Jackyl's lead singer talks music and motorcycles.

Jesse James Dupree commands a crowd with the fervor of a holy rolling preacher with a fistful of rattlesnakes. For almost 30 years, the front man of the band Jackyl has been giving sermons in rock and roll with songs like “Down on Me” and “When Will it Rain.” The “Hardest Working Band in Rock & Roll” (Jackyl once performed 100 shows in 50 days and 21 shows in 24 hours) has carved out a legion of fans by using a chainsaw as a musical instrument in their hit song “The Lumberjack.” Funny how a wildman running around a stage with a chainsaw can grab your undivided attention.

Crowds go crazy every time Jesse James Dupree picks up his chainsaw and Jackyl breaks into its big hit “The Lumberjack.”

Dupree’s love of music came at an early age after his family moved to Gadsen, Alabama, and bought a small café. “In that café was a little jukebox, and when the guy would come out and change records out, he would give me the 45’s out of the jukebox. I had lost all my friends because we moved from Georgia to Alabama and so I’d go into the back room of this old trailer we lived in and just play my music. And that’s kind of where it all happened for me. I fell in love with music. It’s a powerful thing,” said Dupree.

His love of Harley-Davidson motorcycles also started at an early age. There’s an old family photo of Dupree’s mom holding baby Jesse on the seat of his dad’s Panhead. As a boy, Dupree would sit and stare admiringly at the bike. His dad loved that motorcycle so much he’d take the front door off their house so he could roll it into the den. While his father went off to work at Lockheed, his mother would polish the chrome so they could all go riding on weekends.

“I didn’t realize how much it hit me until the day that I went and bought my own Harley-Davidson motorcycle. I felt like I was my own man, ya know?” That first Harley-Davidson was a 1994 Heritage Softail. “Bought it brand new. It was the greatest day of my life!” he said.

Since then, a steady stream of motorcycles has flowed through his garage. Currently you can find him rolling around on a custom Street Glide, a big wheeled bagger built by Sin Worx Custom Cycles out of Lexington, South Carolina. Slammed and stretched, the matte black bagger flies the Jackyl flag on its saddlebags and a Devil’s Devil Sinnamon Spirits logo on its back fender and fairing.

“I have a whiskey called the Devil’s Devil and he built that bike and surprised me last year. Before that, Mike Maverick had built my Jesse James’ Bourbon Bike, so I’ve got two really good liquor-themed motorcycles,” said Dupree.

Jesse and his Sin Worx Street Glide

His relationship with The Motor Company goes beyond being a fan of their bikes, though. For the last three years, Dupree’s multi-dimensional Mighty Loud Enterprises, a production company, event organizer, and record label, has been working with Harley-Davidson. Last summer Mighty Loud helped Harley plan its 115th anniversary celebration in Milwaukee.

“Everything at the Harley Museum and everything at Veteran’s Park, my company facilitated that,” stated Dupree. “I never get tired of walking into corporate offices on Juneau Avenue because it’s just such a legendary facility.”

Dupree’s love of motorcycles and music combine at the mother of all rallies as well. He’s been making the trip to the Sturgis Rally for nigh on 25 years. This year will mark the 20th year he’s performed at the rally at the Full Throttle Saloon, aka “The World’s Largest Biker Bar,” a venue he owns along with his business partner and friend, Michael Ballard. Many know the bar courtesy of the hit truTV show Full Throttle Saloon, a reality series shot during the height of rally madness. Dupree was the executive producer of the show which ran for six seasons.

“Jesse first played for me in 2000. This will be his 20th anniversary of playing at the Full Throttle. He’s played there every year we’ve been open,” said Ballard. “Jesse’s been riding bikes all his life like me. So the first year he played, but the next year he came out and I had more time to hang around with him. He quickly became a fan of what I was trying to do out there and then actually came in and got the bands booked that next year.”

During the rally, Thursday is Jackyl night at the Full Throttle, and the joint is guaranteed to be rocking. The Full Throttle Saloon is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, which will make this year’s performance even more electric.

But his streak of consecutive years playing during the Sturgis Rally almost came to an end when the Full Throttle Saloon burned to the ground in 2015, right after the 75th anniversary of the Sturgis Rally. It was a devastating blow as everything Ballard and Dupree had built up was reduced to rubble in a few short hours.

“That was a huge setback for us. We had to take a minute and decide what we wanted to do, but because I love the industry and have such passion for it, I decided to build back,” said Ballard.

Big name bands play all week at the Full Throttle, but if you can make it out only once, make sure its Thursday night when Jackyl plays because the place is guaranteed to be lit.

To their good fortune, a prime piece of real estate happened to be going up for sale. The old location of the Broken Spoke Campground with an Olympic-sized pool, ride-thru bar, and 600 acres of property on the eastside of Bear Butte happened to be available, so Ballard jumped on it.

“We ended up buying that place. Most people never appreciate what happened out there, but we got that property on May 8, 2016, and opened for the rally in two months,” said Ballard. “We threw that damn building up, paved that parking lot, and put up that massive stage. We’ve got the largest stage in the state of South Dakota out there. We had that sucker up and had concerts all week. We didn’t miss a year, so there were nights we saw the sun coming up trying to get that thing built in time. It was a grass field where the Throttle’s bar sits at now. We took the Broken Spoke’s bar and made it into a grocery store and an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet and camping supplies for the campground. But we built a brand-new Full Throttle out there, so we stood that thing up in 60 days. It was crazy but we made it happen.”

“Mike’s just done a phenomenal job,” added Dupree. “He didn’t want to rebuild the old Full Throttle because that was a moment in time that you’ll never recapture. So he started a new legacy with the theme of the new place which is ‘What Made America Great.’ So you walk in there and see all the equipment from the industrial revolution and big pieces of machinery that have been turned into bars and stages for the girls to dance on. It’s an amazing concept he had and it turned out really great.”

The new Full Throttle Saloon features 300 cabins, 1,000 RV hook-ups, and acres and acres of tent camping. It’s got a dirt track where Billy Lane holds his Sons of Speed vintage motorcycle races. A carousel of big name acts perform on its stage throughout the week, and it continues to be a big top of adult entertainment for rallygoers. The Full Throttle is the “Official Campground of Harley-Davidson,” the “Official Campground of the Sturgis Rally,” and the “Official Campground of Wounded Warrior Project.”

“We have 50 wounded warriors who came and stayed with us last year. They found a home at the Full Throttle Saloon’s Pappy Hoel Campground and we’re hosting upwards of 100 of them this year,” said Dupree.

While the Full Throttle Saloon has seen its share of ups and downs, one thing that’s remained constant is Ballard and Dupree’s friendship.

“We’re like brothers,” said Ballard, who recognized something special early on in their relationship. “We were headed to Daytona Bike Week and me and a couple of my buddies stopped in Atlanta to see him. It was in the early years and I’d never been to his house,” said Ballard. “This was almost 20 years ago. So he had a computer there, and this was before even fax machines were really happening, but he had this old computer. He had this big long list on the computer and I said “What is all that?” “And Jesse goes, “Well, ever since I started touring, I’ve kept up with every DJ, every jock at every radio station in the country. And I’ve kept up with every program director and I have all of them in my database. I’ve got their birth dates and every time one of them has a birthday coming up, I shoot them a present and let them know I’m thinking about them and they’re my friends. That’s what kept Jackyl alive. I can roll into these cities and the doors wide open for me to come get on the radio and give me a forum.” “I never saw anybody doing that kind of stuff back then and I latched onto that pretty quick. He’s got it together,” Ballard said.

Jesse and Michael Ballard aren’t only business partners who run the Full Throttle Saloon, they’re also best buddies with a friendship that’s 20 years strong.

Together is right. Dupree and Jackyl have been packin’ houses for 28 years now. In addition to being part owner of the Full Throttle Saloon, he also runs the aforementioned Mighty Loud Enterprises, another company called American Outlaw Spirits, and has been awarded five patents for his data management platform called Mixer that collects music and market research from listeners in real-time. The platform helps media outlets target their programming. With that much on his plate, it’d be easy to get overwhelmed. That’s where his Harley-Davidson comes in handy. Throttle therapy always has a way of melting troubles away.

Photos Courtesy of Mighty Loud Enterprises