Saturday, April 19, 2008

send your best wishes to a great ROCKIN' friend, poster artist Alton Kelley

(above) outside the Grateful Dead office on Lincoln Ave., around 1971. left to right: David Nelson, Spencer Dryden, Alton Kelley, Dave Torbert, Bob Weir, Jerry Garcia, John 'Marmaduke' Dawson (photo by Ken Cohen).
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Alton Kelley, the great rock concert poster artist of the '60s, '70s. and '80s has taken ill. He's had several back surgeries in the last two weeks, and there are further complications. He's in Petaluma (CA) Valley Hospital,
and those of you reading this blog may wish to send personal notes to his guestbook at this hospice-type website:
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http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/altonkelley
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Kelley's wife, Marguerite, will read the thoughts you post to Kelley this weekend. We're all hoping Kelley pulls thru. He's always been a great gentleman and friend, and is known throughout the world for his longtime artistic partnership with fellow artist Stanley Mouse in Kelley-Mouse Studios.
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If you chance to Google-up Kelley's name, you'll see he was one of the original Family Dog concert-promoting-collective members, before the late Chet Helms (who discovered Janis Joplin) took over the FD, and before their rival, Bill Graham.
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Kelley was one of the first psychedelic-types who walked in San Francisco, in 1965, a year before it exploded into a scene that astonished the world. Imagine being one of the first five people in SF knowing that something was about to happen.
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Then, in early 1966, finding a soul-mate in Mouse, with the two of them going off to the SF Public library to discover images from hundreds of years past and repurpose them into rock posters for the first dance-style concerts at Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditorium and Winterland dance arena, and the Family Dog's Avalon Ballroom. My, my, my . . . what a great time to be alive.
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So Kelley, a longtime hot-rodder and custom-car collector as well, is one of rock's elder statesmen, who starred in the same big leagues as Mouse, Victor Moscoso, Rick Griffin, Wes Wilson, David Singer, Randy Tuten, Gary Grimshaw, John Van Hamersveld, and others.
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Kelley is one of the earliest guys to have put a personal name on rock posters (beyond the 1950s-style letterpress and day-glo work of Hatch Show Print, Globe Poster, and Tilghman Press, all which preceded psychedelic). There wouldn't have been an Art Chantry, or a Frank Kozik, or a Coop, or a Jay Ryan in the suceeding years, if Kelley and the others hadn't stumbled onto making posters for rock concerts.
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Simple as that.
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Kelley don't want no tears, no flowers. But he does want to be remembered. So while he's here--and let's hope he'll be here for a long, long time to come--let's do just that, remember the man. Rock on, Kelley. Get well soon, friend!
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