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NO. 783
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RF CHAPTER TWO of TEN
Here Comes Big Daddy

Ed Roth was born in Beverly Hills, California on Friday, March 4, 1932. His father was chauffeur to the silent-film star Mary Pickford, and his mother encouraged Ed's interest in drawing airplanes, souped-up cars and monsters. He grew up in a German-speaking household with a younger brother, Gordon. Ed learned to speak English, and to draw, at Bell High School. Pictured below: Ed in high school.

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XRoth, a born gearhead, got his first car, a 1933 Ford coupe, when he was just 14. He studied engineering at East Los Angeles College in the hopes of learning more about car design. He joined the Air Force in 1951, and was shipped off to Morocco.

Returning to California after being honorably discharged from the Air Force (pictured right, a Roth USAF decal), he married his first wife, Sally, near Los Angeles and began to pin-stripe cars.

Time passed, and Ed soon had give children -- all boys! In the late Fifties, he rented garage space to start a business pinstriping cars, charging $50 to $150 to paint designs in 1/64-inch strips. During this time, Roth was also a clerk at a Sears store in Los Angeles.

In the late 1950s, Roth started air-brushing wild characters driving crazy hot rods on T-shirts. The shirts, sold for $4.50 each, were dubbed "Weirdo Shirts," and they quickly caught on and became a local craze. Roth began advertising his CRAZY custom-drawn shirts in car magazines.
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Jesse E. Crozier, known as "Bud" or "The Baron,"was a former Studebaker production-line pinstriper in the 1930s. The Baron and his grandson, Tom Kelly (pictured below), were pinstripingcars in parking lots when they met Roth.
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The three pinstripers joined forces, and opened a business called "The Crazy Painters - Baron & Roth," in South Gate, California, in 1957. The Baron was a real character who liked to pose wearing a derby, inspiring Ed to sometimes wear a top hat.
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BELOW: Ed and the Baron.
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At Christmas, the derbys were switched for Santa hats!
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Roth once said, "I have always kept this hobby of mine down to a reasonable level of commitment as far as time goes, nights and sometimes on weekends. I have tried not to make it a business or to let it interfere with my effort to support a family. That is why I started with the T-shirts. I raised the first part of my family selling monster shirts. As my sons can tell you, we printed and sold them for many years."
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Here's Ed at work, airbrushing a T-shirt. Ed would have the customer give his name and describe his car, then do a caricature of the person and add a nickname or slogan. Over time, the cars got more stylized and the caricatures got crazier. As Ed said, "Big Mess, big success!"
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ABOVE: Rare! Original artwork for CHEVY MAN.
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ABOVE: Original art for HONDA HONEY, 1963.
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Above and below, Wild Child. What a difference color makes!
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In the publicity photo above, Ed pretends to paint "Wild Child" on a shirt while a girl is still wearing it! Roth could only do so many shirts by hand -- but once the designs were transferred to acetate, then applied to a small framed piece of silk, Roth could use ink and a squeegee to silk-screen them by the hundreds! Pictured below is Roth holding a silk screen with his logo on it.
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Now that they were "mass produced," Roth could sell his shirts to the world, in clever ads placed in hot rod magazines...
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such as this one, from CAR MODEL magazine, July 1963...
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Roth sold Weirdo Shirts to pick up some extra money, but his real love was creating custom hand-made cars! Here he is at work...
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The cars Ed built were show cars. They had been created for auto shows, and promotional purposes. Many of Roth's cars were street legal and could be driven -- but not by Ed. Roth was a massive 6 foot, 4 inches tall, and he couldn't fit into the drivers seat of most of his own undersized creations!
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ED ROTH CUSTOM CAR GALLERY
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Here are just a few of Ed Roth's crazy custom cars!
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OUTLAW (1959)

The Outlaw was the first car Roth created using plaster and fiberglass. Ed originally named the car Excaliber (after his mother-in-law's family Revolutionary War sword that was used as the car's gear shift) but changed it because people had trouble pronouncing Excaliber.


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Beatnik Bandit (1960)
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Mysterion (1963)
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Orbitron (1964)

Ed Roth recalls, “The “Orbitron was a failure at the shows. I believe it was because we covered that shiny chrome Chevy engine up with a hood. It was a great lesson in design for me. Never cover up the engine unless ya can serve a worthy purpose. I should have named it 'The Titanic," because it was like trying to hold onto this giant sinking ship.”


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Tweedy-Pie (1964)
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Rotar (1965)
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Druid Princess (1966)
ED ROTH VIDEO INTERVIEW
Click the PLAY button below to see a 60-second interview with Ed Roth!
ED ROTH: "When I was in a junkyard, I was in 7th heaven, because I could just take this junk, and take it home, put it together and have my car. In 1966 I got tied of all the stuff that was happening in the custom car field, so I went out and I got a Volkswagen and I started building cars based on the Volkswagen engine. They had three wheels on 'em."
Roth was only one person, and he could only create a limited number of cars and shirts. But once he put his crazy designs down on paper, they could be inked, colored and turned into mass-produced decals that could be sold not just in California, but throughout the entire nation. Here are two vintage Roth decals from 1963...
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In 1963, Ed got a deal with the Revell model company to make plastic replicas of his crazy creations, starting with his OUTLAW show car.
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Revell wanted to put Ed's picture and name on the box, but the company's new Vice President of Public Relations, Henry Blankfort, complained that Ed's name wasn't flashy enough. Blankfort, an ex-screenwriter who had been blacklisted during the McCarthy era, asked Roth if he had ever had any nicknames.

Roth said he had sometimes been called "Big Ed" in high school he was 6 foot, 4 inches tall. Blankfort knew that Roth had five children, all boys, so he suggested inserting "Big DADDY" in the middle of Ed Roth's name.

Roth agreed, and Ed "Big Daddy" Roth was born!
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Publicity shots: Big Daddy holding a model Outlaw (above), and airbrushing a "Weirdo Shirt" surrounded by boxes of two of his Revell models during a studio rennovation, Tweedy Pie and Outlaw (below).
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Roth took Blankfort's advice to heart. He ditched his paint-stained jeans and began cavorting around in a tux and top hat, and wearing a monacle. Below is an article on Roth's new image from Car and Model magazine, July-August 1963.
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In 1963, Ed formed a band called Mr. Gasser and the Weirdos. The musicians were mainly members of Phil Spector's Wrecking Crew, but they also included future superstar Glen Campbell on guitar, and Leon Russell playing piano. The group, through Capital Records, put out three albums of surf-rock music, titled HOT ROD HOOTENANY (1963), RODS 'N' RATFINKS and SURFINK! (both 1964). The album covers are pictured below.
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Click PLAY below to hear "Hot Rod Hootenany"
by Mr. Gasser and the Weirdos.

BELOW: An article on the making of the record.
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BELOW: The back of the first album!
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Roth became the poster boy for Weirdo Shirts. Below, Big Daddy models one of his monsters while promoting the Bakersfield Boat Show on television.
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And so, Ed Big Daddy Roth had driven his Weirdo Shirts to the big time -- and he was about to get bigger still. MUCH bigger still.
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RF CHAPTER THREE
BEAVER BUSTS LOOSE!
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