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    OH, BOY! A ROCK 'N' ROLL MUSIC POSTER THAT WILL LEAVE YOU BREATHLESS

    Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry 1958 Alan Freed "Big Beat" Rare Concert Poster. A true monster of a rock 'n' roll concert poster, topped by impresario Alan Freed who owned rock 'n' roll at the time, and featuring Buddy Holly & The Crickets, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Frankie Lymon after leaving the Teenagers, Danny & The Juniors, The Diamonds, Larry Williams, Screamin' Jay Hawkins and many others.

    This window card has so much going for it that it's hard to know where to start. Alan Freed, who many credit with inventing the term "rock 'n' roll," presides over 16 acts that are splashed all over the poster, with a photo for every one and song titles for most. And look at those amazing tunes: "Rock n Roll Music," "Peggy Sue," "Great Balls of Fire," "Maybe Baby," "Sweet Little 16," "Oh Boy," "Breathless," "At the Hop," "Bony Moronie," "I Put a Spell on You," "Rock 'N Roll Is Here to Stay"... could you ask for a concert poster better representing 1950's rock 'n' roll?

    This was a 'tour blank' concert poster which could be used for any stop on the six-week tour. If the local promoter wanted to use posters to help them sell tickets, the top white box would be imprinted in small quantities for that particular date. This specimen actually advertised three shows at the Orpheum Theatre in Madison, Wisconsin on Wednesday, April 23, 1958. Show times were 4:15 in the afternoon, 7:00 PM and 9:30 PM.

    Buddy Holly & the Crickets were still on their big initial roll of four early Top 20 hits: "That'll Be the Day," "Peggy Sue," "Oh, Boy!" and "Maybe Baby." The poster slips in "I'm Gonna Love You Too," his latest single on Coral Records from February which didn't chart. "Rave On" had just been released as his new single, literally days before this show.

    Jerry Lee Lewis "& Band" find themselves in the pole position here, and The Killer couldn't be hotter. In '57 he had changed the world with "Whole Lot of Shakin' Going On" and "Great Balls of Fire," and for this concert he was in between two more classics: "Breathless" (also a Top 10 hit) and "High School Confidential."

    Chuck Berry never needs a set-up, of course, but it's great to see his previous two singles listed under his name: "Rock & Roll Music" and "Sweet Little Sixteen." His brand new single, which had just entered Billboard magazine's charts? Oh, not much, just "Johnny B. Goode."

    The poster's second row is rounded out by 15-year-old Frankie Lymon, late of the Teenagers, who sputtered as a solo act but was surely thrilling audiences on this tour with his seminal "Why Do Fools Fall in Love"; and the Diamonds, who had a world-beater with "Little Diamond" in '57 and also produced two Top 10 pop hits this year, "Silhouettes" and "The Stroll" (the latter on the poster).

    You can pick your favorites after that, but how can you not love that red box at the bottom with the honking saxophone player and the rolling words, "Alan Freed and his Coral Records Big Rocking Band Starring Sam The Man Taylor - New Hit! 'Big Guitar.'" And then let's not forget: "Direct from Record Smashing N.Y. Paramount Engagement."

    The poster's design gets a huge credit here. The four colors (white, red, black, yellow) are distributed marvelously, with a great deal of forethought... Jerry Lee Lewis's band name gets two colors, and his and Buddy Holly's song titles even get two colors. The designer's old-fashioned arrangement of rectangles, ovals and banners is very eye-catching in this completely symmetrical design. The layout just screams "1950's" and yells "rock 'n' roll."

    Alan Freed was at the peak of his powers right now as the figurehead for teenagers and rock (Elvis Presley aside, who was always his own island). At this point, Freed had appeared in the seminal motion pictures Rock Around the Clock and Rock Rock Rock (both 1956), and Mister Rock and Roll and Don't Knock the Rock (both 1957). He had a short-lived national primetime TV show the previous year called The Big Beat, and went on to host a show of the same name on WNEW-TV in New York, his home base. But his bubble was just about to burst when the radio payola scandal broke and essentially took down his career in 1959.

    This rare board is a timepiece, a masterpiece and even a Smithsonian piece, and just think - nearly all of them were just thrown away right after the shows. Thank goodness at least a couple were accidentally saved. No museum has one of these, not even the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and none of them are in Europe, to the best of our knowledge; they're only in the collections of a few fortunate American collectors. Who knows how long it'll be before another one comes on the market? This is the first time this century that this cardboard poster is being auctioned (small paper handbills appear occasionally), and as far as we know, the only one to auction last century was on eBay in the 1990's, and only once. Only a handful of these posters, roughly five, are known to still exist.

    Measures 17" x 22" and grades to Very Good condition. COA from Heritage Auctions.


    More Information: It's interesting how the symmetry is altered only in the top of the black area, on either side of Alan Freed's name. Slightly different wording and fonts are used to inform people there were 17 "top attractions," four "great bands" and 60 people involved in all. The creative types at Shaw Artists Corp. and the Murray Poster Printing Co. in New York sure had fun!

    "Big Beat" was really a key phrase emerging to describe the new phenomenon of rock 'n' roll, and would be used for a short while on both sides of the Atlantic. The Beatles, for example, would play several "Operation Big Beat" dance concerts in the Liverpool area in the early 60's.

    Freed passed away in 1965, but his legacy remains strong. Posthumously, he was a first-ballet inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986; was made a member of the National Radio and National Rhythm & Blues Halls of Fame; received the Grammy's Trustee's Award; and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles.

    Other musicians featured on the poster and Billy & Lillie, The Chantels, Billy Ford and the Thunderbirds, The Pastels, Dicky Doo and the Dont's and Jo Ann Campbell.

    Trivial little note: It's well-known that the Beatles named themselves largely as an homage to Buddy Holly's "Crickets" name. Well, notice how close the prominent words "Beat" and "Crickets" are in the upper right area. Fun, interesting.

    Condition details: Poster has some surface creasing to the cardboard in various spots, such as in the Crickets' yellow banner, a bit in Chuck Berry's oval, and in the photos of Jerry Lee Lewis and Screamin' Jay Hawkins (bottom row, far right). These become invisible as soon as you move three feet back from the poster. Standard toning to the white cardboard is present throughout. The board was also touched up by a world-class paper restoration expert to remove a little tape residue in the margins, a tear in the venue box and a small missing upper-left corner, which came nowhere near the lettering. The consignor has held all five extant examples of this rare poster in his hands (all from different cities) and declares that this one has the "best bones" of them all, as in the strongest constitution with the most original colors and cardboard intact. Other known examples were taped up, written on, significantly faded or had bigger pieces missing. We give great import to a poster's condition now, but we must remember that back in the 50's these items had zero value, were often thrown around like Frisbees and usually saved just as a lark. So a bit of professional touching-up is almost always the norm, and this piece is 99% original, as good as it gets.




    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2020
    8th-9th Saturday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 32
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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