Here's a reprint of some of our road trips in the past... enjoy.
Big Mixx and Rachael
Billy Jack Gunter tattooing Skinny Deville of Nappy Roots.
It all started at a convention. I was talking with different artists from all parts of the country and they all wanted me to visit them and see their shops.
Planning the trip took longer than I thought, trying to maximize your time in as few a days as possible became a pain. I kept scratching out my calender, and starting over. Things kept changing the route. One guy could do it this time and another couldn't and they were 600 miles apart.
I eventually figured out a basic route which would keep me out filming on the road for 40 consecutive days, about 30 shops and two conventions worth. I loaded up on PRICK mags and DVDs and hit the road.
I started out from my home in Northern Virginia on April 26. My first stop was Bowling Green, Kentucky. It was about a 9-hour stretch of driving without stopping.
You may wonder what took me to Kentucky. Well, the truth is Artistic Encounter Tattoo in Bowling Green is the home of Billy Jack Gunter. We met at the New Orleans show in 2004. We hit it off and then he came to the Cocoa Beach show and helped me there, so I promised him I would come see his shops some day.
I got to town and went straight to the hotel to relax.
Later, Billy and one of his artists, Big Mixx, came to pick me up for dinner. We went to a Japanese steakhouse where the cooks all have tattoos by Billy Jack so the service and the food were excellent. They took good care of us. After dinner we went to a club, everyone there knew Billy too.
Billy Jack owns three shops in Kentucky and is currently opening another one in Dallas,Texas. He is a young tattooer, and is driven to succeed in this game. His artists are all top notch and have good attitudes. They sit around and draw all the time, it makes for a good creative environment to work in.
We went to all three of his shops in Bowling Green, each one has a manager/partner working there and multiple artists and peircers.
Artistic Encounter #1 is located at: 1407 US 31 W. By-pass 270-783-8697. Clint Minnich is the manager of the shop and also tattoos. The other artists are Lil' D, who has a thing for graffiti art and is a natural at lettering; Shelbo, who does nice color work; and Jonnie 2tone is the shop piercer.
Artistic Encounter #2 is located at: 2052 Russellville Rd. 270-746-9856. Wes Carter manages this shop and is an excellent tattooer. Brad Ausbrooks and Doughboy are two other artists that work there.
Artistic Encounter #3 is located at: 2nd street/downtown Owensboro, KY 270-685-5805. Big Mixx is the manager there along with Don Juan Demarko. They take care of the tattooing, and Rachael and Ivan handle the piercing.
He also took me to meet his mentors at Dancing Dragon Tattoo – James Phillips and Chris Pavelch. Billy says he owes it all to both James and Chris for bringing him into the business and teaching him at the beginning and guiding him along throughout his career. James and Chris have a clean shop with lots of flash on the walls. They are located near a military base, so they stay pretty busy. He told me some stories about Billy as you can well imagine. Billy sneered and made faces at some of the shit James was saying, but it was all in fun. James seems to be real proud of Billy Jack and pleased with how far he has come.
We left Dancing Dragon and headed back to Bowling Green. That evening, two of the lead singers of the group Nappy Roots came in to get work done by Billy Jack. They also live in the Bowling Green area. They were getting ready to go out on tour,and needed their tattoos worked on first. Skinny Deville got some tree roots on his shoulder and down his arm and Big V got a needle shooting the words "game" into his veins.
I filmed the process and interaction with the Nappy Roots guys. They were very cool, Big V even took Billy and I out to dinner after the job was done. He's a wild dude, down to earth in a lot of ways, but road smart for sure. We had a good time with Big V.
Then Billy and I went to the recording studio and met up with Skinny D and their engineer Joel. They were previewing some of the new Nappy Roots music. Needless to say, I left with six new unreleased tracks. It's some good shit; it's in my cd player right now!
When I left Bowling Green I had a little extra baggage. Billy Jack thought it would be good for his apprentice, Dustin, a.k.a. Lil' D, to ride along with me to learn more about the tattoo industry and meet other artists, and maybe get to tattoo someone, or at least help me drive. I said okay and we headed off to St. Louis with Lil' D.
Billy Jack is currently in Dallas, Texas building the fourth Artistic Encounter shop, located at 3920 Rosemeade Parkway. Tattooing along with Billy Jack will be Wes Middleton. Shop piercer will be Zach. The shop is scheduled to open this month. You will see all the craziness, cool tattoos and hear the new Nappy Roots music in the Art Intensity Network Tattoo DVD series very soon.
The next Road Trippin’ installment will include a visit to Trader Bob's Tattoo Studio in St. Louis, MO, one of the oldest street shops in the U.S. and home of tattoo artist "All-American Matt" Hodel.