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Happy Birthday To Folksinger Patty Larkin And Her Machine Gun Guitar

June 19, 2012

What’s this?? A birthday caricature without a clock?? I’m afraid so. That’s because the original B&W drawing was done more than 20 years ago, before I came up with the idea of “birthday clocks,”  before I had Photoshop, before I had my first computer. I decided
to add some color to the B&W original to make it more engaging.

Our honoree: folksinger and guitar heroine Patty Larkin (b. June 19, 1951). Here’s the final:

caricature of folksinger and guitarist Patty Larkin with musical notes caught in her big red hair and carrying a guitar that looks like a machine gun or automatic weapon

A close-up detail image:

detail image of caricature of folksinger and guitarist Patty Larkin with musical notes caught in her big red hair and carrying a guitar that looks like a machine gun or automatic weapon

I first heard Patty Larkin on Life According To Four Bitchin’ Babes, a live album featuring Larkin and three other female singer-songwriters. Shortly thereafter, I saw her perform live at the Colonial Theatre in Keene, New Hampshire. I was enormously impressed, by her wit and rapid-fire guitar playing.

I decided to do a caricature. I gave her a guitar that was part automatic rifle, as if she’d just fired off a long burst and all the musical notes had caught in her hair. Here’s the B&W original:

early B&W version of caricature of folksinger and guitarist Patty Larkin with musical notes caught in her big red hair and carrying a guitar that looks like a machine gun or automatic weapon

I used to use a lot of solid blacks in my B&W work. I scanned the original caricature into Photoshop, and used the Pen tool to carefully select and delete the solid black areas from the automatic rifle, the clip, and the hole in the guitar. Then I added the color.

Here’s how the two versions compare:

comparison of original B&W and new color version of caricature of folksinger and guitarist Patty Larkin with musical notes caught in her big red hair and carrying a guitar that looks like a machine gun or automatic weapon

Patty Larkin grew up in the American Midwest. She taught herself guitar and began writing songs in high school. She performed in coffeehouses during her college years in Oregon, then moved to Boston after graduation. She recorded her first album in 1985,
and has been recording and performing for over 25 years.

Like many folk performers, she’s never had a hit record, and enjoys a devoted cult following rather than popular acclaim. It’s not difficult to understand why: her lyrics can be cryptic, her playing complex. She does not write catchy melodies or “feel good” music. She’s an original, and that makes her an excellent role model for all artists: she works hard at her craft, is true to herself, and forges on come what may.

Here are some photos which span her long career:

three photographs of folksinger and guitarist Patty Larkin, ranging from young to older to present day mature

I’ll end with this video for Traveling Alone, a song about the pleasure of driving solo through the beauty and grandeur of the American West. The guitar playing is restrained, but it’s a good example of Larkin’s playful nature and the quasi-mysticism of her lyrics.blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 24 pixels high

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What do you think? Do you enjoy contemporary folk music? Ever gone to see someone perform in a coffeehouse? Do you like songs that make you think? Hope you’ll leave a comment.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

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Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

Viva La Redhead, But It’s A Sin To Eat A Mocking Birdie

Birthday Tribute: Monkee Meets Blonde, Gets Vertigo, Goes Gothic

“Enter The Geezer”: Inky Draws Movie Trailer

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. Bob Johnson permalink
    June 20, 2012 10:50 AM

    Yes! It’s my kind of music, but I had ever heard of Patty Larkin that I recall.
    Bob J.


    • June 20, 2012 3:13 PM

      What?? Why, I had you pegged for a heavy metal guy… : P

      Just teasing, of course. Very happy to introduce you to a compatible musician, I just hope you won’t start taking guitar lessons and stay up all night disturbing the neighbors… : P

      Always honored to see you here, sir– thank’ee!! : )


  2. June 20, 2012 1:08 PM

    Get out!!! The Colonial Theatre in Keene? That’s where I went to school – twice! (Undergrad and grad) isn’t that a beautiful old theatre? Clever Larkin illustration. I shall give that a listen. To be honest I don’t listen to music (I know, not something you hear every day) but there are some gems out there, and I like some types of country music. Have you heard Kelly Willis?


    • June 20, 2012 3:31 PM

      Hm. You, Keene, grad school, environment… you’re an Antioch grad, right?

      Yeah, The Colonial is very cool, I’ve seen quite a few shows there. I did some B&W spot illos for a brochure to help promote their big restoration project back in the 90’s. Did you know the balcony still has the original (circa 1924) seats, and that some of them have a wire rack on the bottom to hold a man’s hat? Yes, it’s shocking, isn’t it?? : )

      Somewhere, on a dusty old cassette in a shoebox, I think I still have a Kelly Willis song about speeding down the road in a fast car, don’t stop whatever you do, etc– one of my all-time favorite hyper-fast rockabilly numbers. Like Patty Larkin, she seems to fly well under the popular radar… : (

      Always good to see you, Amelie– cheers! : )


  3. June 21, 2012 1:05 AM

    Ok, I am officially a Patty Larkin fan! I love this song! So original and unexpected yet moody too! And your take on her. The minute I saw it I took note! She does have good hair and you captured it’s essence perfectly. I’ll have to check out Kelly Willis too! See how much you’ve expanded my horizons Mark! YAY! 😀


    • June 22, 2012 7:45 PM

      Original… unexpected… moody… are you sure you’re not talking about me?? Well, it seems a funny coincidence… : )

      Very glad to have expanded your horizons, it was certainly the least I could do considering how much your own blog posts have expanded mine. Well, wait now, perhaps expanded isn’t quite the right word… Warped!! Yes, that’s it– you’ve warped my horizons, and I doubt they shall ever recover. But hey, that’s good… : P

      Always a pleasure, Linda, thanks a heaping heap for your jolly support!! : )


      • June 23, 2012 11:23 AM

        My weekend has gotten off to the perfect start now that I just found out I have had some small part in the warping of your horizons!! There isn’t enough warping going on in the world what with the demise of the vinyl LP and VHS tapes on the way out. Sigh . . . . But at least there’s still your horizons, Mark! And that always makes my heart sing!! 😀


  4. June 22, 2012 4:53 PM

    Now I’m part of Ms. Larkin’s devoted cult following. And who wouldn’t want to have that over popular acclaim. Thanks for the intro Mark, I love her voice and that guitar is to die for:-)


    • June 22, 2012 8:34 PM

      Ha!! Very well said! Who needs goofy old popular acclaim?? If she’s got you in the cult, she’s got it made!! : )

      Glad to hear Ms. Larkin is your cup of tea, Tracey– thanks so much for your cheerful support!!


  5. June 25, 2012 1:25 PM

    Rats! I can’t view the video.

    “This video is unavailable. This video contains content from EMI, who has blocked it in your country on copyright grounds. Sorry about that.”

    But I did find some other videos of her on Youtube. I liked Patty Larkin. Anyway The Main Thing Is is from the ninth album of Patty Larkin, “Regrooving the Dream” (2000), and was used prominently in the soundtrack of the film “Evolution.”


    • June 25, 2012 4:27 PM

      I’ve gotten that same message a few times when I’ve tried to watch videos. And that’s exactly what I say: “Rats!!” : (

      I hadn’t heard The Main Thing Is, and I appreciate your bringing it to my attention. I liked it. I guess it appealed to my mystical nature… : P

      Always a pleasure, TT– thanks! : )


  6. July 5, 2012 6:46 PM

    I’ve never gone to see someone perform in a coffeehouse. Perhaps I rarely go to see someone perform due to the budget issue, LOL. 😀

    By the way I like the color version of Patty Larkin’s caricature. I don’t know about her very well, but thanks for introducing her anyway. 🙂


    • July 6, 2012 8:56 AM

      Hi, Inge! Yes, the “budget issue”– always a factor! Seeing a headliner like Patty Larkin would definitely put a dent in the pocketbook, but FWIW: there are plenty of places (at least around here) where one can see local performers and/or the less famous without paying admission. In such cases, there’s usually a sign saying that donations are “appreciated”– but at least you can make sure you still have enough money to buy coffee! : )

      Glad you enjoyed the post, and many thanks for your kind comment!


  7. Robpixaday permalink
    July 6, 2012 12:46 PM

    What a delight this is!! LOVE that illustration! The hair-notes are terrific…her face is a joy…wonderful all the way!!
    Gosh. She’s a few months older than I am. Didn’t think there were any of us left…LOL!!!!!

    (And I just assumed the clock was under her hair)


    • July 8, 2012 1:19 PM

      Clock under her hair… ::shoulders shake, face scrunches, wheezes, guffaws, head-slap::

      Well, Ms. Larkin is a coupla years younger than I am, bless her guitar-pickin’ heart. Not only are there some of us left, the world is darn lucky to have us, that’s my humble opine… : P

      Thanks so much for that stellar review, and it’s always a pleasure to have you visit my tank, you young tuna, you! : )


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