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    BOBBY VEE'S PERSONAL "BIG BEAT" POSTER

    Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry 1958 Alan Freed "Big Beat" Waterloo, IA Concert Poster. Up for auction is this true monster of a rock 'n' roll concert poster, topped by impresario Alan Freed who owned rock 'n' roll at the time, and featuring the musical talents of 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.

    Heritage Auctions sold our first one of these extreme rarities last summer, and got great results. Now we're proud to offer up Bobby Vee's personal specimen, which the late singer had in his possession for decades. Vee's biggest tie to 50's rock 'n' roll came when he stepped into the 1959 Winter Dance Party tour as a substitute musician, after Buddy Holly perished midway through that tour.

    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?

    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).

    The poster's design gets a huge credit here. The four colors (white, red, dark blue, 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.

    We told you last summer that only about five of these posters are known to exist, and yes, Bobby Vee's is one of those five. Our August 2020 sale was the only appearance ever of a Freed Big Beat poster in an auction setting, other than eBay once in the 1990's. It's no wonder Heritage realized $118,750 last year, as the value of the crème de la crème continues to rise. Measures 17" x 22" and grades to restored Very Good condition. COA from Heritage Auctions and repair work by Chameleon Restoration.


    More Information: 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."

    This was a 'tour blank' concert poster which could be used for any stop on the six-week tour, which is why we had the version from Madison last year. 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. Interestingly, the Madison window card advertised three shows on that date, but this Waterloo one has only one prime-time show, at 8:30 PM. The Madison poster didn't have ticket prices; here in Waterloo, you can see that the prices were a jaw-dropping $1.50, $2.00 and $2.50.

    It's interesting how the symmetry is altered only in the top of the dark blue 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: This poster had originally suffered a lot of wear & tear over the decades, including fading, tears and tape lifts, and a little material missing from two of the corners. Our world-class poster restoration expert, Chris Fennell, spent weeks with the poster and skillfully brought it up to the wonderful condition it's in today. There are still surface creases present in the cardboard, including through Freed's hair and within the two lines of musician photographs, but very little color is broken. The lower left corner area has a four-inch diagonal crease that passes through "The" and "Shaw."

    The verso looks like a child's art project or perhaps was used as a blotter by an artist to protect their desk. We decided to leave it exactly as it was, because it's somewhat charming and authentic. The creases discussed on the front are also visibly apparent on the back.

    All of this evaluation was gathered by looking at the poster tilted at an angle to the light. Straight-on, standing up on its own, it's a breathtaking beauty to behold with very few issues, mostly just the usual toning to the cardboard.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2021
    1st-2nd Saturday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 21
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,047

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