Spotlight – Lil’ Johnny Tharp


Remember that guy in school who was always doodling disturbing pictures in class?  All manners of skulls, monsters, and fantastically horrific art?  Yep, ‘Lil’ Johnny Tharp’ was ‘that guy’.  The Catholic nuns tried to curb his enthusiasm while his friends egged him on, meanwhile his poor mum didn’t know what to do with this imaginative boy with a love for all things creepy.

The 1980’s music scene in Long Beach and Orange County proved the perfect ground for John to hone his skills as he was called upon to create flyers for punk rock shows.  We called them “gigs” back then and social media was handing out flyers, usually with a disturbing sick graphic intended to scare away the faint-of-heart.  Around that time, John began assembling his own tattoo guns from guitar strings, small motors, and various power supplies.

John, a.k.a. “Lil’ Johnny Tharp” wielded a pin on paper with such precision, most assumed their tattoo would be nothing less than “bad ass” and the guinea pigs came lining up. Today John’s an accomplished and professional tattoo artist, and looking back he’s indebted to those foolish enough to get a tattoo from a kid in a kitchen with a homemade tattoo gun.

John Tharp has been tattooing professional for 20 years, and along with his wife and son he owns and operates “Main St. Tattoo & Body Piercing” in Merced, CA.  The most rewarding part of his career as an artist has been passing on the trade to his son and building a family business with support and assistance from his wife. “Being able to make a living through art, giving our son a set of skills that allows him to be self-sufficient, having my wife as not only my life partner but, business partner too…What more could I ask for? I feel very blessed.”
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John’s interest in the alternative music scene was not limited to just making flyers.  In addition to perfecting his artistic skills, he also has devoted time to fine-tuning his guitar and vocal talents.  Currently, Lil’ Johnny Tharp is lead vocals/lead guitar for a psycho-billy trio known as “Little Johnny & the Sleepwalkers”, playing on St. Valentine’s Eve at the Minor’s Inn-Hwy 140 Lounge, Mariposa, CA.
John continuously pushes his art skills forward with painting classes at the local college and watercolor workshops offered at various tattoo conventions. To view his art visit:
Instagram@LILJOHNNYTHARP, Instagram@MAINSTTATTOOMERCED, Facebook@ Main St. Tattoo & Body Piercing Merced, Facebook@Little Johnny & the Sleepwalkers.
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