My stepdad was a biker– rode a ‘79 Lowrider, with a 44 magnum strapped to his leg for all the honest world to feel (as Townes Van Zandt would say). Sounds cool, but like a lot of things, you tend to idealize it when you’re on the outside looking in. We didn’t exactly fit into the norm, nor did we to care to. Let’s just say it wasn’t a typical childhood. I was not invited to a lot of sleepovers. Easyrider’s magazines were a part of growing up, and exposed me to a lot of… art. Yeah, there’s other stuff in there too that a kid shouldn’t see, but I was fascinated with the illustrations by Dave Mann– and still am. They’re incredible.
Dave Mann’s dad was a lifelong illustrator and active member of the Society of Scribes in London. The younger Mann was born in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1957 he first drew pencil sketches of hot rods while feigning attention in high school. His crude sketches opened the door for Dave’s first job, pinstriping cars for Doug Thompson and Ray Hetrick’s custom car shop in Kansas City.
The allure of the West Coast drew Dave and buddy Al Burnett to Santa Monica, California. While cruising the seaside community he stumbled across Bay Area Muffler, an area custom car house, and there discovered completely insane chopped Harleys. The bikes drove him wild. They projected freedom, power and mobility with every chromed curve. Dave was immediately hooked.
He returned home to Kansas City and bought his first new bike, a ‘48 Panhead, for $350. At the same time he created his first painting, “Hollywood Run.” It represented the wild, unleashed, Hollywood outlaw lifestyle. Riding his customized Harley with his painting tucked under his arm, Dave Mann entered the 1963 Kansas City Custom Car Show. That car show launched Dave’s artistic & biker career. He had the only custom-bike entry in the show, so for his creative efforts the judges initiated a new class and trophy specifically for Dave.
Dave Mann painted several posters for Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, the California custom car creator and publisher of the first chopper magazine. In 1965, he went to work in the mailroom at Scheffer Studios in Kansas city, where he met an architectural renderer, Dave Poole, who taught him technical drawing. By 1967, Dave developed into an architectural renderer, having studied at the Kansas City Art Institute.
Then in 1971, Dave discovered a new magazine— Easyriders. It was the first full-fledged, lifestyle-related bike rag. Since the third issue, Dave has followed, and in some aspects le the industry by capturing the essence of a changing lifestyle on the center-spreads of Easyriders.
Dave was forced to retire in 2003 due to his failing health– the years of paint fumes had deteriorated his lungs to the point where surgeons had to remove them both and put him on a breathing machine. Sadly, Dave died about a day after his 64th birthday, Sept. 11 2004.
R.I.P. Dave Mann, and thanks for your lasting legacy of incredible artwork.