Bill Danforth Interview
By Jake Stewart
To say Bill Danforth is a living legend is an understatement. He got his first skateboard in 1972 and has never slowed down. Bill turned pro in 1986 for Madrid, then Alva, and created a cult-like following as the American Nomad. His legend lives on today with the likes of the Barrier Cult and Skull Skates. When asked recently why he still skates, Bill replied simply, “I didn’t start skateboarding to quit, so I never will! I might get a little older, but the memories will always be there. Not riding my skateboard would be like forgetting to breathe!”
When did you get your first set of Tracker Trucks?
I purchased my first set of Trackers in 1978 from the local shop with paper route money.
How did you get involved with the Tracker family?
Basically, when the Sixtrack came out, it was the truck that best fit the board I rode. But, even up until then, I always rode Trackers. In 1981, Madrid had sponsored me and it was then that Stacy Peralta wanted me on the Tracker team. I got the actual phone call that put me on the team from Neil Blender. So, we’re going back a long way! I still have the actual letter from Stacy saying, “I’m going to help you out however I can to get you on Tracker.” It’s surreal to look at now, a letter signed by Stacy. Wow!
I had always thought that you were on Tracker during your entire time in skateboarding, but there was a brief period when you went to try something new.
I quit Tracker for a brief moment to help G&S design a new truck. I showed Larry Balma my contract, and he said, “Look, we are not going to re-design the Tracker Truck. I know you’ve always wanted to design a truck, so go for it. But, as soon as your G&S contract is up, you’re back on the Tracker team.” It was a family thing. It’s funny looking back, because I was given the opportunity to design a truck from scratch, but when I sat down and put pen to paper, I just knocked off the exact design of a Tracker (laughs).
Being involved with skateboarding for so long, why do you think Tracker is such an important part of its history?
Because of its history and the people who rode for and supported the company. A lot of people jumped ship, but the fact of the matter is Tracker has always been there, and been a consistent product. I like to think back to the 1980s during the Tracker vs. Indy war. It was great not being the guy who rode for Indy. It was punk to ride for Tracker. Keep in mind that a lot of the guys riding for Indy at that time started at Tracker, not at Indy. Steve Olson, Salba. You guys have the sponsor me letter Salba sent to Larry, right?
It seems like you were a good person to test out products based on the way you skated, which was aggressive and hard.
Well, personally, I wasn’t the guy doing lots of airs. I liked the lip tricks. I street skated the old-fashioned way, on loading docks, etc. Being from the Midwest, we skated in colder climates and I saw a lot of trucks break, but Trackers always held up. I did help out after the launch of the Ultralite baseplates, because those did crack in the cold temps, but because I passed on the info, they were able to fix the problem quickly.
In your opinion, who are the greatest riders in the history of Tracker?
Anybody who still rides Trackers. I’m not going to name one person. Seriously, anybody who has stayed true through the years is my hero!
Is there a Tracker ad that stands out to you?
Yes, I had a favorite ad, for sure. It’s me with this big, busted-up face. I hung up on a rail in Arizona, took a full header to the concrete, and my face was all fucked up. That one made me popular with the chicks, because I looked all tough.
Do you recall any memorable trips or events from your years with Tracker?
I remember a great trip we did with Tom Groholski, Dan Wilkes and Jeff Phillips, when we did all sorts of demos and shop appearances up and down the East Coast. The best part was the day we didn’t have anything scheduled. We rode this old abandoned skatepark in Redding, Pennsylvania and just went off. No video cameras, no photos, just a bunch of boneheads getting out of a van and having fun. The footage would be monumental today, but the best part was that it was never shot, so it’s only in our memories! I remember it feeling like we were all 15 years old again. We had the whole skatepark to ourselves.
Do you have any closing words to the people reading this?
Ride Tracker, fuck Indy. Anything made in the USA is better, and the best thing made in the USA is Tracker Trucks.