by Joseph H. RADDER
We've met a lot of interesting people over a lot of years, but none more
interesting than Dave Jones. Living Prime Time caught up with him when he was doing some
sign work at the Anchor Bar. It was immediately apparent that his story would make very
interesting reading for our subscribers.
Born in April 1960 in Chicago, Dave moved a few years later to Memphis Tennessee, where he began working on signs for the Coca Cola Company at age 10. The chief sign painter for Coca Cola discovered Dave working in a super market when he was painting a little sign to sell cantaloupes.
He started out cleaning brushes and working as a sign painter's helper. "I was a wall dog," he said. "That's the guy who climbs up on the wall of a building and paints the background for the lettering and artwork by a journeyman sign painter." Not too long ago he went back to Memphis for a visit and saw a sign he painted when he was 14 years old. Naturally he took a picture.
Today he is the owner of New York Signs here in Buffalo. At a table in the Anchor Bar, he proudly opened a huge scrapbook of photographs of his work signs and murals most of our readers would recognize at Salvatore's Italian Gardens, Unilock, Louis' Hot Dogs, Willoughby Insurance, Charlie the Butcher's, The Mack Truck Company, Dan Majeski Nurseries, Aamco Transmission, dozens of others, and the Anchor Bar, of course. One page in his scrapbook he displayed proudly had several of pictures of the mural he did with Margaret Merrick for the staircase of the Decorator's Show House on Nottingham Terrace. After 9/11 he began painting a lot of flags on numerous company buildings around the city. "You see, my daughter's in the Air Force, so I've got a soft spot for the military," he said.
Dave worked for Coca Cola all over the south for sixteen years, then for various outdoor advertising companies where he did a lot of those Black Velvet Whiskey billboards with the beautiful girls wearing black velvet dresses. He also painted outdoor advertising signs all across New York State for Genesee Beer.
A job with Omelia Outdoor Advertising is what brought Dave Jones to New York State. After jobs in Syracuse and Rochester, he would catch on with Penn Advertising (now Lamar) in Buffalo. His first big mural in Buffalo was on the wall of the Spaghetti Warehouse, a work of art that inspired a picture in the Buffalo News.
Looking at his scrapbook it becomes clear that Dave Jones is not just a sign painter, he's truly an artist who can create a beautiful design and then put a picture and lettering together to deliver a high impact message. Actually, his is an endangered species. Most of the large outdoor ads today are printed on vinyl and then stretched by four or five workers across the fifty or sixty foot billboard. Many smaller signs for retail stores are printed on vinyl today as well. Sign painters like David Jones, especially those with pictorial art talent, are few and far between. "But somebody's got to carry the torch," he said. And he's most happy to play that role.
As if sign and pictorial painting weren't enough, Dave Jones is also a pin-striper. His scrapbook also holds many examples of his beautiful work on automobiles.
"I love what I do," he said. That's clear to the visitor who sits across the table enjoying his big smile and sparkling eyes.
His boss at Coca Cola encouraged him to go to college and so, after graduating from Kingsbury High School in Memphis, he was offered four different scholarships. He chose the Memphis Academy of Art.
He credits his parents with getting him started on the pathway to success. "My mother was especially inspirational," he said. In the fourth grade he won a $100 prize for artwork, and in the ninth grade, a $10,000 prize.
Dave has three children, one grandchild and a second grandchild on the way. His daughter Michele is in the Air Force and Stefanie attends Beauty School in Rochester. His son, David, lives in Baltimore.
To hear Dave Jones talk you'd think he worked 24/7. But he does indeed find time for hobbies and sports. He loves restoring old cars, and pin-stripes them frequently. He's into model cars as well, and airbrushes designs on T-shirts. Surprisingly, perhaps, his favorite music is opera. "And I love sports" he said. In school he played basketball, football, and rugby and is a big fan of the Buffalo Bills.
His trophy case and award wall are filled with honors beginning in high school, and continuing through later life with numerous art association awards. One award, of which Dave Jones is most proud, is the VICA award from the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America.
A religious man who prays daily, he puts his trust in God. He feels that God brought him where he is today and will guide him into the future.
Since establishing his own business, several years ago, Dave Jones has had incredible success. It's obviously the result of his talent and great personality, but he credits God completely with giving him the success he has had.
His next big project will be sixteen stories up in the air, painting the American Axle logo on the water tower over their Delevan Avenue plant. Clearly, that's high-risk work. It must be comforting to have so much faith when you're working up that high.
The world could use more people like David Jones. Buffalo is lucky to have him.
Joseph H. Radder, a frequent contributor to Living Prime Time, is author of a new book, Young Jesus, the Missing Years. For more information, phone 1-888-280-7715 or visit www.istbooks.com
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