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’Keeffe, 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 style, often incorporating altered photographs into his design...

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 FD-26, 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, BG-25, 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 (BG-105) 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.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Fillmore and Avalon Collection

Fillmore and Avalon Collection

Wish you'd visited San Francisco in the late 1960s? Get a quick hit with this comprehensive collection of psychedel… [read review or visit site]

London Transport Museum Posters

London Transport Museum Posters

A must-see collection of 5,000 vivid, colorful British posters from the early 1900s onward. Browse by artist (over … [read review or visit site]

Remember Eddie Cochran

Remember Eddie Cochran

Eddie Cochran died in 1960 at the age of 21, but his legacy lives on at Remember Eddie Cochran. The site pays tribu… [read review or visit site]

USSR Posters

USSR Posters

Ben Perry's Flickr photoset showcasing almost 1500 Soviet propaganda, advertising, theatre and movie posters from 1… [read review or visit site]

Hey babe, check out this database of over 2,900 Bob Dylan ticket stubs and concert posters, assembled with the help… [read review or visit site]

New York Public Library

New York Public Library

The New York Public Library's impressive Digital Gallery offers free access to over 500,000 historical images inclu… [read review or visit site]

The American Memory Project

The American Memory Project

This amazing Library of Congress site includes about a hundred photo and document collections (see complete list) o… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Joy Division Original Poster 1st Euro Gig Factory Punk Cabaret Voltaire 1998 Pearl Jam With Mudhoney Hawaii Maui Feb 20,21 Concert Poster MintLate '90s Pearl Jam Seattle July 21-22 Concert Poster MintThe Clash White Riot Promo Poster, Sex Pistols, The Damned, Punk1998 Pearl Jam Iggy Pop Cleveland Yield Tour Concert Poster MintKiss-hotter Than Hell 1975 Wall Calendar Poster, Htf, Very RareGuns N Roses Lithograph Poster Detroit June 23 2016 Very Rare Sold Out 499/500Dead And Company Poster Klipsch Music Theater Indy June17, 2016 #530 Of 1250Pearl Jam 4/29/16 Philadelphia Pa Poster - EmekThe Art - What's That Sound 1967 Uk Island Records Poster Osiris/hapshash PsychSex Pistols God Save The Queen Promo Poster, The Clash, Damned, Jamie Reid Original 1969 Bill Graham Fillmore Paul Butterfield Poster 1st Ed #166 By Irons2013 Pearl Jam Wrigley Field Poster Lot Ames Shuss Emek Munk OneGuns N' Roses 1993 Poster Ad Concert Milton Keynes National BowlOriginal Jimi Hendrix Flying Eyeball Poster, Ticket Stubs, Handbill, Pro Framed!A Is For Apple Original 1967 Poster The Fool Beatles Simon & Marijke PsychedelicEurythmics 1984 Poster Ad Sweet Dreams VideodiscDave Matthews Band Poster Syracuse Lakeview Ampitheater Methane Studios Pearl Jam Toronto Night 2 Poster By Mark 5 Rescheduled Show 5/12/16Dave Matthews Band Poster Syracuse Lakeview Ampitheater Methane Studios Pearl Jam Nyc Msg Night 1 5/1/16 Concert Tour Poster Bioworkz Screen PrintThe Who Hendrix The Doors Isle Of Wight Festival Of Music 1970 PosterThe Damned Love Song Promo Poster, Sex Pistols, The Clash Punk AdvertMott The Hoople 1974 Poster Ad The Hoople Ian HunterSlade 1974 Poster Ad Old New Borrowed And BlueDave Matthews Band Poster Lakeview Amphitheater Syracuse NyVintage Original Yes Tales From Topographic Oceans Promo Poster Roger DeanPearl Jam Signed Third Man Records Poster 6.9.16 Jack White NashvilleDead And Company Pin - Cincinnati, Oh Not Poster Grateful Dead BPearl Jam Poster New York Ny Msg2, Welker Nite 2, Sticker May 2, 2016 No ReserveWidespread Panic Memphis, Tenn., June 18, 2016 Mud Island Poster Signed 337/425Widespread Panic Poster Aj Masthay Mud Island Memphis,tn 6/18/2016 No Reserve!Electric Deads - Mind Bomb - Promo Flyer/advertising Poster Kbd Danish HardcorePearl Jam Poster 2003 Lexington Kentucky Ames Brothers SpartaPearl Jam Lexington Poster 4/26/16 Ames Bros The Lurkers Rare 1978 Fulham Fallout Promo Poster Punk Beggars Banquet Just 13Jeff Beck Group With Rod Stewart Concert Symphony Hall Boston Tea Party PosterThe Who Magic Bus Promotional Poster 1968Late 1960s Eric Clapton With Delaney & Bonnie Boston Tea Party PosterKiss Love Gun Shoot 3d Foil 1997 Heavy Stock Mylar Barry Levine Gallery PosterMy Morning Jacket 2016 Red Rocks Clinton Reno Vip Autographed PosterGrateful Dead Dead And Company Noblesville, (deer Creek) Poster #280Dave Matthews Band Dmb Syracuse, Ny Skeleton Poster - 6/22/16 - No ReserveHawkwind 1970 Uk Liberty Records Promo Poster Lemmy Motorhead Psych/progDead And & Company 2016 Spac Ny Tour Poster Le Saratoga Tues June 21st GratefulDead & Company Vip Package Poster Cincinnati Noblesville Dead And Company Pin - Noblesville, In Not Poster Grateful Dead AOriginal First Printing Bill Graham Concert Poster Bg-178 The WhoDead And Company Saratoga Springs Poster Signed And # Out Of 850Dr Feelgood Rare 1975 Promo Concert Tour Poster Barney Bubbles Naughty RhythmsSelena PosterRoger Dean 1976 Poster Dragon And Tree Pace Minerva Scotland New ConditionMuddy Waters John Lee Hooker Concert Poster Original 1971 Signed Rare GrimshawPhish Pollock Msg Nyc Nye 2013 30th Anniversary Show PosterKiss Poster, No Tack Holes, Very Nice.Bruce Springsteen Manchester England 5/25/16 Concert Poster Only 500Dead And Company Pin - Noblesville, In Not Poster Grateful Dead CDead And Company Pin - Noblesville, In Not Poster Grateful Dead BVery Rare Vtg '81 Motley Crue Rocks The Keystones Berkeley Sf Palo Alto PosterKiss Poster, No Tack Holes. These Are Near Mint.