Rodney Stroup: Hammering It Home
Article from Ecco and Buzz Publications April 2016
By Steve Steinberg
Why use a flyswatter when a sledgehammer will do. So goes one of Rodney Stroup’s favorite sayings about what motivates and inspires his creativity. It is hard to peg down his creative passion. It seems unfair to just call him an artist and entertainer because he is so much more. A painter, an illustrator, a set designer, an avid reader, a writer, a cartoonist, a singer, a musician and a songwriter are just some of the passions that Stroup carries with him, and he does them all with the same fervor, energy and spirit. And don’t forget the sense of humor. Sarcastic and a bit off center, Stroup’s sense of the absurd and what is funny about the the world permeates his work.
Some of Stroup’s works can be found on the pages of Echo and Buzz. Look back at the May 2015 issue. That’s his illustration on the cover. His cartoon strip, “Lotta Twang,” can be found in every issue, and illustrates his sense of humor, years in the music scene and insights into the human character. Stroup says all the characters are based on people he has known. “I don’t have to make this stuff up,” Stroup says of the situations in “Lotta Twang,” “I lived it!”
Stroup has lived a life of creativity. Born in Redlands, Stroup’s family moved around quite a bit in California with a detour to Arkansas. At seventeen he packed up and hitchhiked across America. Upon returning, he enlisted in the Navy and served multiple tours of duty including Vietnam with helicopter squadron HS-8. Stroup has also worked as a civilian in the Naval Graphics Art Department and studied art at Southwestern College. Throughout his young adult life he forged a strong work ethic, a competitive nature and an attention to detail. Stroup attributes these qualities to his father, “My dad taught me about courage and ‘prove them wrong’ when they tell you you can’t do something.”
So where did the sense of humor and musicianship come from? “My mother was the funny one,” Stroup recalls, “she was the queen of puns.” “That’s where I get my weird sense of humor, and her side of the family was accomplished musically,” he says.
Hard-working, musically gifted, artistic and funny, Stroup embarked on a variety of artistic ventures to merge his talents into a career. He was a staff artist in the newsroom at the San Diego Union Tribune where he produced original artwork to accompany stories and editorials. He was art director and co-owner of two companies that provided marketing, graphics, props, and story boards for motion pictures and television Hollywood Hollywood and Stroup Studios. He was a scenic artist at Sea World until he opened his own prop backdrop and special effects company, Stroup Studios. After five years he sold his company and returned to Sea World as Senior Scenic Designer. He then resurrected Stroup Studios as an all-encompassing art, design and graphics company. Over the past ten years Stroup Studios has designed CD covers, promotional materials, book illustrations, logos, and home exterior renderings.
Despite his accomplished professional art and design career, Stroup has always made time to play music, and has had some great influences and mentors along the way. “Man, I’ve paid my dues,” he mutters in the tone of a grizzled veteran of the music scene. “I’ve played places like the Cinnamon Cinder,” he says, recalling the notable La Mesa music club, “I remember fights breaking out and people throwing mugs at some shows.” He continues, “some joints were so smokey I would have to put a fan on the floor just to clear the air and get the breath to sing.”
One person who influenced Stroup’s performing was Dave Wilson, the former drummer of the Cascades who are known for their hit song “Rhythm of the Rain.” “Dave taught me the difference between just performing and entertaining,” he says explaining that there are lots of people who can perform songs, but far less that can entertain an audience with their performance. Another lesson learned from Wilson that resonated with Stroup’s hard work attitude and attention to detail was “clean starts and clean endings. “There was none of this one guy starts and then another until they all manage to get going,” he says, “Only the Grateful Dead can do a good job of pulling that off!”
Another piece of advice that appealed to Stroup’s attention to detail and his art and marketing background was provided by Kenny Rogers of “The Gambler” fame. “Kenny indicated you should be able to pick out every member of the band when they are not onstage,” he recalls referring to the dress and appearance. This has stuck with Stroup who is always impeccably dressed for performances, most often in western-flavored sportcoat, vests and boots. “You will never catch me onstage in a t-shirt, shorts and flip flops,” he says unwaveringly.
When he is onstage, Stroup says the one thing you can count on is that he is ready to go to work at entertaining. So, don’t be surprised to see the sleeves of that sportcoat rolled up. What is less predictable is what you will see and hear at one of his performances. He is adept at acoustic covers of classic songs. He has a host of original songs, but look out, most of these are laced with his signature sarcasm and wit.
Stroup is fearless on stage no matter what he is doing. This is where his competitive spirit is most on display. “When I was fourteen I was in a talent contest and got up and performed a number and thought I did pretty well, but the next guy got up killed it.” Since that time Stroup’s motto has been, “Let others go on first, then go do it better.” Look out, here comes the sledgehammer!
Steve Steinberg Promotions
Rodney performs 2/3