The Song Remains: Wes Freed (1964 – 2022)

Southern Gothic inspired artist who gave The Drive-By Truckers a perfect iconography.

The Drive-By Truckers are one of the iconic americana bands and a key part of The Truckers’ iconography is the artwork of Richmond, Virginia, visual artist Wes Freed who died on 4th September from colorectal cancer. Patterson Hood acknowledged Wes Freed’s passing on social media but said he was too upset to write any form of eulogy, such was the importance of Wes Freed to The Truckers. Fans of the band will be fully aware of the extent of the influence of Wes Freed’s art on The Trucker experience, and even those with only a passing awareness of the band will immediately recognise Wes Freed’s style. It is certainly very unusual for Americana UK to celebrate the work of a visual artist which also reflects the significance of Wes Freed’s work in the americana genre.

Wes Freed was born on 25th April 1964, in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, and while he had intended to move to New York to further his artistic career, he decided Richmond was big enough for him after he attended Virginia Commonwealth University. Music was also important to Wes Freed, and it was his musical connections that brought him into contact with The Truckers when they played Atlanta’s annual Bubbapalooza roots music festival, which Freed co-founded, in 1997. Wes Freed first worked on The Truckers’ breakthrough album, ‘A Southern Rock Opera’. The visual representation of Southern Gothic that Wes Freed’s pictures invoked was a perfect fit for The Truckers’ music. Wes Freed’s artwork adorned most of The Truckers’ albums up to and including 2022’s ‘Welcome 2 Club XIII’. He also designed stage backdrops and merchandise for the band and also the “Cooley Bird” which became the iconic representation of The Truckers and their guitarist and songwriter Mike Cooley. Wes Freed designed album covers for other bands and played in various local groups in and around Richmond. In 2019 a book of his collected works was published, ‘The Art of Wes Freed: Paints, Posters, Pin-ups & Possums’.

We will never know what would have happened if Wes Freed had gone to New York to establish his career, he chose not to, preferring to base his art and music in and around Richmond, Virginia. It was the Drive-By Truckers who brought his art international recognition, and in return, he gave them an iconography that would be the envy of most bands so perfectly did his Southern Gothic-inspired art fit with their music. It is reported that when asked where art or music was most important to him, Wes Freed confirmed that art was his first love, but that in his mind he could separate the two.

About Martin Johnson 402 Articles
I've been a music obsessive for more years than I care to admit to. Part of my enjoyment from music comes from discovering new sounds and artists while continuing to explore the roots of American 20th century music that has impacted the whole of world culture.
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Steve Wise

A small correction to Martin Johnson’s appreciation of Wes Freed, “The Song Remains,” on September 7: Bubbapalooza occurs annually at the Star Bar in Atlanta and was founded by the late Greg Smalley in 1991 or ’92. Freed had nothing to do with its founding although he and his band occasionally played the Star Bar.