Psychedelic poster art

The Grateful Dead, the Doors, the Velvet Underground, and many other 1960s rock bands drew inspiration for lyrics, lifestyle, and attitude from the Beats. The writings of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg motivated Chet Helms, founder of Family Dog Concerts at the Avalon Ballroom and manager of Big Brother and the Holding Company, to drop out of college in Texas and hitchhike to San Francisco. He later returned to Texas and hitchhiked back again with friend Janis Joplin. In 1967 Helms helped organize the Human Be- In in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, featuring Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, and Michael McClure along with Timothy Leary and bands including the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Big Brother and
the Holding Company—giving Helms the unofficial title, “Father of the Summer of Love.”

Psychedelic poster art produced in San Francisco in the 1960s was an outgrowth of the word-and-image broadsides of the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance. Peter Bailey, of East Wind Printers, produced San Francisco Arts Festival Poetry Folios in 1963 and 1964. He also earned acclaim for rock poster designs. Famously, Bailey designed the first poster for Bill Graham Presents at the Fillmore Auditorium, featuring the Jefferson Airplane.

Peter Bailey (American, 1924 – 1991)
Fillmore Auditorium: Jefferson Airplane, Mystery Trend, Feb. 4, 5, 6, 1966
First poster for Bill Graham Presents
San Francisco Rock Poster Collection

Wes Wilson (American, b. 1937)
Chet Helms
Fillmore Auditorium: Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Feb. 19, 1966
First poster for Family Dog Presents

Victor Moscoso (American, b. Spain, b.1936)
Avalon Ballroom: The Doors, Miller Blues Band, Haji Baba, April 14, 15, 1967

In his 1999 memoir Light My Fire, Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek wrote: “I suppose if Jack Kerouac had never written On the Road, the Doors would never have existed. It opened the floodgates and we read everything we could get our hands on — Howl, Allen Ginsberg; Gasoline, Gregory Corso; A Coney Island of the Mind, Lawrence Ferlinghetti; Peyote Poem, Michael McClure….” Jim Morrison, lead singer of the Doors, not only was inspired by Kerouac and the Beats, but he sought to become a poet himself, establishing a deep friendship with Michael McClure, who encouraged Morrison to publish his poetry and performed alongside him at a Sacramento poetry reading in 1969.

Randy Tuten (American, b. 1946)
Cow Palace: The Doors, Lonnie Mack, Elvin Bishop Group, July 25, 1969

Victor Moscoso (American, b. Spain, b.1936)
Avalon Ballroom: The Doors, The Sparrow, Country Joe & the Fish, March 3, 4, 1967

Wes Wilson (American, b. 1937)
Herb Greene (American, b. 1942)
Fillmore Auditorium: Grateful Dead, Lightning Hopkins, Loading Zone, October 21, 22, 1966

As a teenager in the late 1950s Jerry Garcia studied painting with Wally Hedrick, who introduced him to the writing of Jack Kerouac. Garcia later described how On the Road inspired him: “It was really stunning to me. His way of perceiving music—the way he wrote about music and America—and the road…. It became so much a part of me that it’s hard to measure; I can’t separate who I am now from what I got from Kerouac. I don’t know if I would ever have had the courage or the vision to do something outside with my life—or even suspected the possibilities existed—if it weren’t for Kerouac opening those doors.”

Stanley Mouse (American, b. 1940)
Alton Kelley (American, 1940 – 2008)
Avalon Ballroom: Grateful Dead, Oxford Circle, September 16, 17, 1966

Lee Conklin (American, b. 1941)
Fillmore West: Grateful Dead, Pentangle, Sir Douglas Quintet, February 27, 28, March 1, 2, 1969

David Singer (American, b. 1941)
Fillmore West: Grateful Dead, Taj Mahal, Feb. 5, 6, 7, 8, 1970

Daddy Bread (William Raymond Bostedt), (American, 1945 – 1998)
Randy Tuten (American, b. 1946)
Winterland Ballroom and Fillmore West: Janis Joplin and her band, Savoy Brown, March 20, 21, 22, 23, 1969

According to Janis Joplin’s sister, “On the Road had been her map for finding life.” When Joplin came to California she first settled in North Beach, the epicenter of the West Coast Beat movement, singing at coffee houses and befriending Beat poets Bob Kaufman and Richard Brautigan, among others. One of her last songs, Mercedes Benz, was co-written by Michael McClure.

Wes Wilson (American, b. 1937)
Fillmore Auditorium: Lenny Bruce, Mothers of Invention, June 24, 25, 1966

In 1958, San Francisco Chronicle writer Ralph J. Gleason likened comedian Lenny Bruce to the Beat writers. Both, he said, offer a “re-assessment of all our attitudes.” Like the Beats, Bruce offered a raw and honest vision of America, and he was often targeted by authorities for violating standards of decency. Following a series of arrests in New York in 1964, Corso, Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, Orlovsky, and Amiri Baraka (then LeRoi Jones) all supported his defense.

This 1966 poster, for a pair of capacity concert dates at the Fillmore Auditorium that featured Bruce and Frank Zappa’s band The Mothers of Invention, was for Bruce’s final performances. Less than two weeks later, he died of a morphine overdose.