At first glance, Jesse James is the consummate biker rebel. Tattoos, knives, goatee, black t-shirts and skulls all around him and his world help create that image. That image, in turn, reflects a mere fraction of the man that is West Coast Choppers. The rest of his life reflects his passion as an artist, his love for his children, and the success that naturally flows from a love of custom motorcycles, hard work and a job done well.
Originally from Long Beach, California, Jesse grew up around his father’s antiques business. His dad’s small shop was quartered in a shared warehouse with a large after market parts manufacturer for Harley-Davidson’s and sport bikes. Those childhood influences set the stage for his path in life.
Jesse got his first mini-bike at age 7, and, with that thrill, his passion for two-wheeled machines was kindled. He made his first crude motorcycle exhaust system during his freshman year of high school in his mother’s garage. His perfectionist attitude, however, prevented him from keeping it; he threw it away before anyone saw it.
He played college football, but a knee injury ended his athletic career early. The injury forced him to find a new job that would allow him to establish himself. He trained intensely to become a bodyguard and worked for years protecting such notable bands as Soundgarden, Danzig and Slayer, touring the world with them. During this period of his life, he met his former wife, with whom he has two children: 5-year-old (as of Feb. 2003) son, Jesse Jr., and 7-year-old daughter, Chandler. Another career-threatening injury, on the job at a concert, forced him to again reevaluate his professional life. It was then he decided to make a career out of his number one passion: custom motorcycles. Learning his trade from legendary custom hot rodder Boyd Coddington, Jesse immersed himself in the world of hand-crafting bikes.
West Coast Choppers was born in the early 1990s, and quickly established its, and his, reputation as a celebrity motorcycle manufacturing facility. He started the shop in a small dusty corner in a friend’s garage, with no loan, no partners, and only a glimmer of the future. Slowly, painstakingly, and with great sacrifice, Jesse built his future empire, and continues to build his bikes the same way. By hand, from the ground up. West Coast Choppers now employs over 50 people, and builds bikes ranging from $50,000-$150,000, for such clients as Shaquille O’Neal and Kid Rock. In 2002, Monster Garage (2002) debuted on The Discovery Channel, bringing Jesse squarely to the forefront of reality television. With him as the host and team leader of the show that features custom hot-rodding at its absolute most bizarre, Jesse’s West Coast Choppers has become an integral part of the program, as the Monster Garage team often utilizes Jesse’s shop and machinery to help them meet the challenges of the weekly show. Conveniently, the warehouse that serves as Monster Garage’s set is located mere blocks from West Coast Choppers’ Long Beach location.
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