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]

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]

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]

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    

Metallica Copenhagen Concert Poster Full Set. Signed By ArtistThe Grateful Dead Uncle Sam Vintage 1977 Rock & Roll Film Poster Gary GutierrezUfo Coming Rare Poster Published By Osiris Visions Ltd 1967 OriginalPearl Jam Portland Oregon 2013 Poster By EmekPearl Jam September 11, 2011 Toronto PosterThe Smiths - How Soon Is Now? - Uk Rough Trade Promo Poster Hawkwind 1974 Uk Concert Programme With Poster Motorhead Lemmy Barney BubblesPearl Jam Milwaukee Poster 20141967 Jimi Hendrix Experience Gig Poster Designed By Michael English & WaymouthPearl Jam Brad Klausen Salt Lake City 2008 PosterEddie Vedder 2008 Tour Klausen Batman Poster Pearl JamVintage 1977 Kiss Gene Simmons Aucoin PosterKiss Ace Frehley Original Aucoin 1978 Solo Album Poster - All Four AvailableOriginal Vintage Ryan Adams Love Is Hell Poster Promo 24 X 15Phish 2015 David Welker Mann Philadelphia Le Poster Limited Edition Print Pearl Jam Prague 2012 Poster Ames Brothers / Ward Sutton Print 7/3/12Vintage 1977 Kiss Peter Criss Aucoin Poster1978 Kiss Transistor Radio Store Display PosterJohn Lennon Original 1967 Look Magazine Richard Avedon Poster BeatlesKiss Ace Frehley Vintage Poster - 33.5" X 21.5" Rare Oop!! Gene Simmons 1977Metallica ... Superb Signed Poster 1984. Genuine Autographs Inc Cliff BurtonKiss Gene Simmons Original Aucoin 1978 Solo Album Poster - All Four AvailableKiss Creatures Of The Night Poster - 35 X 23.5 - 1982 Loudest Band In The WorldGuns N Roses Melbourne Concert Lithograph Poster Ltd Only 300 Australia TourIron Maiden Huge 1986 Promo Tour Poster Somewhere In Time Capitol Records New CnOriginal Faces ~ Rod Stewart ~ Event Concert Poster 1971 ~ High Grade Buffalo NyGhost Possession Silkscreen Poster Papa Emeritus Metallica King Diamond Cirice Guns N' Roses Rare #86/300 Hand Signed Poster L.a. Dodger Stadium Axl Slash 2016Rare Pusshead Metallica Damaged Justice One Harvester Of Sorrow Uk Promo PosterVintage Kiss Ace Frehley Guitar Carnival Size PosterGuns N' Roses - Rare Ltd Edn (98/100) Adelaide, Australian Tour Poster 2017 #1Guns N Roses Adelaide Concert Lithograph Poster Ltd Only 100 Australia TourGenesis A Trick Of The Tail 1975 Orig Atco Records Large Promo Poster 14" X 28"Ghost Bc Papa Hope Poster Sxsw Shepard Fairey Rare Cirice Subvision Tid Papa 666The Jam + Dwight Twilley Band Orig 4/21 1979 Ucla Large Cardboard Concert PosterPhish Chicago Summer 2010 Official Show Poster - Signed Grazeca Limited EditionGrateful Dead Concert Poster 1977 Indiana University Assembly Hall Vintage Iu1967 Thanks Give In Poster Chicago Hippies / Blues & Psych Rock Fest Filmore EraPearl Jam PosterSelena Quintanilla, Flower Bustier, Large Mexico Street PosterMotorhead The Damned 57 Cm X 41 Cm Poster For Gig At The Roundhouse LemmyRare 1978, Rush Programme With PosterRare Pusshead Metallica And Justice For All One Harvester Of Sorrow Promo PosterGhost Summer Tour 2013 Silkscreen Poster Og Nameless Ghouls 24x18 Limited OopGuns N Roses Brisbane #2 Concert Lithograph Poster Ltd Only 250 Australia TourGuns N' Roses - Rare Ltd Edn (46/150) Adelaide, Australian Tour Poster 2017 #2Guns N Roses Brisbane #1 Concert Lithograph Poster Ltd Only 250 Australia TourGhost Opus Eponymous Silkscreen Poster Official 2013 Nameless Ghoul 666 Satan Wreckless Eric 1978 Stiff Records Original Punk Promo Debut Album PosterVintage 1977 Kiss Paul Stanley Aucoin PosterDetroit Rock Festival 1969 The Frost, Sky, 3rd Power, Lonely, Hard Corps PosterMisfits Pushead Poster 80's 23"x35" Vintage Rare Metallica Black Flag DanzigGhost Bc Statue Of Liberty Silkscreen Poster 2013 Official Subvision Metallica Abba Agnetha Poster My Very Best Excellent ConditionOriginal 1972 ~ Mar Y Sol Music Festival Concert Poster ~ Black Sabbath + RareWeen PosterKiss "loudest Band In The World" Creatures Of The Night Promo PosterGhost Official Clockwork Orange Silkscreen Poster 2013 Magna Carta Cartel Tid Iron Maiden Memorabilia Charity Auction - Signed Best Of The Beast Poster1.0 Official Tour Phish Shirt *also In 127 Hours Movie {poster/magnet}