- Written By: Irish Rich
A good example of Robt. Williams' art for Roth's magazine ads. Robt. Williams art samples for the famous felt patch sheets that Roth sold. A page from my copy of The Lowbrow Art of Robt. WilliamsOn a trip to L.A. in June of '71, I wanted to see the Brucker's Cars of Stars, and Planes of Fame museum. I wanted to see Ed Roth's cars again, because I had heard Brucker had bought them all when Ed was going thru his divorce, and they were all there. What I didn't realize while I toured the place was that Ed Roth was working there - and probably that day as I wandered around, and that two large paintings I had looked at that day were done by Robert Williams.
I knew Robt. Williams' work only from the underground at that time, mainly Zap Comix, and Coochy Cooty. His art always blew me away with it's complexity and detail. It wasn't until a few years later that I found out that he was the man responsible for most of Roth's ad copy art and design from '65-'70, and had done the art for his felt patches,and other art for Roth. Robt. Williams had inadvertintly influenced me two times before I even knew who he was.
Robt. Williams went to work for Roth in '65, and was there working thru everything that happened in that shop until Roth closed up in '70. He also met his future wife Suzanne at Roth Studios, who is a great lady, and a supurb artist in her own right. Williams remarked that this (Roth Studios) was the first job he was ever issued a pistol along with his art supplies. Robert's commuter car then was a '62 Ford sedan, factory equipped with a 406ci. big block w/3 deuces and a 4 speed. While he was there, among others, he also worked with Jim Jacobs (later the Jake, in Pete & Jakes Hot Rod Parts). Robert Williams has been a lifetime hot rodder, and his early patrons were the Bruckers. That's how those two early Williams paintings wound up on exhibit in the Cars of Stars.
While some of Williams' art might not appeal to everybody (I love it!), his art relating to hot rods and cycles is something that draws everyone right in. It's his incredible detail in his paintings, and the mechanical knowledge he's gathered "living the life", that everybody can recognize right off. I don't think there's too many rodders or bikers that don't have prints of his Hot Rod Race, A Devil With A Hammer & Hell With A Torch, Blue Collar Bravado, or Hittin' A Glass Truck At Midnight hanging in their houses, garages, or club houses.
One time In the Spring of '01, ChopperDave was up at Bob's Big Boy in Burbank, CA on a Friday night, and he was talking to Robert Williams. It's not unusual to see Robert up there in one of his Deuces, and I need to say right now, that if you've never been to Bob's on a Friday cruise night, you don't know what you're missing. If you're EVER in the area, DO IT! Anyways, in passing Dave mentioned that he had a friend in Denver that had a big appreciation of his history and work. Robert told Dave if I'd like to send out any of his books, he'd be glad to personalize them for me. Needless to say, I didn't hesetate!
That Fall of '01, at Jesse's No Love Party, Dave came up to me and said he had a couple people he wanted me to meet, and he took me around the corner of the shop, and Robert and Suzanne Williams were standing there. Man, talk about being blind-sided. I was a little intimidated at first, but we must have talked for at least an hour about the party, his cars, his art, Suzanne's art, what I did, both their time at Roth's - and I have to tell you, I've never met two more gracious and genuine people in my life. It was truly an experience I'll never forget, and it isn't often you get the chance to stand and talk to somebody who's influenced you, and who's work you've enjoyed ever since high school.