back in 2002, when he sweet-talked the manufacturers into letting him take a Prowler on the road to Texas to be part of Gearhead’s first US Gearfest in Austin, TX.
Somehow he was able to write an article about The Prowler in the context of the festival and the story went to print with a mix of punk rock mayhem combined with the technical savvy using Gearhead bands and Gearfest as the backdrop for the story.
I haven’t opened up that box since I taped it shut with clear cellophane packing tape years ago as if I was taping up old cherished love letters. I knew this treasure trove was there, just waiting for the right time for me to feel safe enough to dig through the faded ink and weathered paper; to allow my heart to celebrate the events and people long gone from my life, not by death but through attrition or the desire to move in a different direction in one’s life.
As I dug through the dusty files my heart leaped every time I found a new article I had forgotten about. It was a walk down memory lane, and one of deep validation.
But I didn’t’ find the article I was looking for. I have such a vivid memory of seeing that article; I recall there’s even a picture of Davey and me with the Prowler. Why didn’t I save that? It seems like something I would have kept and cherished as it involved a moment in time that was so pivotal for me.
Mostly though, I just wanted to re-read Davey’s words and see how he managed to meld Gearfest with a review of the Prowler. I'm sure it was cheeky and irreverent but relevant to the reason he was loaned the car in the first place. I reached out to Drive Magazine, but it is under new ownership and they had destroyed all the old files.
Maybe not finding that article is just as well. It is a symbol of a time long forgotten, of relationships turned to dust, of music and friendship and bombastic coolness wrapped around faded memories like a rich piece of smoky bacon wrapped around chicken and grilled to perfection; delicious, satisfying and stored in the memory banks to be savored in leaner times.
I tug at these memories and find peace and stillness in my heart. Even if I can't find that old article, I have the words he wrote for Gearhead right in front of me, and they help soothe the grief. We dreamed and manifested something tangible; a testament and validation of the joy and authenticity once felt while collaborating creatively on a passion project. His spirit and energy are embedded in his writing and his voice will live on forever, rooted in black ink on thick white book stock. I can read those words and feel close to him still; love, pride, and surrender fill in where tears and grief once lived. As I grieve Davey, I also grieve those long-forgotten experiences and how different everything is now.
Davey allowed me to deep dive inside my soul. So many people reminisced about his contributions to the world of automotive journalism, but that was only the periphery of how deeply he touched my life. It was the open door but not the interior.
He died a happy man, doing what he loved to do, with a wonderful loving partner waiting for him at home. He left this world having achieved what he yearned for all those years ago.
As you crossed that rainbow bridge, I hope you found D. Boone and the other rock and roll angels you admired and were inspired by waiting for you. I hope you know how much you inspired those around you, and what an incredible impact your life had on those of us left behind.
Thank you for your passion and fearless approach to life. Thank you for giving me the courage to write with my voice. The Spark Plug shirt you designed for Gearhead says it all: Rock. Davey G. Johnson, you Rocked.
My heart is heavy as I continue to process the sad news that yet another friend has died. Beth Hood passed away this last week and the news has just devastated me. She was bright, fun, smart, and passionate. How could she be gone? She was a mama first and foremost, and an artist and musician secondly. She was also voted Ms. Gearhead 2016/17 and it is in this capacity that we got to know each other. I keep thinking I’m going to wake up and this sad news was all just a bad dream. Someone so alive and vibrant could not be gone; it just doesn’t seem real.
I created the Ms. Gearhead contest because I was sick of women being treated as eye candy in the hot rod world. I wanted to celebrate the qualities women brought to our community and Beth had those qualities in spades. Smart, outspoken and fiercely committed to giving back to her community, she embodied strength, courage, resiliency and fortitude. As a single mom raising two little boys, she taught them by example. Helping them to embrace their own passions, she explored art as well as sports with her kids. Her dream was to one day open an art school for children, hoping to help kids find their own creative voice as she had.
Sure, she was gorgeous. But it was that inner spark that shone bright through her eyes and laughter. She savored life and all it had to offer and lived it out loud, exuberant, passionate and creative in all she did. She became the Gearhead brand ambassador, wearing her Ms. Gearhead crown proudly to car shows and punk shows, posing for pictures and talking to customers but above all, being deeply true to her own person every single moment.
I am blessed and grateful to have known and worked with her these last few years and deeply saddened that this bright vivacious light is gone from this earth. You now grace the heavens with the brilliance of a shooting star Beth. You will be missed each and every day.
Read Beth’s interview here. Proceeds from the sale of the remaining posters will go to the Go Fund Me account set up for her boys.
by Dean Case, Gearhead Motorsports Advisor
editors note: Join the California Automobile Museum for a special showing of the movie August 24, 2019 at 11 am in Sacramento. Proceeds to benefit the Museum
Disclosure: I consider Garth Stein to be a friend, having first met him a decade ago. I first read the Art of Racing in the Rain in 2008 along with my Mazda Motorsports teammates at the time. We all loved the book. We loved it enough to cold call Garth and invite him to race an MX-5 Cup car in Portland. Jim Jordan loved it enough to urge/nag/push Patrick Dempsey into reading it, telling him he should option the movie rights. He did. It then took a decade to get it approved, funded, shot, edited, and on August 9th, released.
My comments will NOT include any spoilers, but thanks to a KCET Cinema Series event, I watched the film last week with a theater full of hardcore film buffs. They loved it as did I.
I purposely did NOT reread the book before seeing the movie. My fear was that if I did, I would nitpick the movie anytime it failed to follow the exact storyline of the book. It is not the exact storyline, but it follows the spirit of the book closely, and Enzo gets the best lines in the movie.
A few thoughts to consider.
The movie stands on it’s own. Every race fan should see it. Take the dog lover in your life to see it. And if they haven’t read the book, buy them a copy of the book and take them to a real race. If you teared up while reading the book, expect the same when you see the movie. If you did not tear up reading the book, what is wrong with you?
Remember that the book and movie are FICTION. Racing is the backdrop, and racers loved the fact that Garth nailed the details in the book. I recall no less of a motorsports authority than Leo Mehl telling me that Garth captured Aryton Senna’s personality perfectly. Garth never met Aryton, but he understands racers.
Like everything in life, the movie producers had a budget to work within and a schedule to maintain. Someone had to balance the cost of real cars vs CGI, especially if a crash scene was a part of the story line. Here’s a minor spoiler – there is no big crash in the Art of Racing in the Rain. That’s a good thing to me. Racing was portrayed as a serious profession, one where it is very difficult to succeed, but dramatic crashes? None. They hired Jeff Zwart to shoot all of the racing scenes, so race fans should love the track action, but they will likely want more. Would that have been cool for race fans? Yes. Would it have made for a better movie? No.
I’m pretty certain the number of “dog people” who read the Art of Racing In The Rain vastly outnumbers the “car people”. A movie like this, with a positive depiction of racing, will hopefully bring in new fans. Race fans who loved the Steve McQueen “Le Mans” movie ignore the fact that it tanked at the box office and did not appeal to anyone who wasn’t a hardcore race fan or Steve McQueen fan. It was two hours of amazing cinematography without any real story. “Le Mans” was an argument against studios doing racing movies for many years.
For me the “best” non-documentary racing movie was “Grand Prix” as it balanced story, acting, action, casting, cinematography, soundtrack and everything else that makes a movie great. It appealed to race fans and non-race fans. I also liked “Rush” even though I thought it was s dumb title.
I would argue the most “significant” racing movie was “Winning” as that started the amazing race career of the one we knew as PL Newman in the paddock. Fingers crossed that Milo Ventimiglia or Amanda Seyfried decides to follow in the footsteps of Paul Newman or Patrick Dempsey. Not likely, but we can hope.
Final thoughts. I was really surprised at the lack of product placements. Given the nature of the sport, I expected a lot. It was almost non-existent. Denny even races at “Laguna Seca” and I am happy about that.
My only complaint on the movie was that Enzo is seen being adopted from a puppy mill (that’s not a spoiler as it’s in the trailer). I wanted him to be a shelter dog. The producer who did Q&A at the screening I attended, said the dogs used in the move were actually rescue dogs, so I’ll take that as a win.
Back in 2008 there was a rumor that NASCAR wanted the movie version to be altered to make Denny a stock car racer. It was joked that the movie would then become “The Art of Standing in the Garage, Waiting for the Rain to Stop”
GO SEE THE MOVIE. BUY A FRIEND A COPY OF THE BOOK. TAKE A FRIEND TO A RACE.
The Darts - I Like You But Not Like That
Review by Matthew Hutchison
2016 was a notable year for a few different reasons, but in this context, we’re talking about the realities for AZ/CA Nicole Laurenne, Rikki Styxx, and Christina Nunez due to their shared drive and ambitions manifesting itself into The Darts. Three years together and The Darts are already one of the more formidable bands in the US underground circuit that deserve every amount of success they’ve hit and held with a vice grip. Why formidable? One look at their discography and touring history tells you all that you need: Two LP releases (including the one we’re talking about here - I Like You But Not Like That) and a slew of EPs along with treks across the United States and Europe. Ambitious for sure but when your band leader is a judge, mother, and label manager, this is what you’re signing up for, and better be in for the long haul and check yourself if not the case. While still a new band, these women aren’t new to this world and lifestyle through cutting teeth and chops prior (and in tandem) with The Love Me Nots, Motobunny, The Dollyrots, and The Two Tens. Yet, it’s clear that The Darts are their most ambitious project to date with their resource investments providing an ROI with opportunities playing high profile festivals in both the New and Old Word, touring with some of the more significant names in punk/garage (The Damned comes to mind), and releasing material on heavy hitting labels in the punk/garage world, including Alternative Tentacles for this day’s subject.
I Like You But Not Like That isn’t their first rodeo on Jello Biafra’s imprint due to their 7” debut being a split release on AT alongside Dirty Water Records. However, that was three years and two songs only; today counts with a half hour plus LP debut that grounds them as a group of substance and one of the hardest working bands in the US underground rock circuit.
Entering the fold on guitars is Meliza Jackson, another AZ native rounding out this group as now being primarily from the Valley of the Sun (aka Phoenix, AZ). The big takeaway from I Like You But Not Like That is the catchy factor within the songwriting and also proof that The Darts are consistent in writing catchy, good material consistently. No puffery here; this is fact from someone who's followed them from the start and has caught a few of their live shows in the Los Angeles area, highly recommended you see them for yourself. From the beginning, the album delivers high energy with, this album’s theme leans towards a femme fatale mystique that Laurenne embodies with her voice exuding both sultriness and confidence. The somber “Don’t Hold My Hand” is their most melodic cut which holds a garage rock meets smokey lounge vibe reinforced by the sultriness factor Laurenne’s vocals exhibit. By the Not letting up on tracks such as “My Way,” “New Boy,” and “Thin Line” are great examples of the ladies displaying instrumental prowess with Jackson’s hard riffs intersecting Laurenne’s booming Farfisa while howling lyrics in a forceful, matter-of-fact manner. Nunez's deep, overdriven bass lines bring a post-punk feel to the album, most notably on the concluding track “ Where’s The Rain” and the single “Love U 2 Death” while Styxx drumming shows versatility and why she’s an in-demand drummer in the Los Angeles rock scene.
The Darts are a contemporary take on a nostalgic sound and proves there's more life than ever in a global scene often overlooked. I Like You But Not Like That is a solid album from front to back.
Swing by the Alternative Tentacles web store to grab a copy.
The Darts Online
Alternative Tentacles Online
The Darts Facebook
Alternative Tentacles Facebook
If you haven't yet noticed, GEARHEAD has a Spotify presence. Every week we will be posting a new playlist, featuring some of our favorite punk, garage, and rock from over the years. This week, we're saluting the women of rock with our female front women playlist GIRLS ROCK. Check it out today, and make sure you follow us so you keep up with all the action.
The Jackets - Queen of the Pill
(Voodoo Rhythm Records)
Guest Post by The Heathen
The Jackets sound like they weren’t born for these times, but from the social media metrics they carry, their online followers likely weren’t either. That’s fine, from select albums released by The Hives, TV Killers, or even Immortal Lee County Killers, those groups weren’t either, and The Jackets fall somewhere between those with a bit of The Love Me Nots in there. These groups started around the turn of or post millennium as part of a new wave of garage rock/punk with a late 60s go-go, proto-punk edge to them, seems like we’re amid a balls-out garage punk revolution yet again. Originating from Switzerland, this lady led, fuzz guitar riddled trio has a reputation for their high energy live shows that have demanded them to cross oceans to tour The New World a few times along with routes all over Europe on multiple occasions. The reason we’re talking about them is due to their new album Queen of the Pill slated for a Summer release and the power it packs within the ten tracks.
Having already released snippets from the record via a 7” release ("Queen of the Pill/Be Myself" - Voodoo Rhythm Records) in 2017, the original album’s production quality makes those sound like refined demos to what the record holds. Enlisting the assistance of engineer Jim Diamond (Bantam Rooster, The Sonics, The Gore Gore Girls, and tons more to his name) helps deliver the gut punch you receive on this. The songwriting has both a refined and raw garage feel in all tempos with the straight bangers being “Deeper Way,” “Losers Lullaby,” and the title track. Hell, judging from the spitfire lyrics their leader Jack Torrea (guitar/vocals) expels in the track “Losers Lullaby,” it’s hard to tell if she’s genuinely angry or being mellow about it. The standout track and highlight is the ethereal “Floating Alice” with its garage rock meets eastern music arrangement and Chris Rosales (drums) layered percussion scattered throughout.
Queen of the Pill is genuinely a solid release and should push The Jackets from the pantheons of obscurity into the jangled mind of rockers all over the world, the album itself justifies that statement.
Swing by Cobraside Record's US web store to grab a copy.
The Jackets Online
Voodoo Rhythm Records Online
The Jackets Facebook
Voodoo Rhythm Records Facebook
Gearhead grew out of the punk rock scene of the late 80s early 90s so it is only fitting that we finally create a Gearhead Spotify account! Check out the first Spotify playlist, and follow us please!
The Jackets are a group any Gearhead reader should be familiar with, if not, then here's your chance. Voodoo Rhythm Records asked us if we'd like to premiere the new track "Dreamer" off their upcoming Queen of the Pill album and we couldn't say no. They're one of the most exciting bands going today holding one of the most exciting front woman of this generation. If there's anyone that consistently channels the high energy of Wayne Kramer in mix with the attitude of The Blackhearts, it's Jackie Brutsche.
"Dreamer" gives off an old school garage rock feel with a sliding fuzz riff opening the track then quickly picks up speed with the rhythm section while Brutsche howls and harmonizes throughout. Some heavy hitters were involved with Queen of the Pill including King Khan (King Khan & The Shrines, King Khan & The BBQ Show) producing, Nene Barrato (Movie Star Junkies) recording, and Jim Diamond (The White Stripes, The Dirtbombs, Andre Williams) mixing and mastering.
Get down with The Jackets. Queen of the Pill will be available on vinyl, CD, and online throughVoodoo Rhythm Records on June 14th.
Photo copyright - Inaki Esnaola
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The legendary Lady Luck Tattoo and Art Expo once again hits the biggest little city in the world, Reno, NV. The Circus Circus Hotel and Casino is the spot and tattooing is the name of the game. April 5-7, 2019 will see the little casino town inundated with body art, bright colors, and wild, out-of-this-world self-expression.
The17th Annual Lady Luck Tattoo Convention, put on by Pittsburgh, PA based Meeting of the Marked and Pinnacle Tattoo will be located again this year at Circus Circus Hotel and Casino in Reno, NV. It features 3 days of world-renowned tattoo artists, tattoo and flash contests, informative talks, plus many vendors, among them the Elk Grove, CA based record label, magazine and clothing company GEARHEAD. The convention has been selected as one of the top ten best conventions worldwide by Rank My Tattoos website in previous years.
Interested visitors can get a 3-Day VIP pass for $35. Admission at the door is $15 per day. Children 14 and under are free. Anyone wanting to get tattooed must be 18 years of age or older, and must have a valid ID. Book an appointment ahead with your favorite tattoo artist (click here for the full list of artists) or enjoy browsing the booths of over fifty artists from around the USA to discover your new favorite artist. The hours for the convention are Friday April 5 2 pm -10 pm, Saturday April 6 12 pm – 10 pm and Sunday April 7 12 pm – 7 pm.
Make this a weekend get-away by booking your stay at host hotel Circus Circus Reno and enjoy convention rooms specials. Call Hotel Registration at 1-800-648-5010 or register online.
GEARHEAD owner Michelle Haunold spoke enthusiastically about the the convention and founder Tim Azinger. “We have vended at this event for several years, and then took a 10 year break,” explains Haunold. “I was focused on getting Gearhead Magazine back up and running and Tim and the Lady Luck Tattoo Convention were one of my first stories. You can read all about the event and how it was created in Gearhead Magazine No. 19. Tim is so enthusiastic and down to earth, and clearly loves what he does. The atmosphere of the event is really supportive and fun, no rockstar bullshit like at so many other tattoo conventions. I’m really excited about vending again this year!”
Show off your fresh ink in Tattoo of the day contest or enter one of your favorite healed tattoos in other contests, including Black and Grey, Large or Small Tattoo, Traditional, Portrait among others. For a full list of events visit the Schedule of Events
For more information, contact M.O.M. Productions at 412-531-5319
Rock 'n' Roll/Automotive Journalist, Influencer, Editor and Publisher of Gearhead Magazine,