The Florida Highwaymen and Billy Yeager Documentary Film

•May 21, 2011 • 1 Comment

“Yeager’s folk art film “The Florida Highwaymen” not only captures a raw and unparalleled glimpse into the lives of the Florida Highwaymen, but features some of the lost artists who were forgotten, while also uncovering one of the most fraudulent art dealer scams of fake Highwaymen and forgeries being sold on E-Bay”.

PERRY STEIN MIAMI HERALD

“Yeager delves into Ft. Pierce looking for the Highwaymen as he documents his earnest desire to paint with the Highwaymen. When he discovers Livingston Roberts at his home we see many of the artists gathered together, including a rare scene with a staged but sincere reunion with Jimmy Stovall.”

ART OBSERVER


Yeager with Hezekiah Baker and original 1970’s painting on upson board.

Yeager with Albert Black at Tomoka State Prison.

Yeager not only discovers where the Highwaymen gather to paint, but captures rare moments with artist Charles Walker, Johnny Daniels, Jimmy Stovall and Livingston all gathered together talking about the old days, Alfred Hair, Al Black, and the lost Freddie paintings.Yeager interviews Alfred Hairs family and many who knew Backus and Alfred personally.


Yeager with Charles Walker and Livingston Roberts at Ft. Pierce, FL.


Yeager with Rodney Demps and Charles Walker.

There are precious moments where Yeager tries to persuade Rodney Demps to paint again. He finds Rodney Demps living in a empty house confined to seclusion, paranoid, and takes Rodney to the beach to paint for the first time in 25 years.Yeager discovers Rodney wants a new truck so he purchases paints, brushes, massonite boards and recreates a scene that is reminiscent of Alfred Hair painting his art with a photo of a Cadillac tacked up close by for his inspiration to make money. Yeager returns days later to discover the artist has disappeared and left the state. Yeager returns again and again to the neighborhood trying to make friends, many are skeptical but it is Livingston who senses Billy’s true desire to become an artist and we as an audience watch as Billy brings his guitars, his first paintings, and convinces Livingston to let him paint. Yeager devoted a year to the project driving all the way from Miami to Ft. Pierce 5 days a week.


Rodney Demps.


Yeager with Gladys Hair.

He discovers the lost Highwaymen “Jimmy Stovall” and brings him to Livingston Roberts backyard, both who haven’t seen each other in 25 years, as Livingston states on tape, “there’s a real highwaymen, he was here from the beginning”.



In recent years there has been many forged paintings sold on eBay and at many galleries. Because there are over 26 artists and they signed their names scratched with a nail into the paintings that were still wet makes it easy to purchase similar Florida scene paintings and forge the artists names who only knew how to print. In 2001 Billy Yeager became the only person to become one of the group painting alongside artist Livingston Roberts who shows Billy not only how to paint but how to recognize authentic paintings.
Yeager shows intricate detail Livingston Roberts setting up his canvass in the morning where the 2 of them begin to work on a painting together.

Yeager and Livingston Roberts painting together on one of Yeager’s original oil paintings.

With Albert Black Tomoka State Prison.

Yeager with Charles Walker.

Yeager with Johnny Daniels.

Manny Buckner.

Jimmy Stovall with Alfred Hairs very first painting on canvas.

Charles Walker painting in the back yard of Livingston Roberts, a very rare occurrence.

The Highwaymen were mostly self-taught painters who painted on inexpensive Upson board. They packed these paintings into the trunks of their cars and sold them door-to-door throughout the south-eastern coast of Florida. Paintings by the Florida Highwaymen are prized by collectors today.

The name refers to African American artists, mostly from the Fort Pierce area, who painted landscapes and made a living selling them, door to door, to businesses and individuals throughout the state from the mid-1950s through the 1980s. They also were peddled from the trunks of their cars.

Today their 100,000 plus paintings have gathered significant interest and have become quite collectible. At auctions these particular painters works have been recognized with high prices. In recent years there has been many forged paintings sold on eBay and at many galleries. Because there are over 26 artists and they signed their names scratched with a nail into the paintings that were still wet makes it easy to purchase similar Florida scene paintings and forge the artists names who only knew how to print.

In 2001 Billy Yeager became the only person to become one of the group painting alongside artist Livingston Roberts who shows Billy not only how to paint but how to recognize authentic paintings.

In 2002 Yeager became the states only certified curator and the expert of Highwaymen Paintings and was featured on FOX NEWS.

FOX NEWS THE HIGHWAYMEN

They painted from their garages and back yards on inexpensive Upson board and then on the weekends they would travel and sell their Highwaymen paintings to hotels, offices, businesses and individuals who appreciated the artwork for around $25 a piece.

Collecting Florida Highwaymen art has become an exciting, but often expensive, hobby. The market for an original work of art by a Florida Highwayman can easily bring $5,000 up to 15,000.00!

 

About the Florida Highwaymen

Who are the Florida Highwaymen?

In the early 1950’s through the 1980’s a group of twenty-six African-American artists painted beautiful landscapes that displayed the serene, undeveloped Florida landscape of their time.  Today these artists are known as the “Florida Highwaymen” and because of the tranquil scenes and history involved, their original paintings are highly demanded by collectors and enthusiasts.
The Florida Highwaymen used vivid and bright colors in their paintings to display the beautiful untouched Florida landscape.  They painted wind-bent palm trees, serene sunsets, churning oceans and bright red Poinciana trees.  These paintings looked great on the walls of businesses and homes.
The original Florida Highwayman, Alfred Hair, was introduced to a prominent white artist named A.E. “Bean” Backus in the early 1950’s.  Under the arm of Mr. Backus, Alfred was encouraged to paint landscapes and realized that he could make a living doing it.  Alfred encouraged several of his friends to begin painting as well, and soon the Florida Highwaymen became a sort of social group.
The Highwaymen artists knew they could make a living painting, but they knew they had to be different.  Mr. Backus was a prominent white artist and could sell his paintings for hundreds of dollars in galleries and shows; no gallery would show the work of unknown, self-taught African-Americans. Instead they painted from their garages and back yards on inexpensive Upson board and then on the weekends they would travel and sell their paintings to hotels, offices, businesses and individuals who appreciated the artwork for around $25 a piece.

In the 1980’s the Florida Highwaymen unofficially disbanded after consumer tastes changed.  But because of a recent surge in demand for their work several of the original highwaymen have come back to painting.Why are the Florida Highwaymen Famous?In the early 1990’s an interest in “outsider art” or art which is created by artists who are outside mainstream society, developed in the art world and in 1995 an article was written for a journal by Jim Fitch who coined the group the “Highwaymen” because of their tactics of traveling I-95 and A1A to sell their artwork.  Not long after this the New York Times wrote an article on the Florida Highwaymen and two books on the group have been published since then, causing the value of Florida Highwaymen artto skyrocket.In 2004 the 26 original Florida Highwaymenwere inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.  The Highwaymen are credited for encouraging the beginning of the “Indian River School” and “Backus” art movements and have many followers but these 26 individuals are the only true “Highwaymen”.The twenty-six Florida Highwaymen artists are:

Curtis Arnett

Hezekiah Baker †

Al Black

Ellis Buckner †

George Buckner †

Robert Butler

Mary Ann Carroll

Johnny Daniels †

Willie Daniels

Rodney Demps

James Gibson

Alfred Hair †

Issac Knight

Robert L. Lewis

John Maynor

Roy McLendon

Alfonso Moran †

Harold Newton †

Lemuel Newton

Sam Newton

Livingston Roberts †

Willie Reagan

Cornell Smith

Charles Walker

Sylvester M. Wells

Charles Wheeler

Jimmy Stovall

† deceased

About Billy Yeager

Music
Billy Yeager plays all instruments and has written and composed over 1100 musical compositions. He has played in funk, rock, and jazz, bands including guitarist for The Inner Circle Reggae Band from 1985 to 1987 and has also played with world re-known bassist Jaco Pastorius. In 1992 Yeager was discovered by Grammy Award Winner Bruce Horsby and signed to a development deal with Capitol Records. His musical style is extremely diverse ranging from “Surf Jazz” to Gypsy Spanish Flamenco Trance music, and also many symphonic arrangements for his film soundtracks. Yeager plays by ear, and arranges and composes all his music himself retuning instruments and inventing chords on the guitar not commonly used. He does not listen to guitar music however because of his reproach against guitarist.
Films Jimmy’s Story
Yeager recorded his whole life with 4 video cameras beginning in 1968 with 8 m.m. film cameras, 1970’s VHS, 1980’S HI-8 and Beta, and 1990’s digital. In 1997 Yeager finished his film documentary called ‘Jimmy’s Story” which was originally a  3 part series 6 hours long edited down to 2 hours. There was over 600 hours of footage and it took over 6 years to complete the first version.  30 years ahead of his time, Yeager knew his life was a movie when he left home at 13 years of age. The film documents Yeager’s entire life, cameras were placed in his automobile, apartment, he even made a 50 foot homemade aerial crane so he could film himself from 50 feet in the air.
In 1995 Yeager sent the raw footage to Kevin Smith who suggested Yeager get in touch with John Pierson who featured Yeager’s story about the making of the film on his show Split Screen. Rick McKay was given a copy of Jimmy’s Story at The Palm Beach Film Festival. Unbeknownst to Yeager, Rick gave the copy to Dean Treadway the programm director at the DIFF Film Festival who immediately wanted the film, Treadway; Out of the 700 films submitted Jimmy’s Story is the one that moved me most to tears of joy and frustration”.
Heralded as a major achievement “Jimmy’s Story” won an unprecedented 4 awards at the Dahlonega International Film Festival in 2001 for Best first film, Best director, Best documentary and Best folk film. Yeager chose not to enter the film into other festivals however because of his reproach against film festivals.
Yeager’s life and film gained national attention when he fooled the press in the US and Internationally when he dyed his skin black and promoted himself as Jimmy Story, the long lost son of Jimi Hendrix. For 2 years Yeager planned a convoluted hoax on the media to prove a point that his talent had not been recognized. Yeager promoted himself as his own manager and even had himself registered as a “certified graphologist” certifying all of his documents for the press. The rise to fame as Hendrix’s illegitament son was overnight and Yeager was featured on television and new shows, appearing in psychedelic garb, mumbling as if on drugs, and filming the whole facade for his film Jimmy’s Story.
Afterwards Yeager was approached by C.A.A and I.C.M. who both wanted to do a Hollywood version of Yeager’s life for a feature film. Yeager turned down the offers, because his reproach against Hollywood, stating that his life was already a film, the story and film has become a “cult film” gaining exposure from youtube, “the Jimi Hendrix Hoax”.
Films “A perfect Song
Yeager wrote, produced, directed, acted, and composed all the music for A Perfect Song, this was his first dramatic feature film and was made with no money. Yeager reinvented himself again, shaving his head, and gaining 30 pounds for the role of Lloyd. A Perfect Song won him a Best Actor category at The Delray Beach Film Festival and also became a cult film. Yeager made the film for “no money” as he was living out of his car as he was filming the movie for over 6 months. He was then asked to become a regular guest speaker at Film Festival’s about his no budget approach to filmmaking. He has done only a few, and discontinued them for his reproach against filmmakers.

Yeager’s  self taught schooling and film directing education
Yeager discovered and trained his own actors from a method he later developed as specialized “on camera film acting”.  With a business card and a dilapidated abandoned trailer in an RV park he started his own film acting school that gained national attention and actors from as far as New York and L.A. came to learn his methods. This is also how Yeager decided he would train himself to become a director of films, always teaching himself, just as he had taught himself to play every instrument. He discontinued the course for his reproach against actors.

Yeager was seen throughout South Florida and performed in Jamaica with Inner Circle from 1985- to 1987, however he was never given a single credit for recording on the albums of Inner Circle. He also recorded for Pearl Marley, Rita Marley  and was used extensively by many well known Reggae Bands as a studio musician who were part of the “Inner Circle team” yet not once was given credits.

In an interview given by Yeager in a publication called Stage and Screen, he stated that he was never told the guitar tracks would be used for pressings and would sometimes record for many Reggae artists recording over 14- hours a day as many different artist would come through the sessions throughout the day, never being introduced to any of them, Yeager instead would be instructed to simply play on another track.

Ironically he stated he was also only paid 75.00 for performing in concerts from 1985-1987 to over 50,000 people at Reggae festivals.

Billy Yeager plays every instrument on the album “Be My Valentine”, whereby on the “What’s It Gonna Take” album, Yeager enlisted an impressive crew of musicians about 22 of them, including well known trumpeter….and Dennis Noday, Al Shikaly, Brett Murphey, Jay Drake drummer.

How many musicians can say a 20 time Grammy Award Winner such as Pat Metheny would stop in to hear their original music?

The documentary called “The Film that Changed the World” is sure to receive major attention especially when you consider the times we live in, and due to this and many of Yeager’s other films such as “A Perfect Song” written, produced, directed and acted by Yeager, and the documentary of the famous “Florida Highwaymen” all of these Yeager has kept out of the market place for his own personal reasons, but this will make all of his works even more valuable.

Consider that the “Be My Valentine” album was only pressed on 2000 copies.

And also if you have a “signed by Yeager” record album that is even more valuable because if you watch the interviews by Yeager, there is no way on earth that anyone could get an autograph today from someone who is not interested in being rich or famous.

My prices are influenced much as the stock market is, it is priced on speculation, as to what your record is worth, only you now that.
This is the site I recommend that has all of Yeager’s prior work, including art, music and films.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Highwaymen, also referred to as the Florida Highwaymen, are a group of 26 named and listed landscape artists who have been called “The Last Great American Art Movement of the 20TH century”.[1] This group of self taught and self mentoring African American artists, were able to define themselves against the many odds, racial and cultural barriers of the time in which they painted, and created a body of work of over 200,000 paintings.[2] For over 50 years, The Highwaymen, a loose association of twenty-six African American artists from Fort Pierce, Florida, USA, who began painting in the early 1950s and into 1960s, created large numbers of relatively inexpensive landscape paiintings, which were created using construction materials rather than traditional art supplies. As no galleries would accept their works, they sold them in towns and cities and along roadsides throughout Florida often still wet, out of the trunks of their cars. Their success and longevity is remarkable considering they began their career in the racially unsettled and violent racial times of the 50s in Florida,[3][4] and the social conditions of the Jim Crow South, the stirrings of civil rights movement in Florida was only just beginning.[5]

In 1970 one of the original members of the group, Alred Hair, who was also considered to be the main catalyst and soul of the group was killed. Subsequently some of the group’s creative energy and direction was lost, the remaining members created fewer paintings and productivity waned. However they were re-discovered in the mid-1990s by Jim Fitch, a Florida Art Historian, and Jeff Klinkenberg of the St. Petersburg Times wrote the several newspaper articles about the Florida Highwaymen in August 1995. Since then they have become celebrated for their idyllic landscapes of natural settings of the Floridian landscape. The 26 Florida Highwaymen were inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2004.[6] Their renown has grown internationally during the 2000s and they have become part of Florida culture and history. The remaining artists in the original group (8 deceased) continue to paint to this day, more than 50 years since they first started to paint, even though most artists are now in their 70s and some nearing their 80s. Over time their style has evolved into more carefully created works and away from the original “fast painting” techniques that enabled them to produce large quanties of paintings in their early years. Analogies compare the Hudson River School of the mid 19th Century and Group of Seven (artists) from Canada in the early 20th century to The Florida Highwaymen Artists. In their respective time these groups, mentored and created works collaboratively. Painting en plein air style, these groups of artists created expansive landscapes, of untouched and pristine lands, creating scenes of timelessness and raw natural beauty. In many ways the Florida Highwaymen’s story is even more compelling and romantic than the other groups, as The Highwaymen had no backing or support and were much more resourceful and creative in both production and sales of their works.

Contents

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[edit] History

In the 50s and 60s, it was impossible to find galleries interested in selling artworks by a group of unknown, self-taught African Americans. Instead they sold their art directly to the public rather than through galleries and art agents. Rediscovered in the mid-1990s by Jim Fitch, today they are recognized as an important part of American folk history.[7][8]

The Florida Highwaymen were influenced by renowned Florida landscape artist A.E. Backus during the 1950s-80s (although only Alfred Hair was a formal student of Backus). His influence extended through Hair and Harold Newton to the other twenty-four artists in the group. Some in the formal art world have given this group and its followers the name “Indian River School,” but they are most well-known as The Highwaymen. Not known as “highwaymen” in their heyday, the name was bestowed by Florida art collector and museum curator, Jim Fitch, in a 1995 article in Antiques and Art Around Florida.[9]

[edit] Style

The Highwaymen were mostly self-taught painters, who mentored each other. Excluded from the traditional world of art shows and galleries, the Highwaymen painted on inexpensive Upson board or masonite and framed their paintings with crown molding (brushed with gold or silver paint to “antique” them). They packed these paintings into the trunks of their cars and sold them door-to-door throughout the south-eastern coast of Florida. Sometimes the paintings were stacked before the oil paint was dry. One can make out the imprint of the base of the next frame on a few of the paintings.

Paintings by the Florida Highwaymen are prized by collectors today, but their story is about much more than art.[10][11] The name refers to African American artists, mostly from the Fort Pierce area, who painted landscapes and made a living selling them, door to door, to businesses and individuals throughout the state from the mid-1950s through the 1980s. They also were peddled from the trunks of their cars along the eastern coastal roads (A1A and US 1). Today their 200,000 plus paintings have gathered significant interest and have become quite collectible. At auctions some of these particular painters’ works have been recognized with high prices, noteably important older works by the “original” members of the group are considered the most valuable.

[edit] Membership

It was not a formal movement and represented no “official” group, yet The Highwaymen thrived as artists and entrepreneurs through their sheer determination to succeed as painters and not as laborers in citrus groves, their expected social role.[12] The works are also classified as “Outsider Art“, or “Folk Art”. They honed techniques to rapidly produce their paintings and developed strategies to sell and market their artwork outside of the formal world of art galleries and exhibitions. Their story is one of African Americans who carved out unique economic opportunities despite the social conditions of the Jim Crow South.

In 2000, twenty-six artists were identified as Highwaymen.[13] These artists were inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2004 as the Highwaymen and include: Curtis Arnett, Hezekiah Baker, Al “Blood” Black, brothers Ellis and George Buckner, Robert Butler, Mary Ann Carroll (the only woman in the group), brothers Johnny and Willie Daniels, Rodney Demps, James Gibson, Alfred Hair, Isaac Knight, Robert Lewis, John Maynor, Roy McLendon, Alfonso “Pancho” Moran, brothers Sam, Lemuel and Harold Newton, Willie Reagan, Livingston “Castro” Roberts, Cornell “Pete” Smith, Charles Walker, Sylvester Wells, and Charles “Chico” Wheeler.[14]

Of these twenty six, nine are considered “original” (or the earliest) Highwaymen: Harold Newton, Alfred Hair, Roy McLendon, James Gibson, Livingston Roberts, Mary Ann Carroll, Sam Newton, Willie Daniels, and Al Black.[15]

In 2008, an hour-long PBS-TV documentary film called “The Highwaymen: Florida’s Outsider Artist” produced by Geoff Cook and written by father and son team Jack and John Hambrick (both veteran TV news journalists) of Everglades Productions included interviews with a portion of the artists and more than 100 original Highwaymen paintings.

As of May 25, 2009, eight are deceased, both Buckners, Hair, Harold Newton, A.Moran, L.Roberts, H. Baker and most recently, Johnnie Daniels. Most of the living artists are active and aggressively marketing their newer works.[16] Most of the paintings are signed, but there are a number of paintings that weren’t, there are a number of paintings that are sold as “Highwaymen Style” that emulate the iconic landscapes of the Highwaymen artists, but are indeed just mere reproductions with little real value. Older paintings from the 1950s and early 60s era are more sought after by collectors.

[edit] Highwaymen Exhibits

Washington, D.C. An ongoing exhibit of vintage paintings by the core artists of the group. Included in the exhibit are paintings by Alfred Hair, Harold Newton, Roy McLendon Sr., Mary Ann Carroll, James Gibson, Livingston Roberts, Willie Daniels, Ellis Buckner, George Buckner, Sam Newton and Al Black. Entitled ” The Florida Highwaymen: A Disappearing Landscape “. The exhibit highlights not only the works and the unique historical and cultural significance of the Florida Highwaymen, but also their important depiction of the natural beauty of the endangered wetlands environment. Florida House, #1 Second St. N.E. Washington D.C. 20002. Florida House serves as the goodwill embassy for Floridians in our Nation’s Capital, on Capitol Hill in a historic 1891 restored house. Mondays through Fridays 9 am to 4 pm. No Admission charge. Paintings from the Tony Hayton Florida Highwaymen collection.

Tampa, Florida at the Florida Aquarium, 701 Channelside Drive, Tampa, Florida, on the second level of the main atrium and entrance. The paintings are vintage works by Alfred Hair, Sam Newton, James Gibson and Harold Newton. Emphasizing the “timeless” nature of the Florida Highwaymen works and the environmental and wetlands conservation message they also represent. Paintings from the private collection of Tony Hayton, Ottawa.

In Orlando, Florida at the Orange County Regional History Centre, 65 East Central Boulevard, Orlando, Florida Through January 2, 2011 “Against All Odds: The Art of the Highwaymen” paintings by all 26 artists together in one exhibit for the first time. Paintings from the private collection of Geoff and Patti Cook Orlando, Florida

Florida’s capital, Tallahassee, houses over twenty original Highwaymen paintings on view to the public. Located at the Museum of Florida History these paintings are part of their permanent collection and most are donated by the museum’s endowment fund, Museums of Florida History Foundation. The Museum of Florida History currently has paintings by twenty-three of the original twenty-six artists. They hope to complete the collection with artworks by the three remaining original artists.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ Painting isn’t Just One Man’s Treasure St. Petersburg Times August 20, 2005
  2. ^ Florida Department of State Induction of the Florida Highwaymen into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame
  3. ^ History of Harry T and Harriette Moore NAACP
  4. ^ Freedom Never Dies The Legacy of Harry T. Moore, Florida Terror PBS Documentary
  5. ^ Civil Rights in Florida A Short History of Florida
  6. ^ Florida Artists Hall of Fame List Florida Department of State
  7. ^ Antiques and Art Around Florida The Highwaymen by Jim Fitch 1995
  8. ^ The Highwaymen By Ken Hall
  9. ^ Antiques and Art Around Florida the Highwaymen by Jim Fitch 1995
  10. ^ Florida’s Highwaymen:Legendary Landscapes by Bob Beatty
  11. ^ Florida Highwaymen:Local Artists Make HistoryVisit Florida February 2010
  12. ^ Florida’s Highwaymen:Legendary Landscapes by Bob Beatty 2008
  13. ^ The Highwaymen By Ken Hall
  14. ^ Florida Highwaymen Art Information and resources on the Florida Highwaymen
  15. ^ Who are the Florida Highwaymen
  16. ^ Florida Highwaymen Events Latest News and Events About The Highwaymen

[edit] Bibliography

[edit] External links

 
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