A History Of The Mag From Our Tenth Anniversary In April 2007
Well, it looks like we made it to our tenth year anniversary, and brother, there was never a sign that we would, until like last week, ya’ know? So, I promised everyone on staff that when we reached this milestone I’d write a little article on the story of how this rag came to be. People still can’t believe it when I tell them, and maybe in print it’ll validate it somehow, so here goes.
In 1996 a brother of mine was going to prison and sold me his little aftermarket shop. I was bouncing in a strip club then and my lifelong brother Lou, who also worked there, needed a place to crash for awhile. He was between chicks and we agreed that he’d run the shop for a few hours at night after I left for work in exchange for a pad that we set up in the back. This was a good deal and was going fine; the shop was running good and we were making some dough. Then Lou came back from a trip to Florida with a copy of Action Magazine, a regional biker pub and before we knew it we were selling ads for our own magazine.
Now here’s the strange part, there was Lou, my chick at the time who was stripping her way through law school, and me, none of whom had any experience in sales, marketing, computer graphics, or publishing. To make things worse, she had the only high school diploma and was the only one that came close to having a handle on basic grammar, with out the insertion of frequent hillbonics at least, oh yeah, and we had no computer. OK, the first order of business was to secure a computer. We had about half the ads sold that we needed for that first issue and Lou started dating a chick that had a PC. We borrowed it and gave ad layout a shot. Our first attempts were horrible and we immediately decided to put off the first issue for one month. We knew these cats that were doing a local stripper mag and they gave us some quick , tips on desktop publishing. So there we were, a stripper and two bouncers doing ads on a borrowed computer trying to publish a magazine we had no idea how to assemble. It was, to say the least, a trial by fire. But, ten years later, we never missed an issue.
As we printed our first, second ,and third issues, then our first, second, and third year of issues, we learned a little about the computer, picked up some righteous cats along the way, and somehow made it to the national news stand.
None of this would have ever been possible without the good people in the motorcycle industry around Pittsburgh. You see, at first the magazine was free and only circulated there, so they were solely responsible for our survival. We thank each and every one of them for being patient and helping us make it to what our little local rag has grown into today.
In the following pages we’ve put down some of the memorable parts from each year, we hope you enjoy! It has been a strange trip, but one we wouldn’t trade for the world!
By our sixth anniversary, we printed our first glossy cover. That didn’t take so long, huh. In any event, it was starting to look like a real magazine and even the content was getting a polish job. We were starting to really assume the titles of journalists, photographers, etc. Near the end of the year we would also add a glossy centerfold section. This was great for the guys who got their bike featured ‘cause it was a tear out poster.
Vol. 1 – 1997
In the beginning it was just something we did for fun. The quality was lousy, the stories were short and miss-spelled but we loved what we were doing. The first issue was all of 24 pages, four of those were color, all on news print and very poorly assembled, but we did it! We managed to deliver 5,000 copies to 21 advertisers in our VW Bug, and as soon as we finished, we started on issue two.
Some of the most memorable things from 1997 was the first event we ever covered at Spirit Harley-Davidson, the Polar Bear Ride.
Our first human interest article appeared in the second issue when we got a chance to sit and talk with Babe Cerini. Babe was second generation of one of the oldest dealerships in the US and we were lucky to get to know him.
We lost two of the most well known figures in our community that year in Moose from Tattoos by Moose and Jack Kramer, who started out as a wrench at the original Pittsburgh Harley-Davidson.
In other news of the time, Harley opens their Sportster facility in Kansas, Princess Diana is killed in a car crash and Britain gives up Hong Kong.
1998 found us deeply entrenched in trying to keep our little paper afloat. By this year we were getting better at the actual business of running a local rag although the spelling wasn’t improving much. Our page count had doubled since the first year and we found the 48 pages an overwhelming amount of work. With one feature bike per issue, there was so much coordination involved in getting it all together, or so we thought.
I remember buying my first good 35mm camera this year. Since it seemed like we were going to stick around for awhile,
we invested in a Minolta 500 series manual 35. The photos got slightly better, but not without much practice..
This was also the first year the words “It’s all about the ride” started to show up in our articles. This phrase would end up being a major part of how we carried ourselves through the years. We started a few new columns one of which was Low Down’s Trivia.
In other news, Harley bought out Buell and celebrated 95 years. Clinton was in the hot seat for the dress, US and Britain bomb Iraq and Google is first launched on the world wide web.
Ya’ know, when we were young, it seemed like the song 1999 was so far off in the future, now it seems like a million years ago. In any event, our little magazine was pumping along by this point. We were still holding steady at the 48 page count, but we started to dress it up a little. We were steadily adding more color to the inside and a new cover design that came mid year, really started making us stand out.
This was the first year that we featured a Buell on our cover.
It was also the first time that we did a tech article with Mega-Flo. Jim had agreed to help us build the sickest Shovelhead in the world and it was the beginning of a long friendship that yielded many great tech articles.
Other ups was our first of seven annual chopper shows and Zanotti H-D celebrated their 75th anniversary. On the down side one of our staffers, the Big German, was heading back home. Another brother, Jody Petty, lost his life due to his own intensity and I miss him to this day. Lou had already moved on so it was down to me and the stripper chick.
In other news, Harley launches the Twin Cam 88 engine in the Touring and Dyna models, Clinton nearly avoids impeachment, NATO begins bombing in Kosovo and anxiety about Y2K runs amuck.
So 2000 came and none of our computers attacked us or anything, much to the chagrin of many would- be survivalists, I think.
2000 also saw our invasion of Ohio. By the end of the year we would have distribution as far as Cleveland, shattering the invisible border between two of the three tri-states. The cover above featured the winner of our second annual chopper show in the same year that New Castle H-D signed Shawn Higbee to their race team.
By our third anniversary the stripper was moving on. Shelley, who had been my girl for eight years had had enough of life with a magazine publisher and split. It was also the first year we would see the Ask Uncle Rock column. Rock was a real brother to me and helped me keep it together in the tough times after my chick left. I’ll be forever
grateful to him for that.
In other news, Harley introduces the Softail Deuce and Buell introduces the Blast. It was also the very sad time we saw the passing of Dennis Stemp, founder of Iron Works Mag, and my hero to this day!
Wow, by 2001 we were up to 80 pages, still on news print but growing to a solid three state area. We had many big things happen that year from the Iron City Beer can that one of our readers was featured on to our first trip to the Horse Mag’s second Smoke Out, but nothing was as cool as our first look at the Chopper Challenge. What started between four friends in a bar: one H-D dealer, two aftermarket shops and me, turned into a six month long competition to build the coolest bike.
Although many people will always remember the date 9/11 as the birth of tragedy for the events at the World Trade Center, it was, for me, days into what would be a year long ordeal in recovery from a bad wreck Jean and I were in.
In other news, Enron files chapter 11, Microsoft releases X-box, AOL buys Time Warner for $162 billion and the Russian space station, Mir, re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere. There were few years in the history of mankind that could be compared to the hard times our country faced in 2001 and in reflection, we can make it through anything having faced those horrors.
In ‘02, the Governor of West Virginia writes a letter to Cycle Source personally welcoming us to his beautiful state. Well, that was a strange twist; a notice from the government that’s a good one. One of our long time favorite bike joints, the Hog House Hotel, closes its doors. We lose a good friends that year in Bevan Cole.
Another redesign of the cover finds us in a comfortable spot to
assume that someday we will be a real magazine. New faces
were coming in all the time as our list of contributors continued to grow. Near the middle of ‘02 Jean Munier comes on as copy editor and accountant, and she would rue the day.
In other news, Harley released its 100th anniversary model line in the end of the year. With a limited number of colors to choose from, the 100th anniversary bikes would be sure to stand out for decades to come. This year would also mark Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee. Unfortunately for Americans, we would only have Wynona Ryder’s conviction for shoplifting to compare.
We also got our first national recognition in ‘03. Hammer from
The Horse, wrote a nice article about our mag and we owe him still. On a sad note, this marked the final days for chicks on the cover. After almost seven years we decided to ditch the chicks and begin to concentrate more on the bikes and the builders. Duke & Big turn 50, we lose Lou Tracktenberg from STD, our friends Nick Brack and Kelly Leisure and my dad, Jack Myers. Our 5th annual Choppershow was huge, my band, Stepnine, played the Hard Rock, the US invades Iraq, Martha Stewart goes to jail and the Space Shuttle blows up. This was a damn hard year!
In April of 2004, we run the first “Support Our Troops” page where we invite families of soldiers to send in a picture for publication. What was supposed to run for a short time until they all came home, is still in the magazine 3 years later and always growing. We are having a lot of fun with the magazine by this point; the new glossy pages really give us some creative freedom and the content starts to build. In 2004 we ran our first feature on the women’s movement in motorcycling and Ernie Copper wins the Lake Erie Loop. By the end of the year however, I was faced with selling my last few extra motorcycles to keep the magazine going through the winter. This had been common practice the whole time I’d owned the Source and loosing my chopper was the last straw. We start to talk seriously about putting a cover price on it next year. At this point we are distributing 20,000 copies for free and the cost is overwhelming at times.
In other news, many people will never forget Janet Jackson’s special Superbowl half time show, the final episode of Friends, the Red Sox finally break the curse and win the World Series and on a very sad note for us at the Source, Dime Bag Darrel is murdered on stage by a lunatic fan.
Early in the year, we make the decision to put a cover price on our rag. Just like in the beginning, we have no idea what we are doing and 30 days from the projected first issue, we still have no retail locations that will be selling the Source. Still, the months leading up to the cover price find us taking this job a lot more seriously in content and design. We get our first national level builder to feature on the cover in Led Sleds “Impaler” and we re-work the cover design entirely four times that year. As luck would have it, a deal with Newsgroup comes in as the first pay issue is at the printer. Damn that was close.
In July of 2005 our first issue goes out through regular retail locations in nine states at a cover price of $1.25 and the heat is on. Now that people that have never met or heard of us are reading the mag, we really start to work even harder.
Hunter S. Thompson took his own life early in 2005 and for me it was a loss of magnificent proportion. Hunter’s work had guided me through much of my work and he made me want to be a writer. That year also saw the NHL strike that canceled a season, pricks! Andrew Hines of Harley-Davidson Drag Racing wins his first NHRA Championship and the Sportsters get rubber mounted. Hmmmmm, I’ll leave that one alone.
In August of 2006, through a deal with Coast To Coast Newstand Services, the Cycle Source Magazine goes out to 48 states and Canada at the retail price of $3.99. At this point the magazine is full glossy and has a three feature bike format. We hit the hundred page mark, a level I felt we have to be at to charge four bucks and the magazine takes off like a shot. National builders become a consistant presence in the Source and during a trip to LA to shoot some of these cats, Sara and I get to spend some time with Johnny Chop. It was only weeks later that we were told of his passing. By the end of that year, Duke and I would take the ride of a lifetime to Bonneville, which brings us to the present.
Only four issues into 2007 and we feel like we are starting to really get
somewhere. With our Feb. issue titled “Generation Next” the industry starts to notice that we’re not just some kids in the back of a little aftermarket shop anymore. We thank everyone on the national scene for recognizing our hearts and our hard work. We know that we are the luckiest people alive, and we can’t wait to see what’s next! Keep an eye out for us when you’re out, we’ll be the ones riding into a town near you!
It’s seems impossible that it’s only been a year since I wrote that article. Still, that’s what life is like 30 days at a time. The strides we’ve made in the past year have been incredible and they make us feel liek the luckiest people alive. We’ve been all over the orld on bikes, written about some of the biggest figures in the industry and managed to keep the train on the tracks at the same time. All of it has been pretty cool!