‘Panhead’ Phil’s investment earns smiles, good karma

Friday, October 7, 2011, Vol. 35, No. 40
By Brad Schmitt

Singer Rebecca Jed reflects NOW Records’ desire to create a spontaneous environment.

-- Photo: Brad Schmitt | Nashville Ledger

“Panhead Phil” is best known as a custom motorcycle maker and repairman, operating Music City Motorcycle shop for 10 years. He also has been driving tour buses for decades, and Hipsher served in the Navy in the 1980s.

“We didn’t treat other human beings so well in our past. We’re trying to become better humans and better stewards of music and artistry on the Earth. I don’t know how radical that sounds or far-fetched that sounds, but that’s the way we try to be.

“It’s not a gamble because I don’t expect any return from this. When I see these kids come in here and we are able to put something through a machine and twist some knobs and levers, and these kids come back in and we play it for ’em, and they have big bright smiles on their faces and they feel like they’ve accomplished something, that touches a very soft spot in my heart. And that’s good because I’ve had a very hard heart in the past. So it’s good for me.”

Gregory Lattimer


Lattimer, 41, broke onto the national music scene as the frontman for 1990s rock band Thin Lizard Dawn, best known for its self-titled debut album, which included the single “Sexual Dynamo.”

The band broke up after making two albums and playing countless dates, which included tour dates with Matchbox 20 and Lenny Kravitz.

Lattimer began producing acts, including Albert Hammond Jr. of rock band The Strokes, before he ended up in Nashville last year.

“A great record can be made in any environment. Sometimes a recording studio was limiting, creatively and spiritually. The sterilization of music came from the studio and technology.

“We don’t give a f--- about radio, to be perfectly honest. We just wanna make timeless great art. And that can be done in any environment. We just happen, as fate would have it, to record in a motorcycle shop.”

Kevin Smith


Smith is an Indiana native who played for a time in alt-country act The Mary Janes, which caught fire online before iTunes ever did. The group once was the top-selling act on MP3.com.

Since moving to Nashville, Smith continued to collaborate with musicians and added two unusual job titles to his resume – accountant, and the rhinestoner for famed Music Row clothier Manuel, who has created apparel for Johnny Cash, Marty Stuart and dozens of other celebrities.

“I consider him [Manuel] a father figure,” Smith says.

“We’re trying to develop a sense of community here and actually put artwork at the forefront. The business part is secondary because one should never put the cart in front of the horse.

“It’s our belief that the current music industry system is done. We actually believe we’re here to serve the people instead of people here to serve us. We want to give them a premium product, to feel that we’ve respected them.”