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Country Music Hall Of Fame® And Museum Commissions Artworks For Outlaws & Armadillos

March 20, 2018
Exterior of Country Music Hall of Fame taken from a drone.

Exhibition Will Feature Paintings by Jim Franklin, Kerry Awn, Danny Garrett, Guy Juke and Sam Yeates

Nashville, Tenn. – Feb. 27, 2018 – The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum's upcoming major exhibition, Outlaws & Armadillos: Country’s Roaring ’70s, will feature original works of art by a number of celebrated, Austin-based artists. Opening May 25 for a nearly three-year run, the exhibition explores an era of cultural and artistic exchange between Nashville, Tenn., and Austin, Texas. It will include commissioned illustrations by some of the artists essential to the Austin music scene, including Jim Franklin, Kerry Awn, Danny Garrett, Guy Juke and Sam Yeates.

Throughout the 1970s, Austin’s music scene was notably entwined with and supported by a band of visual artists who produced now-iconic show posters, murals, album artwork and portraits that rivaled underground work being created in San Francisco, New York, Chicago or Paris.

Artists Kerry Awn, Ken Featherston, Jim Franklin, Danny Garrett, Henry Gonzalez, Guy Juke, Bill Narum, Micael Priest, Gilbert Shelton, Sam Yeates and others were central to Austin’s music and counterculture scene. The works created for music venues Vulcan Gas Company and Armadillo World Headquarters were remarkably progressive and started a movement that spread to other Austin venues like the Soap Creek Saloon, Antone’s, the Austin Opera House and more.

“It was important for us to work with these artists,” said Warren Denney, senior creative director for the museum. “They contributed so much to the framework of the story back then, that it only made sense for us to tap them as we recall the story. It’s a real honor, and their new works contribute a great deal to the exhibition.”

The pioneering Austin artists commissioned by the museum remain active today. Franklin created the primary look for the exhibition, and Awn, Garrett, Juke and Yeates each contributed supporting pieces that will inform the gallery space for Outlaws & Armadillos. These original illustrations created for the exhibition are meant both to enhance the narrative and capture a sense of this rowdy and roaring era.

Galveston native Jim Franklin arrived in Austin in the mid-1960s, after spending time in San Francisco and New York. He succeeded Gilbert Shelton as primary artist for the Vulcan Gas Company. Ultimately, Franklin became a force at Armadillo World Headquarters, where he often doubled as master of ceremonies for stage shows. His depictions of armadillos are iconic works, springing from playful surrealist underpinnings, and they established Armadillo World Headquarters in the global pop consciousness. His approach ranges from pen-and-ink drawings to painting in oil and acrylic mediums. Franklin’s influence on the vibrant scene cannot be overstated.

His primary work for the museum exhibition presents a prominent triangulation of portraiture featuring Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and a riff off of the classic Armadillo World Headquarters logo, suspended above a sea of armadillos.

“This project was attractive to me because the museum recognized that art played a key role in forming and shaping the scene,” Franklin said. “The music and art absolutely fed off of each other. In the work, the Texas flag comes down as a tornado into the armadillos. It’s the tornadic effect of Nashville on Texans. And, of course, the tornado is a subtle nod to [the late] Doug Sahm [who once was in a band called the Texas Tornados] in that whole scene. A tornado occurs when winds come in from different directions and as they combine, they swirl. Many musical winds were swirling.”

Kerry Awn is known for his work at the Armadillo and Soap Creek Saloon. For the museum’s exhibition he contributed paintings that centered around Nelson’s early years in Nashville. Originally from Houston, Awn traditionally rendered his poster work in pen and ink, though his new work for the museum is in acrylic. A musician, he has performed with Austin-based Uranium Savages spanning four decades.

Danny Garrett’s pen-and-ink illustrations began appearing on the Austin scene in the early 1970s, and his work quickly found favor at the Armadillo and the Austin Opry House, among other venues. His work often stands in contrast to the surrealist tendencies of the others in the group, with a stark realism, often bolstered by humor and subtle messaging. Garrett has provided pieces for the museum’s exhibition related to Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in Nashville, and to Nelson’s later flight from the city.

Guy Juke came to Austin in 1973 from Lubbock as a member of Joe Ely’s band, but he found other work, as a poster artist at the Armadillo and elsewhere, and became known for an angular, sparse style. Juke is a master colorist, whose work rings with magical reality and honest emotional weight. His piece produced for the exhibition centers around Nelson’s fabled picnics, offering layered surrealist snippets of scenes from those celebrations, providing a near-hallucinatory depth.

Sam Yeates came to Austin in 1974 with an art degree from North Texas State University and, though a skilled painter, found himself at home in the pen-and-ink world of the Armadillo Art Squad, the group of artists designing for the Armadillo World Headquarters. He was defined at that time as an amalgamation of the other artists in the scene, but shone with detailed portraiture and dramatic imagery, as found in many of his blues-related pieces. Yeates’ works for the museum’s exhibition are done in acrylic, and focus on a notorious house fire north of Nashville, and a fortuitous phone call from Nelson to Jennings.

Outlaws & Armadillos opens May 25, and runs through Feb. 14, 2021. It will be accompanied by educational programs, including live performances, panel discussions and films. Details will be announced soon. The museum will produce a companion book that will be available May 25. In addition, the museum in partnership with Legacy Recordings, a division of Sony Music, will release CD and LP sets featuring music by artists included in the exhibition. Release dates will be announced soon. For more information about the exhibit, visit


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The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum collects, preserves, and interprets country music and its history for the education and entertainment of diverse audiences. In exhibits, publications, and educational programs, the museum explores the cultural importance and enduring beauty of the art form. The museum is operated by the Country Music Foundation, a not-for-profit 501 (c)(3) educational organization chartered by the state of Tennessee in 1964. The museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, and for three consecutive years has welcomed over one million patrons, placing it among the ten most-visited history museums in the U.S. The Country Music Foundation operates Historic RCA Studio BTM, Hatch Show Print® poster shop, CMF Records, the Frist Library and Archive, and CMF Press. Museum programs are supported by Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission, Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

More information about the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum is available at or by calling (615) 416-2001.

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