Sunday, October 29, 2006

Says The Sacramento Bee: "A Handsome Book"

Have you heard the news? There's good rockin' tonight.

The Sacramento Bee just discovered ROCKIN' (see the article, shown left, from today's Business section). I couldn't be more proud of designer Brent Rector, about whom the article was written. He absolutely aced the project. Everyone who's seen the book so far has commented on his conception, which is dignified but also spirited, full of mellow touches, tones, and aspects that engage the reader very comfortably and happily.

My Dad, Philip Grushkin, was also a book designer. He handled in his lifetime close to 1,500 books, for many publishers, but most for Harry N. Abrams, the worldwide leader in artbooks. He told me a book design is successful when it's invisible, meaning the reader never has to labor to overcome the designer. In a good book design, the grid and typographic elements illuminate the author's concept along with the book's contents. Nothing jarrs that reader from experiencing the book--nothing in the design is so boastful that it's the designer who's calling out, before anything else, "look at MY cleverness."

I would say this: the role played by the designer is crucial, yet it's best appreciated subliminally.

Like all beautifully designed books, ROCKIN' is simply inspired. I take my hat off to you, Brent. It's the first of many to come from you and the team at FUEL Creative Group, I do believe.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

ROCKIN' on the counter at DOWNHOME MUSIC

One of the world's greatest record stores is Downhome Music in El Cerrito, CA. It was founded by Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie Records (more on Chris in a separate blog) and is today managed by John McCord and Scott Glascoe.

Opal Louis Nations occasionally works the counter at Downhome, but he's also a secret agent man. He's one of this country's top music researchers, and authors like Peter Guralnick (most recently "Last Train to Memphis" and "Careless Love;" both books are now regarded as the definitive 'life of Elvis' histories) rely on Opal for gems and nuggets. Like, when I was in the store two weeks ago, Opal reminded me of the Screamin' Jay Hawkins song, "$10,000 Lincoln." How could I have forgotten that one??

Today I swung by the store to present Opal with his copy of ROCKIN'. He was simply overjoyed. He called ROCKIN' "scrumptuous."

Also working at the counter today was Lyuba, herself a specialist in Latin music. You can see from the wide shot here that the store is chock full of treasures. In fact, Downhome serves clients worldwide on a daily basis. Many of the '50s "boxing style" posters included in my ART OF ROCK book were contributed by Chris and the Downhome staff.

Mark Arminski Contributes to ROCKIN'

Mark Arminski is as identifiable with Detroit's rock scene as Iggy Pop, Bob Seger, Kid Rock, and the MC5. He took up that city's postermaking crown after first Stanley Mouse and then Gary Grimshaw both left for San Francisco.

Arminski's body of work is detailed in my ART OF MODERN ROCK (Chronicle Books, 2004, co-authored with Dennis King); Grimshaw's is portrayed in my ART OF ROCK (Abbeville Press, 1987). Mark most recently handled the very last poster for CBGB, the celebrated New York City punk club which closed this month (the bill starred Mark's good friend Patti Smith and her band).

I'm hugely proud that Mark painted ROCKIN's Chapter Six opener, which we both titled "How the MC5 Got Their Sound," a direct reference to members of that legendary band having worked in auto factories. Mark was in San Francisco this weekend taking part in an exhibition, and I presented him with ROCKIN', which is here open to his pagespread.

Mark has a wonderful loft studio in Detroit. There, he paints, creates posters, and also does bodypainting, for which he's greatly renowned. At his studio is one of Mouse's original hats, which Mouse wore when airbrushing monster shirts at Autoramas and state fairs in the early '60s (see pages 60 - 63). I took the high impressionistic photo of Mark with that hat--sorta the 'flame of inspiration' which touches both Mark and Stanley.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Blast from Paul's Past

In junior high school, I was obsessed with building model kits. I had at least two dozen on display at all times. My absolute favorite was Bob Tindle's "Orange Crate" (shown here, unbuilt). It's my idea, circa 1963, of what a hot rod should look like.

Not too long after I got into this phase, the Fischer girls from across the street called to say they just hooked up with the first Beatles LP. I ran to their house, up the stairs. We put a blanket under the door to hide the sound from their parents. It was a secret mission. We were interpreting the future. Two years later, I turned on to Aretha, The Temptations, the Four Tops, Gladys Knight and the Pips' version of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" and could recite the entire lyrics for Shorty Long's "Function at the Junction."

the roots of ROCKIN'

With ROCKIN' now published, and with people everywhere now getting their hands on it, the question has been raised, "Paul, have you always been into rock and cars?" Yes, I do believe so, and these pictures are my witness.

My Dad, Philip Grushkin, was a prominent book man all his life. He was SVP and art director at Harry N. Abrams, the world's largest artbook publisher, a graphic arts lecturer at many universities, and a renowned caligrapher. My Mom, Jean, is still a librarian (at age 84!) at the Englewood, NJ Public Library. So, I've been surrounded by books all my life. When I was a teenager, however, I was a complete gonzo dragster-driver fan, and I know that confused Mom and Dad, especially when I pasted photos from Hot Rod and Rod & Custom all over my bedroom walls (and ceiling too). I was a huge Don "the Snake" Prudhomme guy, and I rooted for Stone/Woods/Cooke and Big John Mazmanian (love those gassers!). And, I was TOTALLY into Motown, being that I went to a half-black, half-white public high school (Dwight Morrow High School), and ran track. But, I suspect the roots of all this came much earlier.

That's me in the driver's seat of my Dad's Jeep, in our driveway, with my cousin Joel in the back. But what was I listening to, on that Victrola??

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

ROCKIN' the Big Apple

ROCKIN' has just hit NYC!! There are piles of books at Barnes & Noble. How do I know?

Lyle Ferbrache, a well-regarded California record collector, who provided one of the rarest pieces in the book--the "Jennings Two Step" 78 on the Hot Rod Records label, shown on page 19--is pictured here holding up his pagespread at the 5th Avenue Barnes & Noble bookstore. Lyle and his wife Zoe-Ann were visiting the Big Apple for the very first time, coincidentally, and saw ROCKIN' through the front window.

There are only a handful of people who know about this record label. Lyle, of course, but also Chris Strachwitz, who founded Arhoolie Records. I'll put up a blog about Chris shortly.

Hot Rod Records, out of San Antonio, TX, released seven 78 recordings, all cajun music, around 1948 - 1949. There was no rock & roll in sight . . . yet. Post-war hot rodding had just begun, so this label art actually was a cutting-edge development, though mostly unseen.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006 reviews ROCKIN'

This just in.

Larry Edsall's review says it all.
Check it out at

The Unknown Museum

Mickey McGowan played a huge role in finding "stuff" for ROCKIN'. For many years he ran The Unknown Museum in Mill Valley, north of the Golden Gate Bridge, but it grew so big (literally, hundreds of thousands of treasures) that he had to move it to a warehouse. Movie studios and people with archivally-based projects now rely on Mickey for assistance, although he plays it "low-profile."

Case in point. I was having some difficulty rounding up rare album covers--dragster albums in particular. I called up Mickey. He said, "sure, come on over." By the time I arrived, he'd loaded up his bookshelves (see photo) with everything I was dreaming about. And when you eyeball one of the rarest of the rare--the "Transfusion" sheet music on page 69--you can thank Mickey too.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Chic-A-Boom and "Elvip"

One of my favorite things to do when visiting Los Angeles is to hang out at Paul and Chris Scharfman's Chic-a-Boom store (6817 Melrose Ave.). They have a fantastic rock & roll memorabilia collection and an even more amazing collection of vintage magazines, advertising art, plastic and metal toys, movie posters, etc. etc.--all for sale.

One day when I was innocently poking around, Paul asked me if I planned to include any vintage toys in ROCKIN'. I told him I wasn't aware of very many that portrayed the relationship between rock & roll and the automobile. Then, I uttered the fateful words, "well, I suppose there must have been one or two that showcased Elvis."

Paul started to laugh. He said, "you're not going to believe what I'm about to show you." He rummaged around in a dusty display case and unearthed. . . the "Elvip" car (which he's holding in this picture).

You can see this on page 36 in ROCKIN'. Some toy manufacturer in India came up with this, probably around 1958. It's not exactly a two-tone Cadillac, not exactly a Buick or an Oldsmobile. But DEFINITELY it's Elvis. No question. And the artist who painted his portrait, looking in from the front and also from the side, absolutely aced it--it's Elvis in Indian garb. And the word "Elvip" seals the deal--someone's beautifully inexact pronunciation of an American idol's name just now reaching that part of the world.

How rare is this vehicle? It may be the only surviving copy. Paul says he'd never seen it before, which is saying something.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


The Rock Poster Society (TRPS) puts on an annual gathering of top rock concert poster artists at the Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park (SF), and there I found Emek (left), John Seabury, John Van Hamersveld, Ron Donovan, Nels Jacobson, Gary Houston, and Stanley Mouse, and gave them their copies. You can see their beautiful art throughout ROCKIN'--and it was wonderful to see how thrilled they were with the book. Made me proud.

John's the guy with the gal (Roni Carlisle), and Stanley's signing my book--he has one of the great, great signatures in show biz.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Rollin' with Paul Getchell

I'm fortunate to have spent 25+ years in rock merchandising, as well as writing about rock & roll history in books like THE ART OF ROCK: POSTERS FROM PRESLEY TO PUNK (Abbeville Press, 1987). I met Paul Getchell along the rock poster trail. We share a love for the posters themselves and (the sometimes arduous task of) collecting 'em. Paul's an attorney who's responsible for the final editing of very serious law books for the leading law book publisher in the US.

Paul's poster collection--focusing on the surf and psychedelic eras--is regarded as one of the top five in the US. It's not just that he has "one of everything," it's that he has variants of everything. He's been able to unearth treasure after treasure, and he always amazes me with his finds.

Here in this picture, standing in front of his prized 1969 Dodge Charger, Paul is holding open ROCKIN' to pages 92 - 93 where the Four Speeds poster is shown. For years it was thought that this group was only active in the recording studio, part of legendary SoCal songwriter Gary Usher's support team. But now we know the band traveled at least once . . . to Northern California, for a gig at the Corte Madera Rec. Center, in Marin County.

Note that it's a Tilghman Press poster. Charles Tilghman printed tens of thousands of posters, at his shop in Oakland, CA, for most of America's top black music groups beginning with jazz in the '30s and up through the '60s Motown and R&B era. Tilghman Press posters were produced by letterpress and have a distinctive imprinted style all their own. When you come across one--and these are hugely rare---you'll see Mr. Tilghman's "trademark" split fountain inking across the letterforms, and his concise use of solid-type decorative elements. Some of the finest pieces in ART OF ROCK are by Mr. Tilghman, whom I met just before he passed away in 1986.

Sadly, as with the early Globe Posters printed in Baltimore, very few Tilghman Press posters remain. Why? Because they were not saved "in their day," in part due to the fact that few rock concert poster collectors existed (they came about as a result of the mid'60s Fillmore and Avalon psychedelic posters in San Francisco).

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Robin Rosaaen is an American treasure. Her Elvis archives, meticulously assembled over some 35 years, is the very best there is. Why? Because Elvis fans the world over trust her with their treasures--especially the photographs they took over the course of his lifetime. It could well be Elvis was the most photographed person on earth, but even so it's next to impossible to unearth photos that people haven't seen before. Hence, my interest in the fan photos.

It's because of Robin that ROCKIN' has individual photos and sets of photos that have never before been published. One fantastic example: the set of photos (page 95) from an unknown photographer, likely sporting a Brownie camera and standing on the sidewalk in a confluence of beach motels, taken spontaneously when Elvis and his cousins unexpectedly arrive--having driven the pink Cadillac and the new Mark II Lincoln down to Biloxi, MS, chasing a very special girlfriend, June Juanico.

In my photo, taken today at her archives, known as "All The King's Things," she's holding the original photo against the book's spread. Note that the book designer, Brent Rector, spent a lot of time with this photo to bring out all the details like the tree there at the entrance to Hoover Dam. Props to you, Brent!

Elvis knew Robin well. She went to most of his West Coast appearances, and he always recognized and honored her from the stage, draping scarves over his friend whom he called "Rockin' Robin."

I simply cannot thank Robin enough for her assistance--she's a dear friend and one of most rockin' people I've ever met. I'm going to do everything I can to get her a publisher so that the best of her tens of thousands of photos can find their way to your coffee table.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Darrell Mayabb, ROCKIN' illustrator

Darrell Mayabb, who illustrated the front cover of ROCKIN' (an interpretation of the promo poster for Neil Young's 1985 TRANS album), is one of this country's most distinguished and accomplished automotive artists. For several decades, his work has been featured in every major car and racing magazine, and he routinely handles major assignments for corporate clients like PPG.

Darrell and I go way back--some 25 years in fact--when I was at Winterland Productions in San Francisco and looking for an artist to develop a new hot rod and truck series of t-shirts. Darrell took me to my first major hot rod and custom car shows, beginning with the NSRA Nationals, held that year at the Oklahoma City state fairgrounds. Darrell could spot the Top 25 cars out of thousands on display, which was very impressive to me. It was all in the conception, details, and the execution, he said. Darrell likes innovation, but he's also a traditionalist.

Garaged at his home and studio in Colorado is Darrell's '36 Chevrolet sedan delivery, nicknamed "Banana Creme." He also has a beautifully louvered roadster which I'll show you in another blog. Darrell has a penchant for naming his cars, as you'll read on page 40 of ROCKIN'.

Wanna know more about Darrell? Check out his website at Or, pick up almost any national car mag at your local newsstand.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Vanity Fair discovers ROCKIN'

One of the really fun parts about being an author is learning about which national publications pick up on your book. The November 2006 issue of VANITY FAIR (on page 156 - "books to flip for") includes one of the great photos from ROCKIN', that being Elvis waxing the pink Cadillac in the driveway at the family's Lamar Street home, in Memphis (before Elvis bought Graceland). This is the Cadillac which Elvis would later give to Gladys, his mother, who for years proudly told one and all it was "her" car, even though she couldn't drive. Today you can see it at the Graceland Car Museum, across the street from the mansion. There are many great Elvis shots in ROCKIN', almost all previously un-published! Some came from the "All The King's Things" archive, curated by Rockin' Robin Rosaaen, about whom you'll read more in this blog in the days ahead.

Bobby Dixon, rockin' ROCKIN'

Speaking of Snoop Dogg, people are always asking me about the guy who did the Snoop poster on page 219 of ROCKIN'. Hey, that's Bobby Dixon, one of the top poster artists in the US. You can see more of his work at Click on "designers." His Beastie Boys poster is an urban classic for the ages. If you're ever at South-By-Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, TX (held there every March), check out "Flatstock," the gathering of poster artists from all over the country. Maybe Bobby will crack a smile for ya too.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

ROCKIN' with Big Slice, Snoop Dogg's car customizer

Meet David Glossner, associate producer of ROCKIN'. David hooked me up with Big Slice, Snoop Dogg's car customizer. At the end of a great day hangin' with Slice, he offered to take us through the neighborhood in Snoop's Lakersmobile, a tricked out '67 Pontiac Parisienne. Kinda looks like the cat swallowed the canary, there in the back seat! YO!

ROCKIN' Around with Frankie Vee and Barry W.

On Saturday, I picked up Frankie Vee (that's Frank Vacanti, head of production for the world's largest rock merchandise firm, Signatures Network) at his house, we throttled up the new Jerry Lee Lewis CD, and headed for Barry Wickham's place. Barry's one of the top record collectors in the US, and--like Frank--is a major contributor to ROCKIN' DOWN THE HIGHWAY. Hey, gotta give the boyz their books!

Frankie bought his T-Bird from Boz Scaggs' road manager (you can read about this on page 181)
when it was still painted turquoise (now it's white). He has one of the top Elvis memorabilia collections in the US, and it's his upside-down in-car record player that's shown on page 106. Frankie and I've been close friends since our days at Winterland Productions.

Barry's contributions are so many I can hardly list 'em. Many of the rare records shown on both the front and back endpapers--and throughout the book--are from his collection. You can learn more about Barry by visiting his website,

Friday, October 13, 2006

ROCKIN' the Goodguys

After visiting with Roy Brizio at his street rod shop, I delivered copies of ROCKIN' to Steve Coonan and Chris McCreary at The Rodders Journal--who graciously provided many excellent photos (see spreads on the Lone Star Roundup; Metallica's cars; Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck's cars).

Then, it was off across the Bay, to Pleasanton, to share ROCKIN' with the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association--producer of some of the best car events in the nation. Gary Meadors, the founder and president, along with Marc Meadors, SVP, couldn't hardly wait to open their copies. There they are, almost on the same page (Stainboy's illustration of Wilson Pickett's MUSTANG SALLY).

Then, it was off to lunch in Gary's '48 Cadillac Sedanette. ROCKIN' day all around.

Roy Brizio, builder of cars for Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, receives the ROCKIN' book and shows me Neil Young's '57 Biarritz

I drove over to Roy Brizio Street Rods in South San Francisco today, to give Roy his copy of ROCKIN'. He was really pleased with the book, and that made me feel terrific.

Roy has built rods for Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton, as you'll when you get to pages 230 - 231.

Roy had a surprise for me. In his back lot, he has Neil Young's white '57 Cadillac Biarritz (he may be putting in a new motor for Neil). This car is shown on page 161, as it was the subject of a famous promo poster for Neil's TRANS album in 1985. Neil is holding a white Gretsch guitar in the poster shot.

Darrell Mayabb, who illustrated ROCKIN's front cover, used Neil's poster as an inspiration (substituting a red Fender guitar), but also decided (in the spirit of rock & roll improvisation) to base the cover on a '58 Biarritz. You can see in the two photos (with Roy holding both the open pagespread and the cover) the difference between the years: the '58 has dual front headlights, different style under-bumper signal lights, and a chrome strip. Same beautiful "Dagmar's" tho!

I just autographed copies of ROCKIN' for Neil and Eric--and I'll be excited to relate what they have to say.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

James Hetfield (Metallica) sees ROCKIN' book for the first time

James Hetfield of Metallica saw ROCKIN' DOWN THE HIGHWAY for the first time at the Billetproof event in Antioch, CA. He was really pleased with the book! Standing next to him is Brent Rector, partner in FUEL Creative Group (Sacramento, CA), who designed ROCKIN'. Brent's '59 Cadillac, which he brought to Billetproof, is featured in David Perry's HOT ROD PINUPS book.

famous artist Gary Houston in ROCKIN' book

Gary Houston, one of the great American poster artists, is featured in ROCKIN' DOWN THE HIGHWAY. He asked if he could create a piece about Bruce Springsteen's "State Trooper" song, off the "Nebraska" album. Here Gary is at the annual Flatstock convention in Seattle, showing off his original scratchboard art that he subsequently colored-in for ROCKIN'.