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]

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]

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]

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]

Dylanstubs.com

Dylanstubs.com

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    

Pearl Jam Poster Wrigley Field Chicago 2013 By Emek Not Trading CardsPearl Jam Iwireless Center Moline 10/17/14 PosterKiss-alive! 1975 Poster "kiss Army Kit Version"- Vinyl Must See/aucoin-carrPearl Jam Fenway Park Steve Thomas Poster 2016Pearl Jam Poster Wrigley Field Chicago 2013 Munk One Not Trading CardsPearl Jam Fenway Park Concert Catch Poster Steve Thomas Boston 2016 NewCrazy World Of Arthur Brown Poster Hapshash / Michael English PsychedelicPearl Jam Poster Wrigley Field Chicago 2013 By Emek Not Trading Cards2016 The Tragically Hip Final Concert Poster Kingston August 20 Man Machine PoemRare 1996 Tragically Hip/rheostatics Orig. Ltd Edition Silkscreen Concert PosterWidespread Panic 7/13-14/11 Los Angeles Poster; #264/525; Chuck Sperry; La LadyPearl Jam Poster Wrigley Field, Chicago 8/20/16 & 8/22/16 - FailePearl Jam Fenway Park Steve Thomas PosterKiss Poster 1979 AucoinPearl Jam Poster Fenway Boston Steve Thomas The Catch Variant Signed & Numbered1968 Psychedelic Concert Poster Buffalo Springfield Phoenix ArizonaTragically Hip 2016 Tour Poster - Final Tour Limited Edition Gord DowniePearl Jam Poster Fenway Park Boston Steve Thomas Variant Signed/numbered Xxx/100Widespread Panic 11/16/13 Madison Square Garden New York City Poster Chuc SperryJim Pollock Phish Magnaball Show PosterPearl Jam Fenway Park Poster - Scoreboard VersionGuns N Roses Official La Show Poster/xl Shirt Night 1 Los Angeles Dodger StadiumPearl Jam Poster Milwaukee 2014 Ben Frost YieldChuck Sperry 311 Red Rocks Poster N/m Panic Dave Matthews Pearl Jam #85/311 Beatles Rare 1994 Yesterday And Today Alternate Cover Commemorative Poster!Pearl Jam Wrigley Poster By Faile 8/20/2016 & 8/22/2016Brad Klausen Poster From Pearl Jam 2016 Wrigley FieldWidespread Panic 3/28-29/14 Fox Theater Oakland Ca Concert Poster; Chuck SperryPanic At The Disco A Fever You Cant Sweat Out Vinyl Original Press With PosterBrad Klausen From Pearl Jam Pj Wrigley Field Poster August Chicago BandThe Tragically Hip Kingston Tour Poster - August 20, 2016Guns N Roses Offical Tour Poster San Francisco Rare (1 Of 300)Guns N Roses Lithograph Los Angeles Show Poster. Dodger Stadium 8/18/16Pearl Jam 2016 Wrigley Field Chicago Faile Poster - Limited EditionJimi Hendrix Poster Bop32 Big O Posters 1960s Hapshash , Martin Sharp2013 Pearl Jam Wrigley Field Poster Lot Ames Shuss Emek Munk OneThe Doors (aor 2).195 1967 Original Vintage Concert Poster Whiskey A-go-goGuns N Roses Official San Francisco Show Poster 8/9/16 Dirty Harry. Att Park Pearl Jam Easy St Record 2005 Poster Brad Klausen Signed And Numbered Mint Tragically Hip Concert Poster 1997 Another Roadside Attraction Guns N Roses San Diego Tour Poster #300 Lithograph Super RarePearl Jam Poster Wrigley Field, Chicago 8/20/16 & 8/22/16 - FaileThe Smiths Original Promo Poster Queen Is Dead Uk Rough Trade Cartel MorrisseyPearl Jam St. Louis Poster 2014 Show EditionRare Vintage 1975 Rolling Stones Org Tour Of The Americas Poster Christian PiperPhish Poster Jim Pollock Spac Set 2010 Signed & Numbered Not Tickets1969 Vtg Led Zeppelin Blacklight Poster Dail Beeghly Dwb Black Light Rare Style!The Smiths Queen Is Dead Poster Original 5x3 FtPearl Jam Wrigley Field 5 Poster Set 8/20/163 Widespread Panic Oakland Ca Poster Set; 3/19-21/15 Fox Theater; Chuck Sperry1976 Abba "arrival" Promotional Poster -- Rare!Adele 25 World Tour 2016 Los Angeles Limited Edition Numbered Lithograph Poster!Guns N Roses Ltd Ed Of 250 - Hot Babe Litho Poster For 8/22/16 San Diego ShowFaile From Pearl Jam Pj Wrigley Field Poster August Chicago BuellerPearl Jam Sean Cliver Poster - Wrigley Field Chicago 2016Widespread Panic 6/20/14 Chicago Il Concert Poster; #150/425; Chuck SperryDave Matthews Band 8/23/14 Berkeley Ca Concert Poster; #294/500; Chuck Sperry1996 John Howard Signed Sublime Poster Original 141/350 Pcl#103Guns N Roses Dodger Stadium Los Angeles 8/18 Event Poster California 300 SkaterPearl Jam Fenway Park Concert Poster (by Steve Thomas)