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    BOB COHEN'S LAST, GREATEST FAMILY DOG CONCERT POSTER

    FD-1 Jefferson Airplane "A Tribal Stomp" 1966 Rare Family Dog Fillmore Concert Poster. One of the true Holy Grails of the psychedelic concert poster hobby... a very rare original, pre-show first printing of the first Family Dog concert poster advertising just one show from the Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother & The Holding Company on Saturday night, February 19, 1966 at San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium.

    Our esteemed consignor from last auction, Bob Cohen, the co-owner of the Family Dog from 1966-1968, has decided to give up his last poster to us, his own personal copy of the magical and coveted FD-1. This was never his plan, but he liked the results of our last auction so much that we talked him out of it. So this is the big one.

    FD-1 is one of those key psychedelic concert posters that everyone wants and needs, but only the privileged few have. The print run has been scholastically estimated at 250 copies, and most of those were discarded after the show. People didn't save this one because it wasn't a visual beauty with catchy colors, and nobody knew this would turn into a hobby a few months later. Any that were saved were likely done so accidentally, and by the quirky few Bay Area denizens who felt it might be a cute memento.

    "We were really winging it in those early days," Mr. Cohen tells Heritage. "We had no idea what was happening. We're all looking at this in retrospect now, knowing how important all this was. But when it first started, the first 6-7-8 weeks of shows, we had no idea."

    "A Tribal Stomp" was designed by the legendary Wes Wilson, who sadly passed away earlier this year. Mr. Wilson is known as the dean of San Francisco psychedelic poster artists, having designed the first 10 Family Dog posters and 45 of the first 50 Bill Grahams. And FD-1 was the first poster Wes drew for either promoter; his first BG poster would come a month later ("Batman"). Wes also personally printed this poster at his small San Francisco print shop, Contact Printing, in either January or early February 1966, when the psychedelic concert-poster movement was still at ground zero.

    FD-1 is a perfect representation of the earliest psychedelic poster art, with its low-budget lack of colors (which allowed some people to color it themselves - see page 104 in The Art of Rock), its rolling, psychedelic yet easy-to-read lettering, the quaint simplicity of just one show on a Saturday night, its simple $2.00 admission price, and two of San Francisco's most famous bands ever. (Janis Joplin was not in BBHC yet; she would join them about five months later. And don't forget, Grace Slick wasn't in the Airplane yet, either.)

    Notice this FD-1 has dark 'scumming' throughout, which is associated with first printings of this poster. That ink scumming was inherent in many original printings of the earliest Family Dog posters, as they were hand-rolled at Contact Printing on cheap equipment. According to the web site PrintWiki.org, "In offset lithography, scumming is a generic term for the presence of ink on non-image areas of the printing plate, which can be caused by a variety of press conditions." To serious poster collectors, this ink residue doesn't lessen the value of this extremely rare piece, but actually adds to its authenticity. (Please also see our condition details below, or on-line.)

    Bob Cohen co-owned and co-ran the Family Dog with Chet Helms from 1966-1968, and we sold most of his archives in our August auction. In that sale we had Bob's other original FD-1, which had been torn into strips for bookkeeping purposes. It was beautifully put back together, making one winning bidder very happy. The difference in this one is that it was never cut up, torn into strips or disassembled in any way; the poster has been whole and complete since it was printed. It did have a number of math figures scribbled on the front, just around the "A" in "Airplane," but we had those skillfully removed by a world-class poster conservation expert.

    Meanwhile, the back of the poster, in the most innocent and naïve behavior imaginable, was used... for scratch paper. Makes perfect sense; nice big piece of white paper, destined for the trash can because the show was over... why waste paper? Let our bookkeeper use it to keep track of expenses.

    And some of those notations are really fascinating. You see records of money being paid out to everyone from Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Charlatans (shortened to "Charl"), Sons of Champlin, Daily Flash and the Rising Sons to radio stations for advertising spots, to famous lightshow artist Bill Ham, to poster artist Wes Wilson, to the phone company. And oh, yes... to Mr. Cohen himself, for doing the sound.

    "The public doesn't know all the people," Cohen says. "There's a check for Mr. Whooly, for instance... he was our landlord, who we rented the Avalon Ballroom from. John Helms was Chet's younger brother; I think he distributed posters. Double-H Printing was one of the printers we used in the early days to print the posters. And a lot of other people who were just part of what was going on at the time.

    "To me, the back of the poster is really important. It's historic... it's like a written history of what was happening at the time. Whoever buys this gets a real piece of history."

    Not to mention one heck of a rare psychedelic concert poster, a crazy-cool conversation piece and very special bragging rights for life.

    Measures 13 ¾" x 19 ¾" and grades to Very Good condition. COAs from Bob Cohen and Heritage Auctions; Repair Work by Chameleon Restoration.

    Literature: See Grushkin, Paul, The Art of Rock: Posters from Presley to Punk, Abbeville Press, New York, 1987, p.70-71 (background), p.95 (illustrated).


    More Information: The third photo in this listing is Mr. Cohen holding this very poster at his Bay Area home earlier this year, before Heritage took it away on consignment.

    As for its verso, as we explained last auction, Bob doesn't recall who actually made the bookkeeper notes on the back. "It would have been whoever was doing the books at that time," he says. "Somebody we really trusted, possibly Chet's wife."

    So whatever the incredibly low population count was for FD-1 originals before this, you can now add one more, in addition to the one in our last auction. But that's it; Mr. Cohen has no more. This last one was buried deep in his personal portfolio, but it did see the light of day a couple of times in Bay-Area museum exhibits in recent years, he recalls, especially around the Summer of Love's semicentennial in 2017.

    The lack of information surrounding this primitive piece is also a huge part of its mystery and charm. The way Mr. Cohen describes it to us, "We were just doing... [pauses for a moment]... environmental theater. For our friends. A mixture of light, sound, music... it wasn't really a concert, it was an environment.

    "Remember, before this started, there was nothing like it. This was like walking into a freak show, or Circus Circus or something. People would walk in for the first time, and they saw the music, the people dancing, the light show... the drugs... and had their mind blown. It was such a big experience, with nothing like it for reference."

    This poster is referred to as "Tribal Stomp" because of the wording found on the American Indian artwork in the center. Wes Wilson did all the drawing and designing, but Chet picked out the photo and theme, his MO in the Family Dog's early days. This was also the debut of the Dog's Indian-smoking-a-joint logo appearing in the upper left corner. This was only half of it, however; Wilson would flush it out to completeness on the very next poster.

    Condition details: Poster has a horizontal crease across the center, which intersects "And," "Tribal" and "Admission," but doesn't break color. It was starting to tear on the right edge, which was carefully repaired by the same individual from Chameleon Restoration who repaired our two Beatles 1966 Shea Stadium concert posters that sold for over $100,000 each in the last year (as well as the third one in this auction).

    There are also two vertical creases from top to bottom, but they disappear in the poster's artwork, certainly not breaking any black color, and are much more visible on the verso amongst the writing. There is also a diagonal crease in the poster's upper right quadrant, going through the "FER" in "Jefferson" and the "ANE" in "Airplane," ending in the middle right edge, but is only scantly visible. There is also one pinhole in each of the top two corners.

    We address the black "scumming" found on this poster in the description above. What's unusual is the presence of scumming in the upper half of this poster as well, most intense on the "J" in "Jefferson." Usually scumming on the earliest Family Dog posters is found primarily at the bottom. We certainly made the easy decision to not clean up the poster and make the poster white throughout, or in the top half; we'd rather it have as much originality and authenticity as possible, and perhaps let the poster's second owner in 54 years decide if they want to make any changes to their liking.

    The white spots found on the "B" of "Big," by the way, are printer's anomalies, not damage of any kind.

    On the verso, it's obvious that the poster was originally folded in half, and then one set of bookkeeping notes was kept vertically and the other set horizontally. All annotation is written in blue ballpoint pen. No attempt whatsoever has been made to alter or remove any of the writing, since it's of a historic nature (see Mr. Cohen's comments above). There is some light yellow staining on the vertical set of notes, and areas of dirt and grime in various places throughout the verso.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2020
    14th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 25
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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