Thursday, May 12, 2005

R.I.P. "Fast" Eddie Johnson: The King Of Cotton

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As I am writing this article we are on the last leg from Louisville, Kentucky traveling through the beautiful mountains. Overall the trip went well and we sold out of shirts. If you can ride back home with an empty van, you can call yourself a "KING OF COTTON". Right now, we are the Kings.

While at the event in Louisville, one of our partners, Eddie Johnson passed away back home in Nashville, Tennessee. He had been suffering from cancer for a few years, but up until a few months ago he was still making trips. Fast Eddie was a long time vendor and a really good brother. He was on the vending circuit for years. I first met Eddie about 3 years ago at a bike rally in Huntsville, Alabama. We all sold out at that event. The shirts he had were different than what I had seen before. He had photographs and realistic art printed on shirts. Not just on white shirts, but on dark ones. Printing on dark shirts is very difficult; printing a picture on a dark shirt is extremely difficult. He taught me a lot about the technique- four color process, duotone artwork on dark shirts, fine halftone printing, I mean really good stuff. Fast Eddie was one of the most successful vendors in the south. Eddie would set up with 100 dozen or 150 dozen shirts- and sell them all. Not only was he good, he treated people good and had a warm personality. He would always do what he could to help a person out. Fast was known nationwide as being a motivated person and one of those people who set the trend. Rest in Peace Eddie, you are the original KING OF COTTON.

Very few people know what it's like to go on one of these trips. Patrons don't want to pay for your product. People sometimes try and steal. You have to grind 15-18 hours a day for days on end. You have to pack and unpack, load and unload cases and cases of product, set-up tents and break them down every day, deal with personalities and attitudes all day. You have to travel tightly packed and uncomfortable for hours, sleep in hotels or in the van. It's really physically and emotionally draining.

The chances of selling out are dependent on your location, your set-up, your design, your energy, the weather, and the turnout. Everything has to be right, you cant make a lot of mistakes and you have to get lucky. Even then, you have to really grind to get you shirts sold- even at $5.00 a piece. A lot of times you lose money or barely break even. These events cost alot of money to pull off. You have to pay for you inventory, travel, gas, food, hotels, vendor's fees, liscences- it's extremely expensive. Next to farming, T-shirt vending is the hardest task I have ever taken up. Big, Big respect for anyone who does it. Big Respect to Fast Eddie Johnson- "The King Of Cotton" and the best that ever did it.