To support Spencer Minor’s family in this difficult time, you can donate via GoFundMe. If you have been tattooed by Spencer, we also encourage you to share photos of the piece on the Hot Rodders Ink or Scarlet White pages so Spencer’s family can see them all.
Monday morning, July 29, many of us woke up to the news that Spencer Minor, lead vocalist and driving force of the band Scarlet White (and famed tattoo artist), was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident.
News pieces are good for conveying facts and distributing information, but are often devoid of personal impacts. Spencer’s life and death were more than just facts and information. Spencer was a person.
My name is Chad, and this is my personal Spencer Minor story.
I’m a 50-something-year-old who grew up in the suburban south. I was raised with conservative values and conservative theology, but some of my attitudes are far from conservative. I like my music loud, and as long as it doesn’t interfere with your life goals, I’m ambivalent toward tattoos. Our kids grew up knowing they could do anything they wanted with their hair and, once they reached legal age, were free to get a tattoo– though to date, neither of them has.
My wife of 33 years has a tattoo. Music has always been a big part of our relationship, and in the ‘90s when The W’s came out with their song “Flower Tattoo,” it became one of many songs that we liked to call our own:
Hair is gold and her eyes are blue
I’m in love with a girl with a flower tattoo
And if I wrote the prefect song
You know I’d name it after you.
Four years ago, Lisa had a tattoo of a flower inked on the back of her hand. Now I really can say that I’m in love with the girl with a flower tattoo. It was a tattoo that was deeply personal to her, and that’s how it should be. Getting some artwork permanently etched on your skin should be deeply personal.
But what’s deeply personal to me? What identifies Chad?
In the summer of 1984, just a few years out of high school, my brother, my best friend, and I decided to take a festival road trip. We ended up at Cornerstone ’84, the very first year of that fest. It was life-changing for me. I ended up going to Cornerstone 22 of the 29 years that the festival was held. Once it ended, I started going to AudioFeed, and have been at five of the seven (and counting) years that festival has been held. But more than simply going, I brought the fest home with me. To me, the fest wasn’t over until the armband came off.
And the armband never came off.
I would wear the fest armband until it fell off my wrist or until the following year’s fest, whichever came first. I can’t tell you how many times I pulled up to the Cornerstone gate with a pair of scissors in hand, asking the volunteer at the gate if they would cut off my previous year’s armband as they gave me the new one.
So, if you’ve known me anytime in the past 35 years, the odds are high that I was wearing the previous year’s festival armband.
As I pondered the concept of getting a tattoo, the idea of a permanent festival armband seemed appealing. But something wasn’t right. In general, I liked the idea, but something was missing, and I couldn’t put my finger on what.
Until I met Spencer Minor.
My first exposure to Spencer was through the band Scarlet White. Their music was hard, Spencer’s vocals were passionate, and their lyrics spoke to me. I was excited to no end the first time they came through town as part of one of the City Rockfest tours. Spencer didn’t let me down: he was as passionate on stage as his vocals and lyrics were on the album. As a concert photographer, passion is the one thing I can’t bring to the table. I can fix exposure and colors, and I can remove distracting elements and add depth to a photo, but the passion has to come from the stage. Spencer brought that passion in full force.
As per my normal MO, once the show was over and pics were edited, I’d post them on social media and tag the artists. Finding Spencer on Facebook was easy; his Facebook name was his name. But Instagram was harder. I would search for “Spencer Minor,” and “Preachtattoo” kept coming up in the results. There were other “Spencer Minors,” but none of them were the Spencer I was looking for. So I want back to Preachtattoo. It was a tattoo artist. And a dang good one. I eventually decided that this was the Spencer Minor I was looking for, but I couldn’t get past how good the artwork was. This “Preachtattoo” artist had a style that made the artwork jump off the skin. He used 3D effects and detailed shading. These weren’t just pictures drawn on skin.
And that was the element I was missing.
I didn’t want a picture of a festival armband tattooed on my wrist. I wanted a tattoo that looked like I was wearing a festival armband. An armband that looked like it had been through a week of festival, with scuffs and crinkles, loose fitting on my wrist, with shading underneath.
It took a couple of years of pondering this idea, but I eventually contacted Spencer about it. I had drawn up the concept, which included the Cornerstone and AudioFeed logos, but my drawings didn’t bring the 3D elements and shading that I wanted Spencer to incorporate. I told him my story of wearing each year’s armband from year to year and the distinct difference between “an armband tattooed on my wrist” and “a tattoo of me wearing an armband.”
And he got it. Jeremy Holderfield of Seventh Day Slumber said it best when he posted his own Spencer tattoo the day after Spencer passed away. Jeremy said, “I chose Spencer to do this very special tattoo for me because I felt like he understood what it meant to me.”
Spencer understood. Spencer knew that this was more than just artwork on my arm. He understood my story and what this meant to me.
I knew at that point that I had to have this tattoo, and I had to have Spencer do it for me. And, lucky for me, Scarlet White was coming to town. Spencer always seemed to have his tattoo equipment with him when he was on tour with Scarlet White, so, like several others, I arranged with Spencer to have him ink me after the show that night. My anxiety was running high as I went back to the room where Spencer was working. He was doing a piece for my friend Brad, and I was next in line. As Spencer worked we all made small talk, but at some point Spencer’s gun began malfunctioning. He was able to finish Brad’s tattoo, but he was afraid of starting mine for fear his gun would give out completely. My anxiety of getting my first tattoo turned to disappointment as I realized it wasn’t happening that night.
Spencer promised me next time Scarlet White came to town, I’d be the first in line. But then Scarlet White broke up. He said he’d try and arrange to travel to a tattoo convention near my house and he’d work on my tattoo then, but that never materialized. He even said that maybe he and his wife would just take a vacation/road trip down my way, but the baby came along, and that never happened.
But I never gave up on my dream. For two years, I’ve been waiting.
This year I took early an early retirement from my place of employment of 34 years, freeing myself up to do anything and go anywhere I wanted. And I wanted to go to Three Rivers, Michigan, home of Hot Rodders Ink, Spencer’s home shop. I made the decision that after this year’s AudioFeed, instead of coming straight home, I would travel four and a half hours north to Michigan and finally get my tattoo. I contacted Spencer about what day we would be there, and he said, “The day is yours.” We arranged a time, and on July 8 I sat in Spencer’s chair for four hours as he gave me my first tattoo.
The first thing Spencer said to me that day was, “I’ve been waiting to do this tattoo for a long time.” He does tattoos every day, but he’d been “waiting to do [my] tattoo for a long time.” Spencer wasn’t just saying that to make me feel good; he really meant it. He knew this was special to me, and, thus, it was special to him. That’s who Spencer was.
Neither of us had any idea of the tragedy that would strike a mere 20 days later. Even now I can’t stop touching my arm. My wrist will be a constant reminder of Spencer for the rest of my life.
The Armband pics were taken by Spencer the day of the tattooing.
The gallery pics are from the Summer RockFest tour on July 14, 2017 in Trenton, Texas by me.