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, pos...
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 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 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.
Interviews & Articles
My love affair with rock posters began in the late 1960s, when I spent as many weekends as I could with a friend who lived in San … [more]
When the bidding closed on September 16, 2012, 7:21pm, a torn and tattered piece of paper from 1966, measuring 8½ by 11 inches, so… [more]
Over the past decade, a self-effacing artist named John Mavroudis has quietly become a player in the noisy world of rock posters. … [more]
The multicolored, drug-soaked, psychedelic aesthetic of the mid-1960s has never been more popular, or misunderstood. In March, “Ma… [more]
When I was invited into collector Rick Synchef’s home several months ago, I was drawn by the promise of signed rock posters from t… [more]
If you were in a rock band in late-1960s San Francisco, the world beat a path to your garage door. Record executives walked the le… [more]
Between 1966 and 1967, San Francisco rock poster artist Wes Wilson designed posters and handbills for the first Trips Festival, th… [more]
Good news for poster lovers: the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) is purchasing about 75 percent of the Globe Poster Compa… [more]
Of all the rock posters from the 1960s, few command as much attention as those created for the legendary acid tests in 1965 and 19… [more]
My dad liked Charlie Russell, the Western artist, so we had a few of his prints around the house. I always drew, even as a little … [more]
In most collecting categories, antique and vintage pieces are the only things sought by seasoned or aspiring collectors. But in so… [more]
Mark Scalise grew up in Southern California before moving to Boston a few years ago. He's been going to Bob Dylan concerts for mor… [more]
I was a Hollywood kid. My father was a TV and radio editor in the San Fernando Valley, and he allowed me to do my first writing to… [more]
I don’t collect posters. I don’t collect anything. I started making posters one at a time by hand in high school just for specific… [more]
This is a screen shot of the Full Screen view of our Music and Concert Posters page, taken just a few minutes ago. As you can see,… [more]
Last weekend, on October 9, 2010, The Rock Poster Society held its 10th annual Festival of Rock Posters at the Hall of Flowers in … [more]
Lately I’ve been on kind of a David Singer binge. In case you don’t know, David Singer was one the most prolific San Francisco pos… [more]
Anybody who collects vintage 20th-century American music posters is probably aware of Hatch Show Print, a letterpress shop in Nash… [more]
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Luke Bryan masters the two sides of his country-music persona at WMZQ FestWashington Post, May 19th
He even took someone's permanent marker mid-song and signed a “This is my 1st concert” poster for a small child, before flinging the marker a few rows back, simultaneously teaching the young concertgoer about kindness and property destruction...Read more
North shore audiences will feel 'Glad All Over' at 'Come Together' production ...NOLA.com, May 19th
The “Come Together” concert poster, that features a collage of album covers by the Fab Four, was created by Emma Hurstell, a sophomore at Fontainebleau High School. Tickets for “Come Together” are $15 each and can be purchased by calling 792.1392,...Read more
Rock art: Local teacher creates unique postersDaily Herald, May 18th
"My very first music poster I ever got was a Smashing Pumpkins poster," Braun said. "It's a poster of two fighter pilots. It's got really bright, bold colors. It's really cool." What it doesn't do is tell you anything -- anything at all -- about...Read more
Julie Andrews to Grads: 'Go Out and Kick Butt'AARP News (blog), May 17th
sound of music poster First Andrews. Under a cloudless sky in Boulder, Colo., on May 10, she began by finding common ground with the graduates at America's premiere party school, claiming to have welcomed the dawn with them the night before. Then she...Read more
Superfly's Plans To Improve This Weekend's GoogaMooga FestivalBillboard, May 17th
It's kind of like the cool concert poster. They help build a brand that people care about.” With the improvements, Mayers hopes that GoogaMooga can put a chaotic 2012 in the past and keep expanding in the years to come—perhaps even beyond its current...Read more
Capitalism's Self-Corrections: 'Repo Man'PopMatters, May 17th
The cover art—a reappraised version of a King Archie concert poster with a map of Los Angeles superimposed over the skull—is a tiny hint at the comic book-inspired art within the packaging of the DVD itself, including a thorough booklet containing an...Read more
Tarrus Riley Concert Poster Out. Check It Out For DetailsGhafla!Kenya, April 26th
Tarrus Riley Concert Poster Out. Check It Out For Details. Friday, 26 April 2013 10:32 , Written by Chimwani Obiajulu (Writer) · Tarrus Riley Concert Poster Out. Check It Out For Details. A couple of days ago I let you in on the fact that Tarrus Riley...Read more
One Direction Releases “This Is Us” Concert PosterNickutopia, April 20th
One Direction Releases “This Is Us” Concert Poster. April 20, 2013 | by Nickutopia Staff · One Direction This Is Us Concert Poster. One Direction is releasing a 3D concert movie to theaters in August, and above is the very first poster to be released...Read more