Sonny Barger

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Sonny Barger
Born Ralph Hubert Barger
(1938-10-08) October 8, 1938 (age 77)
Modesto, California
Occupation Author
Known for Founding member of Hells Angels, Oakland chapter

Ralph Hubert "Sonny" Barger (born October 8, 1938) is a founding member (1957) of the Oakland, California, U.S. chapter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.[citation needed] He is also the author of five books - Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club (2000), Dead in 5 Heartbeats (2004), Freedom: Credos from the Road (2005), 6 Chambers, 1 Bullet (2006), and Let's Ride: Sonny Barger's Guide to Motorcycling (2010) - and editor of the book Ridin' High, Livin' Free: Hell-Raising Motorcycle Stories (2003). Onscreen, Barger was identified but didn't speak in Hells Angels on Wheels (1967) and was one of several members of the Angels who had speaking parts playing themselves in Hell's Angels '69 (1969); he has appeared in several additional films. He also appeared in the Sons of Anarchy television show as "Lenny "The Pimp" Janowitz", who ends up being the last living member of SAMCRO's "First 9".



Barger is a prominent figure in Hunter S. Thompson's book, Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (1966). Barger and the Hells Angels are also depicted in Tom Wolfe's The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (1968), during Ken Kesey's La Honda encampment. Barger was one of the Hells Angels present at The Rolling Stones' Altamont Free Concert in 1969, and appears in the documentary film about the concert, Gimme Shelter (1970).


In 1983, Barger was diagnosed with throat cancer, caused by years of heavy smoking. Consequently, his vocal cords were removed, and after a laryngectomy he has learned to vocalize using the muscles in his throat.

In 1988, Barger was found guilty of conspiring to blow up the clubhouse of a rival motorcycle club, The Outlaws in Louisville, Kentucky[1] and spent four years in federal prison in Arizona.[citation needed]


Sonny Barger remains an active member of the Hells Angels in the Cave Creek Chapter having moved there from Oakland in 1998. He has owned 10 to 12 motorcycles throughout his life.[2]

In recent years, Barger has worked to promote motorcycle safety; he co-authored a book on the subject with Darwin Holmstrom (the author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motorcycles (1998)[3]) titled Let's Ride: Sonny Barger's Guide to Motorcycling (2010).[4]

On November 30, 2010, Barger made a short guest appearance as Lenny "The Pimp" Janowitz on the Season 3 finale of the FX television series Sons of Anarchy, about a fictional outlaw motorcycle club, allegedly based on the Hells Angels. Show creator Kurt Sutter spent time with Barger and other members of Hells Angels researching for the show, and acted opposite Barger in his scene. Barger returned again on the Sons of Anarchy as Lenny "The Pimp" Janowitz November 29, 2011, in the Season 4 finale, part one. Barger's third guest appearance on Sons of Anarchy as Lenny "The Pimp" Janowitz was during Season 5, Episode 10, which aired on November 13, 2012.

Selected works[edit]

  • with Keith Zimmerman, Kent Zimmerman (2001). Hell's Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club. William Morrow. ISBN 0-06-093754-8. 
  • Ridin' High, Livin' Free: Hell-Raising Motorcycle Stories. William Morrow. 2003. ISBN 0-06-000603-X. 
  • Dead in 5 Heartbeats. HarperTorch. 2004. ISBN 9780060532536. 
  • Freedom: Credos from the Road. William Morrow. 2005. ISBN 0-06-053256-4. 
  • 6 Chambers, 1 Bullet. William Morrow. 2006. ISBN 9780060745318. 
  • Let's Ride: Sonny Barger's Guide to Motorcycling. William Morrow. 2010. ISBN 0-06-196427-1. 



  1. ^ Jury Finds Hells Angels Leader Guilty in Plots, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, October 29, 1988 
  2. ^ Barger (2001)
  3. ^ Holmstrom, Darwin (1998). The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motorcycles. Alpha. 
  4. ^ Barger & Holmstrom (June 8, 2010). Let's Ride: Sonny Barger's Guide to Motorcycling. HarperCollins. 
  5. ^ Barger, Ralph. "Harleys, Choppers, Full Dressers, and Stolen Wheels". Hell's Angel the Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club. Harper. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-06-093754-6. 
  6. ^ a b "Sonny Barger: Full Biography". The New York Times (Movies & TV). Retrieved February 15, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b Sonny Barger at the Internet Movie Database
  8. ^ Independent Feature Film Dead In 5 Heartbeats by American Motorcycle Legend Sonny Barger
  9. ^ Dead in 5 Heartbeats (2013)
  10. ^ DEAD IN 5 HEARTBEATS (movie review) | Forces of Geek: the only pop culture site that matters

Further reading[edit]

BOHICA by Scott BARNES (BOHICA 1987) "When Crime Pays" ABC News Special on HAMC Rico case 1979-1982 with Hells Angel President, Ralph "Sonny" Barger, Scott Barnes as themselves.

1983 "Hells Angels Forever" with "Sonny" Barger as himself, Bo Diddley, Johnny Paycheck, Jerry Garcia, Willie Nelson and officer Scott Barnes former member of the BET unit.[1] Federal Grand Jury testimony 1979-1983.

External links[edit]

  1. ^ Hells Angels Forever 1983, When Crime Pays, ABC News 1980 BOHICA-1987,