In his mid-Wilshire adjacent 1917 Los Angeles apartment surrounded by art, vintage tin and metal toys, 78 RPM records and books, Hudson Marquez eats lunch, makes drawings, then paints. He paints stories of revered and obscure R&B legends, high hair and high heels, using a mixture of facts and myths throwing in a helping of artistic license. If you are lucky enough to be in the same room with him, he delivers a string of very detailed and spirited verbal history lessons on these subjects. Hudson knows his stuff; he was there for much of it!
Music is what drives Hudson’s creations, he listens to music while painting but also states
“I don’t listen to much music outside of painting, my attention span is so short now, it makes me anxious to listen to a record, I want it to be over so I can hear the next one!”
On a recent studio visit in preparation for his upcoming show at La Luz de Jesus Gallery titled “Rhythm and Shoes” which runs through January 9-February 1, 2015, Hudson gave background on some of the paintings which will be included in the show including a piece which depicts legendary burlesque queens Lily St. Cyr, Lilly Christine, a.k.a. “The Cat Girl,” Blaze Starr, and Ronnie Spector. Wait… Ronnie Spector? Yes – the piece is titled “High Hair & Higher Heels”.
I have another one, R&B guys, with matching shoes. I love painting shoes, I love mules, I think they are sexy. All strippers wore mules because they could take ‘em off and put ‘em back on, slide them off and slide them back on in their act. When they took their clothes off, they could walk around in stockings in their mules. I grew up in New Orleans. We used to get to go into to the black clubs and the strip clubs when we were really young. The bar was eye level, the music was incredible it was live and it was behind the bar. The eye-level view for a small, young person was the stage floor and the woman’s shoes. They had the best bands in the world. When the strip clubs closed down for a little while the local music business went down too, that’s how a lot of these guys made their living. Fats Domino’s band was one of ‘em. The crème of the crème. They all moved to Los Angeles and became session musicians. When I grew up, every woman wore high heels, my mom, every adult woman, wore heels so that’s what you see when you are little, high heels.
In 1960, I was 13 years old going to clubs, if you were local they would let you slide through, black clubs too, white people weren’t allowed in but we hustled our way in. The only white people that were there were Mac Rebbenack A/K/A Dr John, and a couple of others.
Incident at the Dew Drop Inn
There’s a painting in the show about this guy who ran this place, the Dew Drop Inn, he was a light skinned black guy who got this great club and hotel, all started from his barber shop. He had this great fucking place it was the best, everybody played there, every black performer, and they weren’t supposed to let white people in because there was a law against it, it was called “race mixing” and he, Mr. Frank, the guy who owned it, got arrested a bunch for race mixing because he thought it was the right thing to do, most of the times someone would inform him that the cops were coming.
Was This Freddy King’s Last Meal?
Freddy King was a huge man – there were four Kings, BB King, Albert King and a guy named Earl King. And my favorite is Albert King but Freddy was my second favorite, he was an incredible guitar player known as the Texas Cannonball, and he was a monster, and he died and the myth was that Freddie, he liked to eat, and he loved chili, and he went to his favorite chili place, he would play there, but the story was, the way he died, was that he had ate a whole bunch of this lady’s chili and died in the booth, keeled over, before the show. That was the story – he had a giant heart attack after eating a bowl of chili, that’s what his family said. The true story is different, but I didn’t know what to do –I knew what the real story was and yet I loved the myth but I didn’t want to paint the myth, so stuff was true – so I asked a friend of mine and he said, you know what , make it “was this Freddy’s last meal? Then you can paint whatever you want. So that’s what I did and I also included images of Dave Alvin, and a woman named Barbara Lynn – she’s amazing, a left handed guitar player she’s still around, and of course Freddie, and the woman, Miss Dot, she’s the lady who owned the place where they did eat this chili, which was his favorite in Dallas, (pointing to an image of a pair of shoes in the painting) this is what Barbara Lynn was wearing on her feet. Freddie did a lot of blow (the painting also includes a small pile of cocaine on the dining table), that’s what really killed him, That’s what really killed him so that’s the story on this, Dave is my friend and I’m a Barbara Lynn fan – and here are drawings of photographs of strippers because Dot was really big on that. I panted the myth but did put a little bit of reality in the there.
Robert Pete Williams Sees the Devil and Bites an Architect
Now this one, I was there when this happened. This man here is Robert Pete Williams who was kind of an obscure bluesman, he was in Angola which was the worst prison in the United States, it’s a hellhole in Louisiana, it was all black, because that’s who they put in jail. Robert Pete was in there for killing somebody, and he killed a bunch of people actually, but they got him on one. He played the guitar and was a blues singer. Some folklorist guys I knew actually got him out of prison, they went to the prison and recorded prison work songs, pretty amazing beautiful stuff and they found Robert Pete in there. His music is very singular and scary as shit, it’s frightening stuff, it’s really good. This was in the early 70s when I was back, visiting New Orleans. I went up to a friend’s place, in the French Quarter, to speak to him about music stuff, about Longhair (Professor Longhair.) I had a Japanese girlfriend (note: depicted in the painting). As I’m walking in to my friends place I ran into this guy, Doug, who was one of the whitest people I’ve ever known, he later became a partner of mine. Anyway, he was an architect, a Yale graduate, and he did a lot of pop architecture; he was a bit of a wild young man architect in the US and Britain. I was going to cook, so I invited him to dinner at my friend’s place and Robert Pete comes walking in to the room. I didn’t know this but my friend was letting him stay there while he was recording. Robert Pete had passed out earlier in the day from drinking. He woke up, still drunk, still had an ass-pocket full of whiskey, and he drank some more, heard people talking and smelled food so he came into the room, and I’m like holy shit I’ve seen pictures of Robert Pete but this was scary and he was dark I mean real dark – in a dark room he’d be nothing but teeth and eyes. So he is drinking and telling stories and I’m just mesmerized. So Pete decides that he’s telling us about the first time he met the devil, in a cornfield, he was really scared. He was young and knew he did some bad things. So when he met the devil he knew things were going to get worse. The bottom line was the devil was this huge dog and Robert Pete got down on his hands and knees and started barking and howling like the devil. He ran across the door and bit Doug, he actually bit him right on the fucking ankle, drew blood, tore up his shoe, (makes growling noise ) ararararar… my friend fled, and we were laughing! This (another figure in the painting) is Bobby Marchan who was a drag queen. He was an R&B singer, and later in the evening he’d put on an evening gown. He had really big R&B hits, I saw him at The Drew Drop Inn, and he was an amazing performer, he had a song called “Booty Green” so I just put “Booty Green” on his shirt. Bobby was there he was probably the most afraid of Robert Pete and said Oh my gawd there’s a wild -savage negro in the room! He was a funny guy… they are all dead. This (an insert in the painting) is the death house at Angola, Robert Pete was on death row. There was no air conditioning at this prison it would get to 120 degrees in there with 100% humidity year round, it was a farm, a prison farm, and they’d have the guys with shotguns on horses, and all the convicts had the ball and chain with black and white striped prison clothing, all the prisoners was black, for some reason. It kept me from being a criminal. I would have loved to been a criminal. The thought of having to go to Angola if you got caught, it scared a lot of people. In Mississippi there was a place called Parchment Farm it was a country club compared to Angola…
Our discussion then went to the Mose Allison song “Parchment Farm” which led us to the Blue Cheer cover version, which led to a great story about Blue Cheer at the Whisky, and then his travels with Canned Heat. Hudson has an endless supply of stories to tell of an amazing time in pop culture. I could listen all day! Tune in to the “Over Under Sideways Down” show on LuxuriaMusic on Wednesday, January 7 at 3-5 PM PST to hear Hudson tell more stories and play some of his favorite records. If you are in Southern California, come to his opening on January 9 or his artist discussion on January 18 at La Luz de Jesus Gallery!