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Rick Griffin (artist of poster at left and center; 1944–1991) and Bob Fried (artist of poster at right)
Family Dog Productions
Charlatans: The Salvation Army Banned Blue Cheer; Charlatans: The 13th Floor Elevators; Charlatans: The Youngbloods and the Other Half, 1967
color lithograph
55.9 x 35.6 cm (22 x 14 in.)
poster at left: Mr. and Mrs. W. Robert Johnston; posters at center and right: Leslie, Judy and Gabri Schreyer and Alice Schreyer Batko
© Family Dog Productions

Apparently it was seeing rock posters by Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley that prompted Rick Griffin to move from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area where he began designing posters to advertise the Charlatans's rock concerts. In this three-part series, Griffin's favorite motifs, mainly stemming from the "Wild West"—brimmed hats, gas lighting, and prospector style—are prominent. In the third poster, Fried continues the style and symbols that Griffin established for the Charlatans.

Detail 1
Detail 2




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Biography of Rick Griffin (artist of poster at left and center; 1944–1991) and Bob Fried (artist of poster at right)

Born near Palos Verdes, Rick Griffin grew up in the surfing culture of southern California, which had a profound influence on his art. After high school, he worked on the staff of Surfer magazine and created the best-known surfing cartoon character of the time, Murphy.

In Los Angeles Griffin met the Jook Savages, a group of artist-musicians, and took part in the writer Ken Kesey's "Watts Acid Test." In the fall of 1966, along with the Jook Savages, he went to San Francisco and began to create rock posters. His first was for a Jook Savages art exhibition. Organizers for the "Human Be-In" saw the poster in San Francisco and asked him to do a poster for their event held in January 1967. Chet Helms, a producer for the Family Dog (a collective interested in social issues), also saw Griffin's work and asked him to design posters for the dance parties at the Avalon Ballroom. In 1967 Berkeley Bonaparte, a poster distribution agency, began employing artists such as Griffin, giving them an opportunity to create and sell posters not specifically made for concerts.

Combining eclectic typefaces and decorative borders with brilliant colors, Griffin's compositions are complex without being illegible. He introduced diverse, often startling objects into his posters, creating visual-verbal puns and playful references to pop culture.

His later works are powerful and bizarre, concerned with ideas of mortality and continuity. Among his last posters were those produced for the San Francisco-based band the Grateful Dead, which illustrate Griffin's vivid imagination and graphic skill.

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