'Blood Did It

Biography of Kenny Youngblood

D rag racing’s most prolific artist was born November 2, 1945, in Los Angeles, California, and grew up in the nearby suburb of Rosemead.  Kenny had inherited a tremendous talent for art and, as a kid, developed a keen interest in mechanical subjects; especially hot rods.

The majority of his art training and inspiration came through his artistic family. Both Kenny’s parents, as well as an uncle, were all talented painters.  "My mother had an incredible knowledge of art", says Youngblood, who credits her with being "the best teacher I ever had".

At about age 12, Kenny and his friend John Kaiser were treated to a day at San Gabriel Drag Strip, where the young artist became inextricably hooked on the world’s most powerful motorsport.

Wanting to get behind the wheel, and with lot’s of help from John’s dad, the two boys started out racing go-karts and eventually built and raced a Chrysler powered ‘32 Ford.   Kenny’s direct involvement in racing would continue throughout his life.   "I’m a racer at heart" says Youngblood, who went on to build and drive two "slingshot" Fuel Dragsters, and has done stints as crew member, crew chief and co-owner of various types of race vehicles.

In 1969, the first phase of Youngblood’s career as a drag racing artist had it’s inauspicious beginning when he did some lettering on another friend, Gary Messenger’s dragster.  Upon seeing his work, custom painter Dick Olsen hired Kenny to handle all the sign painting at his Bellflower, California shop.  Youngblood’s friends called him "Blood" for short, so he signed his work "Blood Did It".

Youngblood was in the right place at the right time, with the right abilities. His lifelike airbrush work soon established a new standard, and within the next two years, many of drag racing’s top machines featured Youngblood’s handiwork.  Yet, while the sign work was fun, Youngblood knew his abilities exceeded that arena.

In the early seventies, encouraged by promoter Bob Kachler, Kenny transferred his skills to the drawing board; designing graphics for all kinds of performance vehicles.   He was the first artist to specialize in auto racing and would eventually be called "The father of modern day race-car designs".  Examples of his work soon adorned the pages of virtually every publication in motorsports and his designs were responsible for dozens of "Best Appearing" awards.

Although his client list was a "Who’s Who" of motorsports, his most recognizable design didn’t appear on a race car, but rather on millions of record albums.  Adorning the sides of the "Eliminator" '34 Ford coupe (and subsequently the pattern for the most infamous "key chain" in history) was Youngblood’s interlocking logo design for the rock group "ZZ Top".   There was, however, still more he could do with his talent.

Kenny occasionally did paintings of race cars on canvas, and found that buyers for his racing "portraits" were becoming easier to find.  It occurred to him that there were a lot of enthusiasts, like himself, who, if given the choice, would hang something on their walls that represented their interest.  Consequently, in 1978, Youngblood began offering limited edition prints of his originals, and was unknowingly the world’s first, strictly motorsports art publisher.

By the mid 80’s, the vision Kenny had for the future of motorsports art was indeed becoming a reality.  His limited edition prints had gained popularity with collectors worldwide and other modern day racing artists began following the path he’d pioneered.

In 1993, with help from industry leaders Roger Holdaway and Jerry Moreland, Kenny opened Youngblood Motorsport Gallery  in Orange, California.  It was a spectacular showcase for his works and other top artists in the field. The gallery’s annual "Hot Rod Art Show" was the premier event in the world of high speed art and was featured on the NHRA Today TV show.

Youngblood’s contributions to the visual enjoyment of motorsports would be hard to number.  "Someone called me an ‘icon’ the other day and I can’t think of a greater measure of success", says Kenny, who’s still cranking out his "Nitro Powered" art.

Today, Kenny is seen more frequently on TV and as a celebrity guest at major car shows and events across the country, including Darryl Starbird's Shows, the Detroit Autorama and the Grand National Roadster Show.

"The car culture has gone mainstream, it's a great time to be involved in hot rodding" says Youngblood, whose work has been featured on TV shows like "Monster Garage", and can be seen at the Hot Rod Grille in Las Vegas, Nevada.