By Michael Goldstein
Subject – “Lynyrd Skynyrd Road Series – Blue” – a painting and limited-edition print created by artist Michael Cartellone and used in the CD booklet of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 2005 release on Universal Music’s UMTV records titled “Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Greatest Hits”.
Greetings – As those of you who visit the RockPoP Gallery site and have read my past “Cover Stories” columns know, our focus has been on trying to elevate the status within the fine art world of people who earn their living creating the artwork and photography that grace your favorite album/CD covers and other music-related promotions and packaging. All of the artwork and photographs featured to this point were created by talented individuals who make their living on “the graphics side” of the business. This Cover Story, though, is quite special, as it features the work of someone who has earned his fame as a much-praised studio/tour drummer (and continues to enjoy a fantastic career as the drummer for one of the most popular musical acts of all time, 2006 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Lynyrd Skynyrd).
That’s right – this issue we’re featuring the fine art of Michael Cartellone, who’s recorded and toured with an amazing list of acts, covering all genres of music – John Fogerty, Peter Frampton, John Wetton, Freddie Mercury, Cher, Adrian Belew, Accept and, my favorite, multi-platinum “supergroup” Damn Yankees.
As busy as he is with his musical career, Michael’s first love was painting, and while his career kept him on the road constantly, he found himself relaxing and refocusing his energies by painting in his hotel rooms and on the tour bus. As it is that he works to create hyper-realistic images of life on the road (hence, his most recent prints, which are used to illustrate the booklet included with “Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Greatest Hits” – the 30thanniversary compilation on UMTV records – are named the “Road Series”), I’m not quite sure just how he relaxes while he works, but let’s ask him to give us some insight…
“I’m very proud of the Road Series Paintings. The three years (during three World Tours – 2001, 2002 and 2003) I spent painting the five canvases were very satisfying creatively. I was being fed musically at night, playing with Skynyrd, and artistically during the day, painting in my hotel rooms. I enjoyed this so much that I can’t imagine touring without painting now. In fact, this year I’m working on a painting of a Carousel, which has been an idea stored in the back of my head for a dozen years.
So, when my friend Michael Goldstein of RockPoP Gallery asked me to contribute a piece to Cover Stories, I thought I’d focus on one of the Road Series Paintings – “Blue”.
Blue is easily the most personal painting of the five, as it illustrates my working perspective (which no one else shares) of Life On The Road. Only I see that view, day in and day out while on tour. So, I thought it would be interesting to share it with others. Any drummer will tell you, when sitting at their kit they feel a comfort zone. It’s one constant for us, in an ever changing, city to city, venue to venue environment. I feel this comfort when I look at Blue.
Blue also gives away some of the “behind the scenes” attributes of the Road Series Paintings: the ever-present half an orange (for sticky hands to hold drumsticks), the bottle of Gatorade, the tape on the pedal board for a little bit of traction and last, but not least, the homage to all my drum endorsement companies.
I will say that of all five paintings, the hardest thing and most time consuming to paint was the cymbal in Blue. I spent a month alone on that cymbal. Upon close inspection, you’ll notice the ridges changing color throughout. This effect required a lot of attention and many, many coats of paint to achieve the final result. I knew I would be happy with that cymbal once finished, but I honestly was surprised how involved it was to paint. I love this painting and it’s my favorite of the five.
Looking back on the Road Series paintings, I couldn’t be happier that they were how I officially kicked off my art career. Even though I had shown and sold work through the years, these paintings enabled me to enter “the Art World” with a real splash. Doing so, it enabled me to use my art, to paint about my life in music. It’s the perfect example of two halves making a whole.”
Lynyrd Skynyrd Greatest Hits – released June, 2005, on the Universal Music TV label, UK.
This ‘greatest hits’ package brings together some of the finest moments from Southern rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd’s back catalogue. This two CD set acts as the perfect introduction into the band’s mix of hard rock, blues, and country and features 30 of their biggest hits, including “Freebird”, “Sweet Home Alamba”, “What’s Your Name”, “Gimme Three Steps”, and many others.
Formed by high school friends in Jacksonville, FL in 1964 and adopting the name Lynyrd Skynyrd from the name (Leonard Skinner) of an antagonistic high school PE teacher, the core of the band at the time – singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Gary Rossington, guitarist Allen Collins, bassist Leon Wilkeson, and drummer Bob Burns – release their first single in 1968.
Their debut LP – ‘Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd’ is released and goes gold. In November of that year, they opened for The Who on their ‘Quadrophenia’ tour. Al Kooper then discovers Lynyrd Skynyrd in an Atlanta club and signs them to his Sounds Of The South label. From that point forward, the band released a series of hit singles, charting with “Sweet Home Alabama” in 1974, then with “Saturday Night Special”, followed by “Freebird” (from their debut record, but re-released as a single in 1975).
During the next 30 years, the band recorded and toured continuously (including a tour with the Rolling Stones), with musicians moving regularly in and out of the band, and a series of tragedies – culminating with the horrible plane crash in late 1977 that killed 4 band members (including founding member Ronnie Van Zandt) and injured many of the others – only served to motivate the surviving members to continue to play, ultimately re-grouping in 1987 (with Ronnie’s brother Johnny on vocals) and continue producing Skynyrd music, bringing their unique brand of Southern Rock to good ole’ boys everywhere to this day. In 2006, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which featured a performance by many of the musicians who had played with the band over the years.
Michael Cartellone bio –
Michael Cartellone was born June 7, 1962 in Cleveland, Ohio. He began painting at the age of four and drumming at the age of nine. Music and art would be a simultaneous learning adventure throughout his childhood.
Michael’s music career began at the age of 11 when he played his first bar. After many years on the club circuit, he moved to New York City when he was 22. After playing with former Roxy Music/UK keyboardist Eddie Jobson, and then former Styx guitarist Tommy Shaw, Michael found himself a member of the multi-platinum selling band Damn Yankees. This was the springboard for a career that has included recording and touring with John Fogerty, Peter Frampton, John Wetton, Freddie Mercury, Cher, Adrian Belew, Accept and, since 1998, drumming for 2006 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Michael’s art career has included New York-area gallery shows, two shows in suburban Washington, D.C. and dozens of paintings sold to individual collectors.
RockPoP Gallery is pleased to be able to offer Michael’s “Road Series” images which, as the title would indicate, were done while he was on tour with Lynyrd Skynyrd. In addition, he’s recently added an image that pays homage to another musical hero of his – John Lennon. To see all of this artist’s work available in the gallery, click here.
About “Cover Stories” – Our weekly series will give you, the music and art fan, a look at “the making of” the illustrations, photographs and designs of many of the most-recognized and influential images that have served to package and promote your all-time-favorite recordings.
Every Friday, we’ll meet the artists, designers and photographers who produced these works of art and learn what motivated them, what processes they used, how they collaborated (or fought) with the musical acts, their management, their labels, etc. – all of the things that influenced the final product you saw then and still see today.
We hope that you enjoy these looks behind the scenes of the music-related art business and that you’ll share your stories with us and fellow fans about what role these works of art – and the music they covered – played in your lives.