Crosbyton man receives autograph on his 1970 billboard painting

James Taylor signs historic billboard
Published: Apr. 14, 2016 at 2:39 AM CDT|Updated: May. 19, 2016 at 2:27 PM CDT
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Source: Joe Taylor
Source: Joe Taylor
Source: Ashlyn Tubbs, KCBD
Source: Ashlyn Tubbs, KCBD
Source: Ashlyn Tubbs, KCBD
Source: Ashlyn Tubbs, KCBD
Source: Ashlyn Tubbs, KCBD
Source: Ashlyn Tubbs, KCBD

CROSBYTON, TX (KCBD) - The Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum in Crosbyton serves as a time portal to a different age.

It contains dinosaur fossils and human skulls, many of them recreated by Museum Director Joe Taylor.

"It's all art to me," Joe said.

But tucked away from the bones are Joe's masterpieces from an entirely different generation of art and music from the 1970s and '80s.

They are a collection of paintings from a job Joe landed in 1973, after leaving his family farm in Crosbyton. He painted billboards from record covers in front of Tower Records on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles.

"There's this sign painter painting these signs on the window, on the glass," Joe said, "so I went up there and looked at him and looked at the painting and said, 'I can do that.' He said, "Show me your stuff.'"

Joe was hired on the spot, and within two weeks he became the chief painter.

"I didn't think anything about it," Joe said. "Whatever it was…whether it was a blurry photo or a house or a car or somebody's face."

He even put his own twist on the paintings, like white hearts in Olivia Newton John's eyes.

"Just do whatever was on the cover, maybe make it a little better than it was," he said. "I didn't think anything about it."

If his memory serves right, Joe painted nearly 700 of these billboards, but was only able to keep a few dozen from being thrown away or painted over at the end of the month.

"I said, 'I'll buy it from you'," Joe said. "He's paying me $50 to paint…so I bought it back for $40. So now I'm making $10 a day."

One of the portraits he kept was of Grammy Award-winning musician James Taylor from his 1974 album cover.

When he discovered James Taylor would perform in Lubbock on April 13, he dusted off the canvas and asked for some help from his brother.

"He can back up a horse trailer for 10 miles," Joe said.

The two dropped it off at the United Supermarkets Arena Monday night, with an old family friend, arena associate director Cindy Harper.

"My parents are from the Crosbyton area," Harper said, "so they actually grew up together."

Harper put in a request for James to sign Joe's portrait.

"I would love to be a fly on the wall," she said, "and just see his reaction on his face."

When Joe picked up the canvas Thursday morning, he found it autographed by James along with an album. Joe said James remembers seeing the portrait.

The billboard will go right back in the Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum room of "trash" painted canvases, that Joe saved for others to treasure.

"I hope they'll look at it and say, some farm kids with hay fever can do this, why couldn't I?'"

Joe plans to sell these portraits to benefit Operation Not Forgotten, a support group for veterans.

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