Biography of Kenny Youngblood
rag racings 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 Kennys 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 worlds most powerful motorsport.
Wanting to get behind the wheel, and with lots of help from Johns dad, the two boys started out racing go-karts and eventually built and raced a Chrysler powered 32 Ford. Kennys direct involvement in racing would continue throughout his life. "Im 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 Youngbloods career as a drag racing artist had its inauspicious beginning when he did some lettering on another friend, Gary Messengers dragster. Upon seeing his work, custom painter Dick Olsen hired Kenny to handle all the sign painting at his Bellflower, California shop. Youngbloods 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 racings top machines featured Youngbloods 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 "Whos Who" of motorsports, his most
recognizable design didnt 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
Youngbloods 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 worlds first, strictly motorsports art publisher.
By the mid 80s, 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 hed 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 gallerys 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.
Youngbloods contributions to the visual enjoyment of motorsports would be hard to number. "Someone called me an icon the other day and I cant think of a greater measure of success", says Kenny, whos 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.