DOWNEY - Larry Watson, the legendary custom car painter who turned his teenage hobby into a nationally-recognized brand, has died. He was 69-years-old.Watson, credited for mastering and inventing an array of painting styles and techniques, died on July 20 after battling brain cancer. Born in 1938, Watson, a native of Bellflower, grew up admiring the creative paint styles seen on custom cars and hot rods. By the time he was in high school, Watson's own painting skills began to emerge. Hoping to imitate other popular custom painters, Watson started pin stripping his friends' cars in his parents' driveway, gaining him notoriety in the community. By 1956, Watson, only 18 at the time, had opened his own paint shop in Long Beach called Watson's House of Style. Showcasing his work at local hot rod cruise spots such as the Bellflower Clock Drive-In brought Watson's cars much praise and the young painter developed a devoted following. From his '50 Chevy, now known as the Grapevine, to his panel-painted '58 Thunderbird, Watson's cars are some of the most notable custom designs to date. After his success in Long Beach, Watson received more exposure through numerous custom car magazines, which expanded his notoriety to the rest of the country. From his one shop in Long Beach, Watson went on to open several paint shops in the surrounding cities of Paramount, Bellflower and Lakewood. Subsequently, other Watson paint shops, looking to duplicate Watson's style also opened in Downey and Burbank. During the 1960s, Watson focused on creating and perfecting the many paint styles and techniques that are popular today including scallops, fades, veils, seaweed flames, panel and lace painting. In 1966, Watson sold his painting business to pursue a career in acting. From 1967 until 1985, Watson appeared in more than 140 different projects. Watson spent his final years living near Apple Valley in retirement, but continued to host hot rod and custom car shows until his death. Watson's death is a tragedy for thousands of custom design fans across the nation, but the painting icon's work will live on as the template for a new generation of custom painters with a passion for style and automobiles.
********** Published: August 19, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 18