Gearing up for the Great British Invasion

In September, a group of British bikers will undertake an epic ride through America to raise much-needed money for Childline

The Sons of Royalty is an eclectic group of individuals from very different backgrounds – musicians, A-list actors, best-selling authors and Special Forces veterans. What unites them is their love for Harley-Davidson® motorcycles, music and a passion for raising money for Childline, a free service provided by children’s charity the NSPCC.

The Sons of Royalty have raised almost £200,000 for Childline by organising an annual road trip through America. The trip, called The Great British Invasion, is in its ninth year and is set to be the best yet, taking in the finest Californian scenery via the Joshua Tree, Sequoia and Yosemite national parks, Lake Tahoe, and the Pacific Coast Highway all the way to Santa Monica and LA, culminating in a concert by house rock band Thunder. We asked Thunder’s Danny Bowes to explain what The Great British Invasion is all about…

High notes and highways
The concept of the ride started when I was introduced to Daryl Clark by a mutual friend. Daryl’s a huge music fan, and after hearing us he was smitten. He wanted to use rock music to raise funds for Childline and the NSPCC and asked for help.

Thunder did some fundraiser shows, which were great, but he wanted more. He lives in the Rockies, where has a Harley®, for part of the year and he had an idea to do the rides and to use the band as ‘bait’ to recruit riders. We were happy to do it, of course, as all we had to do was act like the idiots we are, whip the guitars out here and there and make them sing. It has moved on a bit since then with bigger rides and bigger shows, but the principle is still the same.

The first ride in Canada and the US in 2011 gave me my first go on a Heritage Softail®, and it took me about three seconds to decide I liked it. We’ve done a ride every year since then.

Bigger and better
This year’s ride is our biggest to date with 23 bikes. Each rider has to cover the cost of the trip and raise or donate £1,000 to Childline. Luckily, people who go on the trip almost always come back because it’s a unique experience, not to mention a fantastic laugh. It’s such a mental bunch of personalities too, with financial guys, musicians, ex-SAS, authors, senior military, police, and media types.

Morgan Freeman is involved, and we played at his Ground Zero Blues Club in Mississippi a few trips ago. Each year it evolves a bit more, but it’s always brilliant. We raise much-needed money, so we don’t feel guilty about having a nice time because we’re doing a good thing.

Andy McNab of Bravo Two Zero fame has taken part twice. He has to hide his identity for security reasons, so we were under strict instructions not to photograph or video him. We didn’t, but he kept jumping into everyone’s pictures. He’s a nutter, as you’d expect. He fits in well. This year we’ve got one of the guys from the film Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels joining us. He’s part of a big UK network in LA, so we’ll be leaning on him quite heavily.

Meet the ambassadors
Harley-Davidson® has been very supportive. Harley-Davidson of the Kootenays in British Columbia were great in the early days, as was Trev Deeley Motorcycles in Vancouver. This year EagleRider in San Diego has been very helpful, and Nik Ellwood at Harley-Davidson Europe has been a star. My bandmate Ben Matthews and I were Harley-Davidson ambassadors the last time I checked!

My passion for riding and music motivates me to organise The Great British Invasion. I’ve been riding since I was 17 and in the band almost as long – this is Thunder’s 30th anniversary year. We’ve played all the major stadiums, and our star seems to be very much in the ascendant once again with sold-out tours, three top 10 albums and a couple of number one DVDs. I always say we’re the biggest band you’ve never heard of. Not bad for a bunch of old geezers!

We’d love to have more Harley-Davidson riders join us. This year’s trip is full, but if you’re interested in the 2020 ride we want to hear from you – as long as you’re not averse to a fair bit of chaos!

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