Memphis, Tennessee: “She’s Been Everywhere, Man!”
Memphis, otherwise known as the birth place for rock n roll, is a large city built on the banks of the Mississippi River in southwest Tennessee and is famous for blues, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll music that originated there. It’s a melting pot of cultures with both an unsettling history of slavery and inspirational reminders of the civil rights pioneers and resilient entrepreneurs that founded the city. Up from the city’s historic racial turmoil came some of the most influential and hottest sounds the world has ever heard from musicians such as B.B. King, Booker T. & the M.G’s, and Ike Turner whose music to this day still plays a vital role in recording genres of all kinds.
According to wearememphis.com, the Memphis music history is as old as the city itself. At the beginning of the last century, Memphis was a convergence of African-American commerce and culture. Traditional spirituals became the foundation for the blues and artists like W.C. Handy. Handy is often called the “Father of the Blues,” having brought his band to Memphis in 1909 to play in the clubs on Beale Street to showcase this distinctive style of music.
Later, Sun Studio, located at 706 Union Avenue, was started by one of the fathers of rock ‘n’ roll, Sam Phillips, in 1950. It was the combination of the Memphis Recording Service and Sun Records that formed Sun Studio, and until 1969, it was the producer of acts and artists such as Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and of course, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley.
The studio’s claim to fame is that it is where the first rock ‘n’ roll record was produced: “Rocket 88,” in April 1951. Today, Memphis is home to many historical landmarks including the Burkle Estate, the Peabody Hotel, the Chucalissa Indian Village, The National Civil Rights Museum, Sun Studio, and Presley’s Graceland mansion. Other music landmarks include the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, Blues Hall of Fame and Stax Museum of American Soul Music.
I’ve always loved listening to old soul and blues music while painting in my studio. My husband loves to play 50’s era rock n roll while working the garage or cruising in our Dodge Polara. The music from that time in history just has so much more grit and life to it. I included Memphis, Tennessee to this series, not only for our love of the music that originated there, but also for its rich American history that continues to influence today’s culture in many ways. The “She’s Been Everywhere Man!” collection was all together inspired by a song sung by Johnny Cash called “I’ve Been Everywhere” and when I read that Johnny Cash had recorded in Sun Studios, the entire painting came to life in my mind. I used a beautiful photograph of Brittney Clarke, otherwise known as “Retrodoll_Brittney” on Instagram, taken by Spike Marble with Spike and the Camera for Car Kulture Deluxe in front of the Mooneyes headquarters as the focal point of this painting.
This was the most challenging painting in the collection to create due to the architectural angles of the brick building and the multiple different surfaces I had to recreate with paint. Overall, it’s the combination of different textures in the final paintings that gives the artwork the movement and gritty city vibe that I love. Since I’ve yet to visit Sun Studio in person, I initially thought the window on the bottom right of the brick building was just black and white advertisement. Upon further online research to get a clear photo to paint from, I learned that “ad” wasn’t just any old photo rather an iconic photo entitled, “The Million Dollar Quartet” featuring, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lewis, and Carl Perkins singing together on a whim. The most enjoyable thing about creating paintings inspired by real American people and places is the history lessons that inevitably come with doing the research for the initial design reference! With their miniature size in my design, painting these four famed singers took two solid days work but I knew it was imperative to have them accurately represented in the artwork. The final piece of art was hand painted in Alpha 6 automotive enamels on a 24”x12” canvas.
The final “Memphis, Tennessee” Painting. Become a “She’s Been Everywhere Insider” here, and subscribe to my newsletter!
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WHAT IS “SHE’S BEEN EVERYWHERE, MAN!”:
“She’s Been Everywhere, Man!” is an innovative collection of ten original paintings, in automotive enamel paint, that depict women driving vintage classic and custom cars to some of our county’s most historic and iconic locations. The series title was originally inspired by the lyrics of the Johnny Cash song, “I’ve Been Everywhere”. After restoring my 1966 Jeepster with my dad, and traveling cross country in it with my family, I realized that America’s rich history is ONLY defined by our willingness to maintain the things and preserve the places that established our unique, cultural identity in the world that is AMERICANA! Through my art and personal story, I want to start a conversation on the importance of maintaining and preserving the things and places of our past, to inform and ultimately benefit our future generations.
My image inspiration for this series stems from WPA travel posters, old school paint-by-numbers, aviation nose art, and my own favorite photos from family road trips. You can check out these images and more over on my Pinterest.
To see more artwork and stories from this unique series of paintings just click here!