Currently adorned on the walls of Liberty Cafe is the story of a Renton resident who sold his heart to rock ‘n’ roll.
In his first art exhibit, Mick Flynn captures his emphatic love for music and the very place his obsession began.
This exhibit is a two-in-one package, one half that’s titled “Memories of England” — a series of watercolor paintings of childhood memories spent in the countryside in the UK — and the other called “Blues Greats” — an acrylic series, which is an homage to the legends that inspired him, including BB King, Leadbelly, Buddy Guy and Freddy King.
Mick grew up in England during a time when the Beatles and The Rolling Stones were finding their start and weren’t yet household names in the United States.
He caught the bug early and the electric pulse of rock ‘n’ roll has been beating in him ever since.
“My first memory was probably when we were in England and I went to a movie and saw Bill Haley and His Comets play ‘Rock Around The Clock.’ People were getting up in the theater and dancing,” Mick said. “That left an impression on me. Then I started paying a little more attention. Within some years, it was the guitar that caught my attention. I was around 12 when I got my first guitar.”
In the summer of ‘69, his family moved to the United States. A teenager completely entrenched in rock ‘n’ roll, Mick decided he was going to become a musician. So he formed a band called Child.
For the next few years, the group toured, produced records and made their rock ‘n’ roll dream into reality.
Mick opened a vintage guitar shop in 1982 called “Mick’s Vintage Guitar” during a time when used instruments weren’t popular.
“Music stores weren’t into used instruments at that time,” he said. “It was the way things were. There were few stores that took in used stuff, but they mostly wanted to sell the new stuff. But I’d been buying and selling guitars, and I saw a need for it.”
While many weren’t interested in what he had to sell, the professionals were always on the hunt for the next new prize.
The Who was performing in Seattle around that time. Mick knew the promoter and asked if any of the members would be interested in seeing his stock. He received a call back from the Alan Rogan, the guitar tech of the band and was asked to bring down six guitars to the concert venue. Mick not only sold all six guitars, but he spent time with the band members and witnessed the live performance.
The word spread and big name musicians who came through the Seattle area for concerts contacted Mick to see if he had any instrument or equipment to sell.
The list of musicians Mick has worked with is long, impressive and includes Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck.
“When you hear the song ‘Start Me Up’ by The Rolling Stones, that amplifier you hear in the opening chords is Keith Richard’s favorite amplifier. I found that near Ben’s Loans here in Renton,” Mick said.
He closed shop in the late 80s, right when prices of instruments shot up and “the average guy couldn’t afford them.”
“Some of the fun was lost for me,” Mick admitted.
Taking a 180 degree career turn, he found himself working at the Museum of Flight.
It was here he turned a hobby into something bigger.
One day, he wore a flight jacket on which he painted a pinup girl. People began inquiring and Mick began painting jackets with World War II inspired art on it.
He soon switched canvases, from jackets to airplanes.
Mick painted a B-17F Flying Fortress called “Boeing Bee” currently at the Museum of Flight, nose art on aircraft displayed at Paul Allen’s Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum and others.
After years of decorating aircrafts, he switched canvases once again. This time he’s painting on paper.
“There’s only so many vintage airplanes you can paint,” Mick said. “So I started to diversify. I started with painting with my watercolors.”
Mick admitted he’s not a trained artist, but merely someone who obeys when inspiration commands.
“When the mood strikes me, I go for it until I’m done. It regenerates my energy,” he said.
What is it like to see his labor of love displayed at a local coffee shop for all of your community to see and appreciate?
“Humbling,” Mick responded. “It feels good. If people like it, it makes you feel good.”
Mick’s exhibit is currently on display at Liberty Cafe, 926 S. Third St.