Bobby Starnes’ Wall of Names

In September 2015, we reported that songwriter and musician Bobby Starnes had suffered a serious fall at his home near Jonesborough, TN. Having fallen down a set of steps, he has had quite the road to recovery since enduring a fractured skull, several broken ribs, and bleeding on the brain. I had the opportunity to catch up with him recently and am glad to report that all is well. He’s almost made a full recovery – all but losing the senses of taste and smell and very slight balance problem.

Not only is he back to work and doing well, he just completed a 400 hour-plus job in his off time – an art piece appropriately titled the “The Wall of Names” in the man cave across from his home studio. While recuperating at home in the winter of 2015, he was inspired to create a tribute to the musicians and songwriters who have influenced him throughout the years.

“One day I was watching American Pickers and noticed some lettering on the wall in a lady’s house,” he said. “Mike and Frank just walked on by but it really caught my eye. That’s what sparked the idea. The more I thought about it the bigger the project became.”

Bobby used his graphic design skills to make a scale model before taking the time to create individual letters by hand. According to Bobby, he put in at least, on average, an hour of time per letter. “That’s not including the time of gathering materials, watching YouTube videos to learn different painting techniques, etc.,” he said. There are 351 letters!

The Wall of Names is truly a work of art. Each name has an individual theme that is represented in the font and artwork applied to each piece. For instance, Bobby painted the word “Dolly” three times. “Finally my wife Connie suggested I paint “Dolly” like the coat of many colors. I liked the thought and just started having fun with lots of colors. Now we call it the ‘font of many colors,’” said Bobby.

While 2016 was his personal best for songwriting, 2017 might be an even better year for Bobby.  He has already had six cuts this year and April hasn’t even arrived. His recording studio, Hat Creek Recording Company, is staying really busy too.  He chuckled as he said, “We’ve been really busy in the studio. We got a really busy April coming up as well. While most bluegrassers record during the winter months I guess some like to put off the hard work of recording until the last minute.”

Bobby says he hasn’t slowed down one bit since the accident. “I would be dead if my wife hadn’t heard me fall and come to check on me,” he told me. “The biggest lesson I have learned is that life is really, really, really short. Now I don’t want to waste any more of it!”

Bobby Starnes is one of the most talented people I know. Just look at that “Wall of Names.”

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About the Author

John Curtis Goad

John Goad is a graduate of the East Tennessee State University Bluegrass, Old Time & Country Music program, with a Masters degree in both History and Appalachian Studies from ETSU.