The Hometown Heroes murals began arriving in 2002, when Muhammad Ali appeared on the side of a building at Second Street and River Road. Since then, 17 more have popped up all around town, but none have honored the city’s rich music history.
Ironically, the guy behind the murals, Mike Sheehy, is a lifelong musician, most notably as drummer for Thumper & The Plaid Rabbits. It was his idea to display Ali, leading to the formation of the Greater Louisville Pride Foundation, which oversees the Hometown Heroes program.
Before the summer’s over, Sheehy will be putting together a rock ’n’ roll mural featuring five bands and solo artists, and for the first time a public vote will determine who is pictured. WFPK (91.9-FM) has spearheaded the campaign with the Greater Louisville Pride Foundation and Louisville Downtown Development Corp.
WFPK came up with a list of 10 artists, from which five will be chosen. Voting will run for one more week at www.WFPK.org, and the choices are My Morning Jacket, Tim Krekel, Slint, Will Oldham, Bodeco, Squirrel Bait, Babylon Dance Band, The Monarchs, Joan Osborne and Days of the New.
Louisville Public Media’s Charles Spivey, who helped put together the list, said that voting has been brisk. He wouldn’t, however, say who’s leading, but word on the street has it that Krekel and My Morning Jacket are running away with the top spots. The remaining three are where it gets interesting.
Deciding on the list of 10 was tough, Spivey said. There is an option for write-in votes, but there have been only a handful for NRBQ, which technically began in Miami, and Kinghorse. The lack of an overwhelming write-in favorite indicates that the list of 10 was soundly chosen.
And don’t forget that this is for a rock mural. It was decided early on that a mural representing all of the city’s music history was impossible, so there will be at least a second, Sheehy said, and possibly a third. The next one will focus on jazz, blues and rhythm & blues.
“People in Louisville are passionate about music,” Spivey said, “and the reaction to this has been overwhelming. People are excited that we’re finally getting recognition for the music scene.”
The Hometown Heroes process is simple. Someone is nominated and, usually, approved by the Greater Louisville Pride Foundation and Louisville Downtown Development Corp. Then funding is sought through donations, although some are paid in full by a third party; “Good Morning America” paid for Diane Sawyer’s mural, for example.
The rock mural will be complicated, Sheehy said, because multiple images will make it more design intensive and there will certainly be more paperwork. Some bands will want approval of funding, and then there’s a question of where it will go. A building on Liberty Street near 4th Street Live is so far the leading candidate.
Once the top five artists are chosen, it will be only a few weeks before the mural goes up. Who will we see? Let’s assume that Krekel and MMJ claim the first two spots. After that, Will Oldham and Slint seem likely, based on a combination of relevance and influence. The final spot is the wild card, and it’s a shame I could only vote for Bodeco once.