Eat a Peach: Caleb Swiney’s tribute to a Southern rock legend…
Founded in 1969 and based out of Macon, Georgia, the Allman Brothers Band have been called the godfathers of Southern rock, famous for their twin lead guitars, eerie grooves, and impossibly sweet sound. Rolling Stone ranks them as one of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, and they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
Unfortunately, they were also marked by tragedy. On October 29, 1971, Duane Allman was killed on his Harley-Davidson Ironhead Sportster when a flatbed truck holding a lumber crane stopped in the middle of the intersection of Hillcrest Avenue and Bartlett Street in Macon, Georgia. Just one year later, in an eerily similar incident, bassist Berry Oakley was killed when his ’67 Triumph struck a city bus just three blocks away.
Legend has it that the title and cover art of the band’s 1972 double album, Eat a Peach, was a reference to Duane hitting a peach truck, but the fact is the name was taken from a line Duane delivered in an interview shortly before his death, when asked what he was doing to help the Vietnam-era “revolution”:
“‘Every time I’m in Georgia, I eat a peach for peace,’ he said—a phrase which…had likely been plucked from T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. The group trimmed Duane’s quote to Eat a Peach, and an iconic Southern album found its name.” –Garden & Gun
At the 2022 Victory Moto Show in our hometown of Savannah, Georgia, we got to see in the metal this Allman Brothers tribute chopper — an ’88 Evo Sportster that featured builder Joe Banks, whose 421cc Banshee street tracker we previously featured, had tipped us off to. Said Joe:
“I think it’s important to encourage the younger guys and I think this chap has what it takes to see a bike in the mind and then build it, rare talent.”
That chap is our new friend Caleb Swiney of Atlanta, and this ’88 Evo is a passion project of his:
“As a Georgia boy, hobbyist musician, and a big fan of the Allman Brothers Band, I have thought for some time that it would be cool to build a tribute to the band, especially given the love for motorcycles that was reflected in their lives and their music.”
Caleb is a garage builder who credits East Atlanta’s Brother Moto community (RIP) for teaching him a ton before he had his own garage, and he first came onto our radar when his ’75 Kawasaki KT250 was featured in the 2020 Victory Moto Show — a bike he rode to a national championship in the Modern Classic Novice class of the AHRMA’s 2020 National Trials Series!
While the KT was indicative of Caleb’s riding prowess, this Evo Sporty (don’t be fooled by the Ironhead rocker covers) is a display of incredible creativity, passion, and fabrication skills. Says Caleb:
“Duane’s bike was more or less a stock Sportster with extended forks and cosmetic changes. In turn, I wanted to make a cosmetically crazy early 70s ‘chopper’ that, like Duane’s bike, retained the rear suspension and stock rake while raising the front end up.”
Nicknamed “Little Martha” after the song written by Duane Allman, which the band always played as the closing on tour after his death, the bike is dripping with song references and period details. Highlights include the mini front drum brake, polished stainless shaved forks, and the TIG-welded peach in the front handlebars — a test of Caleb’s TIG skills, which he learned during the build.
Then there’s the tombstone taillight — based on a 3D scan Caleb made of the real Little Martha grave in Macon’s Rose Hill Cemetery!
The list goes on and on, including a quote from “Midnight Rider” etched onto the air cleaner, mushrooms etched into the Ironhead conversion rocker boxes, and a small, twisted metal whip at the end of the sissy bar for “Whipping Post.”
Our friend Jared Morris Bullet Bob Moto laid down the sky-blue metal flake, while another friend and fellow Georgian, Chastin Brand, hand-painted the iconic peach truck on the tank and Duane’s infamous quote on the top, along with with a Daisy Duke-style pinup.
Caleb outfitted the bike with a few modern touches. There’s a burly rear Brembo brake, which helps to compensate for the underpowered front drum, and this ’88 Evo is sporting LED lighting and a motogadget M-unit for the wiring setup. Still, the riding experience remains appropriately old-school:
“Just sketchy enough to keep it exciting without being worried that you won’t get where you are going.”
It came as no surprise that “Little Martha” took home the Best Custom Award from the 2022 Victory Moto Show against some very stiff competition — congratulations again, Caleb!
Below, we talk to Caleb for the full details on this Allman Brothers chopper, and a huge thanks goes out to our friend and star photographer Drew Perlmutter (@drewperlmutter) for these shots — from the show, Caleb’s garage, and the road!
Allman Brothers Evo Chopper: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I have been working on or building bikes as long as I have been riding them and I still can’t decide whether I prefer wrenching or riding. I bought my first bike, a 1974 Kawasaki G3SSD, while in college and had to work on it to even get it ready to ride. I’m a lawyer, so I don’t work on bikes professionally, but I have a solid two-car garage where I can do pretty much any fabrication or mechanical work necessary to slap a bike together. Before I had a garage, I learned a ton while working on bikes in the old Brother Moto community garage in East Atlanta.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
1988 Harley-Davidson Sportster 883.
• Why was this bike built?
This motorcycle build was a personal passion project. As a Georgia boy, hobbyist musician, and a big fan of the Allman Brothers Band, I have thought for some time that it would be cool to build a tribute to the band, especially given the love for motorcycles that was reflected in their lives and their music.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
The bike is nicknamed “Little Martha” after the song written by Duane Allman and first released on the “Eat A Peach” Album. This song was always played as the closing song on tour after Duane died in a motorcycle accident while riding his Harley-Davidson Sportster in Macon, Georgia. Duane’s bike was more or less a stock Sportster with extended forks and cosmetic changes. In turn, I wanted to make a cosmetically crazy early 70s “chopper” that, like Duane’s bike, retained the rear suspension and stock rake while raising the front end up.
From the start of the build, I knew I wanted to paint the bike a sky-blue metal flake with hand painted tank artwork based on the “Eat a Peach” album cover. The artwork on the top of the tank is based on an infamous Duane Allman quote that inspired the album name. When asked by a reporter what Duane was doing to help out with the Vietnam War peace effort, Duane responded, “Every time I’m in Georgia, I eat a peach for peace.”
I asked my friend Chastin Brand (@chastinbrand) if he could paint the album cover’s peach truck on the sides of the tank and part of Duane’s infamous quote on the top with a Daisy Duke style pinup and he absolutely killed it. Jared Morris (@bulletbobmoto), who laid down the powder coat, helped me match the base color to the album cover and was more than happy to add in a rad silver metal flake.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
Almost every single piece of the bike is made from scratch, customized, or swapped with new old stock parts to be in line with the style of 70s show choppers. I did all of the metal fabrication and polishing in my garage. The rear fender is a reproduction of the late 50s Sportster fenders that I chopped down.
The front wheel has a mini-drum brake that was a common modification back in the 70s when chopper builders would swap in the drums from Honda mini-bikes. It’s not a very common modification today, because the brake is underpowered, and you have to cut your own front wheel spacers to make sure the alignment stays correct.
There are also a few subtle modern touches like LED lighting all around, an M-unit for the wiring setup, and the Brembo rear caliper upgrade.
One of the most time consuming and difficult tasks was the frame molding that allows the tank to sit flush with the upper frame tube. I didn’t use any Bondo on this bike, so all of that molding was TIG welded, ground down, and filed down to fit.
In addition, the bike has a few other Allman Brothers influenced parts like a quote from “Midnight Rider” etched onto the air cleaner, mushrooms etched into the Ironhead conversion rocker boxes, and a small, twisted metal whip at the end of the sissy bar for “Whipping Post.”
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
Just sketchy enough to keep it exciting without being worried that you won’t get where you are going. The modern rear brake upgrade, new electronics, and new S&S Carb make the bike start up easily, pull strong, and stop relatively well for a bike with a more or less useless front brake.
The handlebars, while perfect for the build aesthetic, make the bike pretty difficult to steer when making tight turns. I had to angle the clutch and brake levers down so that I could still modulate the clutch effectively when turning left. The Evo motor (RIP 1986-2022) is super reliable though, and I can’t wait for the weather to get a bit warmer to take it on longer trips.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
The “Little Martha” song from the “Eat a Peach” Album was named after a grave in Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, Georgia, which is now the same cemetery where Duane and Gregg Allman are buried along with their band mate, Berry Oakley. The statue on the tombstone taillight is actually a 3D scan and print that I made of the real Little Martha grave in Rose Hill Cemetery.
I designed the taillight in CAD after scanning the grave, 3D printed it in plastic, and then made the lens out of epoxy resin. After a test run, I had the final version printed in stainless steel. I am particularly happy with how the taillight came out because it was the first time I had used any of these processes to make a part.
I also really like the peach in the handlebars. That was one of the first difficult parts I made on this bike and was a test of my TIG welding skills, which I did not have before starting this project. Once that piece came out looking nice, I knew I had to make the whole bike as clean as possible.