Craig Legg’s 300-painting exhibit chronicles Birmingham’s rock music history
By Brent Thompson
If the names Telluride, Topper Price, Damon Johnson, Dave “Rockin'” Roddy and St. Paul & The Broken Bones ring familiar to you, then the CLegg Tiny Art Gallery is the place for you. Local artist Craig Legg is set to open his History of Birmingham Rock & Roll exhibit at his gallery located inside East Lake’s East Village Arts. Featuring 300 paintings and covering more than 60 years, Legg’s exhibit spotlights the artists, deejays, venues. and record stores that formed the city’s rich musical scene. The exhibit’s opening event will take place on January 28 and will run through March. Recently, Legg discussed the exhibit while giving us a guided tour.
Southern Stages: Craig, thanks for your time. We are excited about the History of Birmingham Rock & Roll exhibit. How long has the project been in the works?
Craig Legg: I worked on it for a year in 2019 and I finished in February 2020. I went out looking for a gallery to hang it in – I wasn’t with this gallery at that time – and then a month later the world shut down. So, it’s been in my living room for three years.
Southern Stages: How long will the exhibit be available for viewing?
Legg: Through March. We don’t have regular hours but I’m here every Saturday. On January 28, we’re having an initial showing.
Southern Stages: Not only is your exhibit an enjoyable visual trip down memory lane, you are educating attendees about the city’s musical history.
Legg: That’s right and it is a rich history. It has been written about (hands me a copy of the book Magic City Nights by Andre Millard) – it came out in 2017 and he’s a professor at UAB. It was an oral history project set up by Aaron Beam and they contacted and interviewed people from the old bands.
Southern Stages: Is there any chance the exhibit’s paintings will be compiled and published in book form?
Legg: It’s been mentioned several times. If someone wants to spearhead the project, I’d be okay with it but I’m not going to [laughs]. I just came off a book project that took three years.
Southern Stages: How would you sum up the exhibit?
Legg: I call it a “trading card” series – it’s not a hall of fame. People say, “This guy should be in there and that guy shouldn’t.” In a [baseball] trading card series, you don’t get them all – you may not get Mickey Mantle and you’re supposed to trade. I grew up collecting trading cards – you get [a photo of] the player with the bat and ball, so I just did that with the musicians. There are photos of them with their axes and so forth. In addition to the players, trading cards also have the manager and team photos, so there are variations on the theme. To that end, I did the infrastructure people like radio deejays, recording studio people, concert promoters, venues and record store owners because it takes all of that to make a good scene.
Southern Stages: Have you been painting for most of your life?
Legg: No, I was mainly a writer and a spoken-word person and I turned to painting about 10 years ago.
Southern Stages: How long did it typically take you to paint each piece in the exhibit?
Legg: Starting out, it took about two days. I’d work three or four hours and three or four hours the next. Now, I can do one in three to five hours if it’s a single image. The more people, you have the harder it gets. The bigger ones can take about 10 days and they are meant to highlight the venues.
History of Birmingham Rock & Roll will premier at CLeggArt Tiny Gallery – located inside of East Village Arts – on Saturday, January 28 from 1-5 p.m. The gallery will be open every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. through March. East Village Arts is located in East Lake at 7611 1st Avenue North. For more information, visit www.evabham.org.