For jazz fans, a poster of Chet Baker almost seems to come with its own soundtrack. Posters of blues artists conjure the smoky, booze-soaked dives where John Lee Hooker and other practitioners of that great American musical genre held court. Vintage country-western posters advertising Buck Owens suggest the sweetly intermingled scents of cold beer and fresh hay. And for fans of 1960s rock music, well, a concert poster from Cream’s first U.S. tour may be the only way for them to remember they were there.
Some vintage music and concert posters are easier to find than others. Trying to build a collection of original, mid-20th-century jazz posters of Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, and Miles Davis would probably be a frustrating, and expensive, pursuit. An artist named Dennis Loren makes beautiful "restoration lithographs" of jazz posters from the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, but if a high-quality reprint is unacceptable to you, consider a vintage movie poster with the artist’s name in the credits—Count Basie gets prominent billing on the movie poster for Top Man; Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington are both listed on the poster for Cabin in the Sky.
In the world of country music, Hatch Show Print of Nashville is the oldest print shop in the United States (it has been around since 1879). Hatch made, and continues to make, posters for all the Grand Ole Opry stars, from Bill Monroe to Roy Acuff to Patsy Cline.
Symphony buffs need not feel left out of the world of vintage music posters. Since 1972, the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival has been publishing handsome, high-quality posters designed around paintings by Georgia O’Keefe, Dan Namingha, and other southwest artists.
But without a doubt, the most accessible and collected type of vintage concert poster is the 1960s rock poster. In London, Michael English and Nigel Waymouth, working as Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, produced psychedelic updates of Art Nouveau posters for Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Traffic, and The Who.
In Boston, the owners of a club called Boston Tea Party tended to take a clean, graphic approach to publicize concerts by everyone from local heroes J. Geils Band to New York’s Velvet Underground. Tea Party posters were frequently composed of little more than a block or two of solid color juxtaposed with formal-looking type.
Detroit had the Grande Ballroom, whose resident poster artist was Gary Grimshaw. His posters for locals like MC5 and visitors such as The Fugs tilted more toward the psychedelic ...
Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Dahlgren made posters for a club called the Kaleidoscope, whose posters were always circular. Across town, John Van Hamersveld produced beautiful, trippy images for Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, and other bands playing L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium.
But the city that’s best known for vintage rock posters is San Francisco. A combination of multiple music venues and lots of talented artists was the catalyst for the vibrant scene. Over at the Avalon Ballroom, Chet Helms hired Wes Wilson, followed by Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley, to make posters for shows featuring The Blues Project, Captain Beefheart, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and the Grateful Dead.
That first year, 1966, Kelley and Mouse created an image for the Grateful Dead that would visually define the band. Known among collectors as FD026, it was based on an illustration the artists found in a 19th-century copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Sometimes called Skeleton & Roses, a version of this poster would be used as an album cover for the band in 1971. Today it is one of the most enduring and collectible images in psychedelic rock.
Over at Bill Graham’s Fillmore Auditorium, artist Wes Wilson created posters that helped define the psychedelic lettering style of the day. In 1966, several of Wilson’s posters also featured photographs by Herb Greene. One of the best of these, BG025, revolved around a terrific portrait of a pre-Jefferson Airplane Grace Slick, a smile teasing the corners of her lips as she looks tantalizingly to her right and out of the camera’s range.
With a resume that bridged the Avalon and the Fillmore, Wilson was a respected figure on the local rock-poster scene. Indeed, when the Beatles came to town in August of 1966 to play what would be their last live performance, Wilson was hired to make the poster for that show.
Another influential San Francisco artist was Rick Griffin, whose February 1968 "Flying Eyeball" poster (BG105) for Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall, and Albert King is an icon of the art form.
Victor Moscoso rounds out the so-called Big Five (Wilson, Kelley, Mouse, and Griffin being the other four). Moscoso produced numerous posters for the Avalon and a smaller club called the Matrix. For Moscoso fans, the Holy Grail is to collect all 27 posters in the artist’s hyper-vivid Neon Rose series.
Other San Francisco poster artists of note include Lee Conklin, whose black-and-white drawing of a lion for a show at the Fillmore West became a celebrated album cover for Carlos Santana. Another important Fillmore alum is David Singer, who created 67 Fillmore posters, including the venue’s final one to mark its historic closing week.
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Walk the Moon Gears Up for New Album ReleaseCincinnati CityBeat, September 17th
Friday at the second floor Main Gallery at downtown's 21c Museum Hotel (21cmuseumhotels.com/Cincinnati) catch the return of Flooded, a special, one night exhibition of screen-printed concert poster art presented by 21c, Josh Mattie of the Contemporary ...Read more
NKU graduate returns to play the Southgate HouseNKU The Northerner Online, September 17th
NKU graduate returns to play the Southgate House. Photo Courtesy of Jesse Thomas. Jesse Thomas poses for her music poster. She will be returning to the area on Sept. 25 at the Southgate House. Matt Spaulding, Features Editor September 17, 2014...Read more
GeekDad Book Review: The Art of John AlvinGeekDad (blog), September 17th
He also designed a range of other movie-tie-in imagery, like the original Star Wars Concert poster and a popular fifteenth-anniversary Alien print. Titan Books' The Art of John Alvin — written by John Alvin's widow, graphic designer Andrea Alvin...Read more
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The band is in London to perform at the closing ceremonies of the Invictus Games on September 14th. News of the band's "secret gig" began spreading after the band posted a "Holy Shits" concert poster on Twitter. According to Consequence of Sound, the ...Read more
The Replacements and BaseballSioux Falls Argus Leader, September 10th
If you're a regular reader and/or follower of mine you know by now that this Saturday I'll be in St. Paul to witness Minneapolis rock legends the Replacements play their first show for a hometown crowd in 23 years when they take the stage at Midway...Read more
Vancouver entrepreneurs ride to success by building a better boardVancouver Sun, September 8th
VANCOUVER — Despite an off-the-beaten-path location, the jovial JJ Bean morning crew boasts that their historic neighbourhood is one of the most creative and industrial hubs in Vancouver. Two tourists, after enjoying coffee and baked goods at the dark ...Read more
Miguel, with girlfriend Nazanin Mandi, performs at Hyde BellagioLas Vegas Sun, September 2nd
Earlier in the night, Miguel invited fans to join him for his set at Hyde Bellagio, tweeting, “If you're in Las Vegas, this sh*t gonna wild tonight,” along with his concert poster. (Who doesn't want this sh*t to get wild?) Once inside the hotspot, the...Read more
45 Years Ago: Santana Builds on its Woodstock Triumph with a Smash DebutUltimate Classic Rock, August 30th
Graham's influence could also be felt in the image used for the album cover, a Lee Conklin illustration that had been adapted from a concert poster used by Santana when they played Graham's Fillmore West. “You know, without Bill, many things wouldn't ...Read more