The musician and artist John Mellencamp stumbled into his first record deal while traveling to New York City from his home state of Indiana in search of an art school to attend. It was the mid-1970s, and the future star, who at various points in his long career has also been known as Johnny Cougar, John Cougar, and John Cougar Mellencamp, had just graduated from Vincennes University, a small two-year college in Indiana. “I figured while I was in New York, I might as well see if I can get anything going on [the music] end,” Mellencamp, who spent his teenage years playing in bar bands, recently told me over the phone. “And, as it turns out, at 20 years old, 21 years old, New York Art Students League wanted me to pay them money, and the record companies wanted to give me money.” Read John Chiaverina's complete article after the jump.
I grew up in Seymour, Ind. The first place we lived was on Fifth Street. It was nothing special—just a small one-story home they built for vets returning from World War II. My two brothers and I lived in the basement. My father, Richard, fixed up a section for us with wood paneling and ugly linoleum on the concrete floor.
We had triple bunk beds. I was the middle kid, so I got the middle bunk. There was a TV, and the windows were at ceiling level.
My mother, Marilyn, was a homemaker. Later, she delivered mail to keep busy. She was very pretty, and had been a runner-up in the Miss Indiana pageant in '46. She loved to paint and did so each day, in between dealing with us. My dad created a studio space for her in the basement, too. When I was little, I'd paint on top of her work. That pissed her off.