The Harley-Davidson 100th Anniversary Open Road Tour came to Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, during the third weekend of August 2002. Pimlico is home to The Preakness, conducted annually on the second Saturday every May. The Preakness is the second leg of the annual Triple Crown horse racing event.

     The Baltimore bill welcomed thirteen major artists and acts to perform at the Harley-Davidson weekend-long birthday party. Friday, August 16th, featured Lynyrd Skynyrd; Saturday, August 17th, showcased Hootie & the Blowfish; and Sunday, August 18th, presented Bob Dylan as the headlining artist performing on the massive Harley-Davidson Stage.

     Massive tents housed multiple exhibitions and a performance stage. Historic and modern motorcycle models, cycle gear and paraphernalia, children activities, and MDA all had mega-media presentations under their own big top. Members of the Davidson family were in attendance to participate in a charitable presentation, benefiting the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

     Baltimore weather hosted beautiful skies all weekend long, and although the temperature may have been hot, a cool breeze blew relief across the crowded infield all weekend. Daily audiences were exceptionally well behaved. The staff, security, medical techs, and media hosts were all exceedingly friendly.

A Musical Celebration of mammoth proportions

     The Wailers opened the Saturday Pimlico concert. Original leader Bob Marley has departed, but these reggae ambassadors keep his memory and music alive in performance. The classic reggae anthem, "I Shot The Sheriff", featured all the elements of the genre; a bouncing piano, a bumping bass, and a bopping horn section. The melodic organ on "No Woman, No Cry" carried this bittersweet ballad.

     The Robert Cray Band hit the stage second in line on the Saturday bill. The four piece unit sounded crystal clear. Cray's soulful vocals and crisp guitar notes lifted "Shiver" in performance. The walking bass line in "Right Next Door" gave it a blues-based feeling. "Bad Influence" was good, simple R&B. Cray's guitar phrasing on "Help Me To Forget Her" was masterful.

     Cray's piercing guitar notes and strong vocals empowered "Do You Even Care" with a driving groove. He remarked, "Truth be told, it's too early to play the blues. If I wore shades, I couldn't hear". Cray ended the set with his 1986 single, "Smoking Gun". This version cranked as Cray scratched out a choppy solo accompanied by a bubble-bass undertone.

     Canadian band Default held down the center position with their hard-edged sound. Vocalist Dallas Smith, guitarist Jeremy James Hora, bassist Dave Bennedict, and drummer Danny Craig formed three years ago in Vancouver. They began with "Slow Me Down", a hard rocker. "Let You Down" was ignited with a lengthy guitar intro, grounding the solid modern-rock tempo.

     A guitar jam solo introduced the fast-paced rocker, "Seize The Day". Smith screamed out his vocal over Hora's guitar melody. The band delivered a hard and heavy cover version of Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker". Smith yelped a harsh vocal as the band later segued into a R&R style outro. The band finished with "Deny", their latest single. Hora's crunching guitar work whipped his guitar into a whining whirlwind of distortion.

     Bluegrass lass Alison Krauss graced the Harley stage with support from Union Station, featuring Jerry Douglas. Their refreshing musical style was heartily welcomed by the Pimlico infield. Their country-flavored presence promoted a festive jamboree atmosphere. The tender melody and harmony vocals of "Ghost In This House" made this a standout performance. Couples were dancing together, and a young woman cartwheeled in front of the stage as infield entertainment.

     "Forget About It" was aided by acoustic and dobro guitar, mandolin and brushes to soften the beat. "Hoe Corn" and "Man Of Constant Sorrow" were two more stellar renditions by these seasoned musicians. Krauss' beautiful vocal on "When You Say Nothing" received overwhelming applause. After the country funk of "Atlanta", the band came out for an encore of "Down To The River To Pray".

     Hootie & The Blowfish closed Saturday night with a lengthy set. First up was "The Soup Song", a new number by the band. Hootie strummed acoustic guitar on a tight cover of Led Zeppelin's rare "Hey Hey What Can I Say". The Grammy awarded "Let Her Cry" was supported by Hootie on electric guitar.

     Their cover of 5440's "I Go Blind" featured Hootie on acoustic guitar for this moderate rocker. During the Blowfish set, a guy distributed bumper stickers he printed on his own that read "Baltimore, Bad Bikes and Bitches" and "Three Days of Loud Pipes, Titties and Chrome" throughout the infield crowd.

     The band returned to play an encore set of more covers including a tremendous take on Santana's "Black Magic Woman". Their upbeat version of "I Only Want To Be With You" was solid. Hootie stepped back to sing back up vocals and swig a beer for a rousing rendition of Aerosmith's "Walk This Way". His big finish segued into the Georgia Satellites' "Keep Your Hands" with Hootie on electric guitar, barking out the lyrics.

Spotlighting MDA Sponsorship

     Before Hootie & the Blowfish's headlining performance on Saturday night, Harley-Davidson CEO Jeff Bleustein was introduced. He welcomed members of the Davidson family on stage: Willie G., his wife Nancy, and his son Bill. As Harley-Davidson approaches its 100th year of motorcycle manufacturing, this presentation focused on promoting their corporate sponsorship of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. H-D President Jim McCaslin added his support behind MDA's ongoing campaign.

     Even though it was a birthday celebration for Harley-Davidson, their concern was using their valuable stage time to promote the importance of fighting Muscular Dystrophy and their efforts to raise needed capital to continue the research to find a cure for this degenerative disease. Jerry Lewis has been MDA's Labor Day guardian angel for decades.

     Jerry's Kids, as they are affectionately known, depend on the gracious and generous support of Harley-Davidson chapters across the country. MDA camps help these kids lead normal lives and give those children afflicted with this disease an opportunity to share their disability with other kids their own age.

Branded on the Gas Tank

     Bill Davidson was kind enough to contribute comments in an interview with about the Open Road Tour visit to Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. He was on hand with his parents to greet the Harley-Davidson audiences and tour the multiple tent exhibits housed on the infield grounds.

RockonTour: What does the name Harley-Davidson mean to you?

B. Davidson - "It's really a lot of fun and adventure, a sense of freedom of the open road. Great people, great products; a genuine American icon."

RockonTour: How exciting is this anniversary celebration?

B. Davidson - "For the family, this is really a tremendous milestone. Not a lot of companies can celebrate a hundred years. This first 100 years is a strong foundation for the next 100 years."

RockonTour: How long has Harley-Davidson been involved supporting MDA?

B. Davidson - "Since 1980, Harley-Davidson has raised $40 million to date. Our anniversary goal is to raise another $5 million."

RockonTour: What do you see for the future of Harley-Davidson?

B. Davidson - "The future looks really exciting. We've had 16 years of record earnings. The excitement of our 100th anniversary will continue into the future. We've got a very exciting product plan for the future."

RockonTour: Does Harley-Davidson have plans for introducing new cycle models?

B. Davidson - With a smile and subtle laughter, Bill said, "Lots of them, but I can't talk about them!"

A Multi-Media Experience

     The Harley-Davidson Open Road Tour staged an August encampment at Pimlico Race Course. Massive tents were erected all over the infield. The huge main stage was decorated with the international flags from all of the countries that were hosting a birthday visit from Harley-Davidson. The Open Road Tour utilized modern technology to present a comprehensive overview, projecting the experience and phenomenon of the imagination and excitement of the Harley cycle.

     Journey - This tent recounts the early days of Harley-Davidson up to it's present day as a world class motorcycle manufacturer. A replica of the shed that produced the first Harley was open for tourists. Examples of motorcycle toys from Harley's archives were on hand for collectors to enjoy. An evolution of Harley advertising was also presented. A photo gallery depicted 100 years of rider passion for the enduring Harley.

     Machine - This tent had a fascinating array of historic Harley-Davidson models for spectators to enjoy. Engines, gasoline tank graphics, and manufacturing background information were highlighted points of interest. Harley spectators were taking photographs of motorcycles on display and swapping tales about their bikes or bikes that captured their attention.

     Culture - This tent showcased the influence and impact Harley-Davidson has had on Americana through it's Biker Style. Displays of motorcycle apparel were encased in glass. A hanging wardrobe was available for people to model before mirrors. A Children's Drawing Station allowed kids to draw images of motorcycles, and adults could indulge themselves at an imitation Tattoo booth.

     A popular room with musical artifacts from the R&R Hall Of Fame featured electric guitars and bass guitars from various artists who are Harley fans. Band contributions included Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Grand Funk Railroad, Steppenwolf, and ZZ Top. Enlarged record jackets projected many examples of motorcycle presented on famous record covers like The Who's Quadrophenia. A photo of Elvis Presley enjoying a stationery moment on his motorbike hung next to a leather jacket worn by Alice Cooper.

     Ride - This tent featured multiple modern models of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle line. Jessica Gibson, 18 from Catonsville and her companion Julie Tabb, 17 from Street, both enjoyed the music. Gibson came out for her first Dylan gig while Tabb loved Idol's energetic set. Gibson mentioned her dad has a Yamaha, adding "I don't have one, but I want to ride one". They posed together, straddling a Dyna Glide model.

     The Ford Motor Company was an additional partner on the Open Road Tour, celebrating a shared 100th anniversary as well in 2003. Their name adorned the Ford Drive-In Theater. An infomercial of the pride behind their products was repeated throughout the weekend event. Ford is an alliance partner with Harley-Davidson.

     Joe D'Urso & Stone Caravan are appearing on the Harley-Davidson Open Road Tour as the House Band on stage under the Ford tent. D'Urso is a New York native, currently promoting his latest release Rock And Roll Station. His original rocker, "Tell Me Why", stood firmly alongside strong covers of "Do You Want To Dance" and "Take A Load Off Fanny". Stone Caravan's musical style mimics the Springsteen-working band sound.

     Young Harley-Davidson was a mini-raceway encircled by straw barricades with miniature motorbikes for young children to ride for entertainment. Kids were riding around in circles on imitation demos of Harley models to offer children an opportunity to experience the individual thrill of a motorcycle ride.

     The Antique & Custom Bike shed featured motorbikes individually owned by event participants. Local Harley dealers were asked to contact and invite motorcycle owners within a 100 mile radius to compete in a contest to display their road warrior at the Open Road Tour over the weekend. Carl Borre, 51 from Edison, New Jersey, enjoyed bringing his 1997 Fat Boy Custom to Baltimore.

     The Harley Owners Group had their own exclusive H.O.G. Roadhouse reception. Ownership of a Harley-Davidson machine grants one membership into this growing two-wheeled association. Harley bikers are proud of their machines and enjoy gathering together to meet their friends and talk about the topic of motorcycles.

     The Muscular Dystrophy Association had a presence on the Pimlico grounds to communicate their continuing efforts to increase awareness on this devastating disease. Harley-Davidson's affiliation with MDA stretches over 20 years of sincere support. A humorous photo of Jerry Lewis riding a Harley from 1952 acknowledged his support through his annual Labor Day M.D. Telethon.

     A quartet of Germany exchange students from U.M.C.P. attended the Harley-Davidson event. Jan Muehlbauer, 24 from Mannheim, won four tickets from a popular Baltimore City beach bar. All of them were engineering majors and fans of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Jan and his friends, Christian, Pascal, and Swen had visited Pimlico previously for the 125th Annual Preakness in May 2002.

A Century of American Excellence 1903 - 2003

     The Harley-Davidson 100th Anniversary Open Road Tour celebration visits the California Speedway in Fontana, California, the weekend of September 6, 2002, and Molson Park in Barrie, Ontario, the weekend of September 27, 2002. The final Open Road Tour event in the U.S. is at the Texas Motor Speedway in Justin, Texas, the weekend of October 25, 2002. Atlanta, Georgia, hosted the inaugural staging during the weekend of July 20, 2002, at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.

     The Harley-Davidson centennial extravaganza continues with international tour stops at Toronto, Ontario, in September 2002; Mexico City, Mexico, in November 2002; Sydney, Australia, in March 2003; Tokyo, Japan, in April 2003; Barcelona, Spain, in June 2003; and Hamburg, Germany, in July 2003.

     Harley-Davidson began producing motorcycles at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. Having survived a century of unanticipated technological and economic challenges, these cycle experts are ready to tackle the next century. Harley motorcycles belonging to Elvis Presley and Jon Bon Jovi were on display. However, there was one motorbike I personally wanted to see that was not present, The Batcycle. Without a doubt, Harley-Davidson rules the open road on two wheels.

RockonTour   Issue #12
Concert Fan - the Single Source for the Concertphile © 2002 RoT
                  the Single Source for the Concertphile

Freedom and Rhythm on the Road
Harley-Davidson revs up for anniversary

by Timothy Tilghman