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    Grateful Dead 1966 "Skeleton & Roses" Concert Poster FD-26 Signed by Mouse & Kelley. The famous Family Dog psychedelic concert poster from the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco on Sept. 16 & 17, 1966, with the Oxford Circle as opening act. This original first-printing specimen has been signed in pencil by both poster artists, Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley.

    As all serious collectors know, this legendary Grateful Dead poster rose to the top of Mount Everest in our recent November auction, selling for $118,750 in tip-top graded condition. This specimen will appeal to a different audience... the collector who doesn't mind average condition, but is thrilled to know this piece was held, handled and autographed by Mouse & Kelley, the two men who created it in the first place. Since Mr. Kelley passed away in 2008, the number of double-signed FD-26 posters is forever frozen and very limited.

    Some collectors want their "Skeleton & Roses" to be high grade; they want it fresh off the press and as close to gem mint as possible. Other collectors want their copy to feel like it was taken down off the wall of the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic right after the shows, having been admired by thousands of hippie eyeballs, bearing telltale pinholes and giving off a light tan of California sunshine. If you're in the latter group, we can't see how you could ever do better than this strong, heavy, double-signed, crease-free specimen that certainly motivated at least several people to open up their purses, wallets and hearts and buy tickets to attend this sacred event, something 99.99% of us reading this can only dream about.

    For poster collectors, rock-music fans, pop culture historians, art lovers and just the curious with a good sense of taste, this poster checks every box. The Grateful Dead. San Francisco. The mid-60's. Unforgettable artwork. Legendary graphic artists, who also autographed it. Charisma. Colors. First-printing rarity.

    Second printings and reproductions abound, but this is the only printing of this poster done in the summer of 1966 for the sole purpose of exciting patrons enough to buy tickets and attend one of the two shows. This specimen was printed solely to herd as many people as possible into Chet Helms' second-story Avalon Ballroom at Sutter & Van Ness streets. A year before the summer of love, when things were still pretty innocent.

    It's a thrill just to hold this in your hands, knowing the Dead had been called the Warlocks less than a year earlier. The telltale blue 'Band-Aid mark' next to the ruby red wreath signals the original printing. Even the back has a beautiful toned hue to it. Given this poster's recent ascendancy to the pinnacle of the hobby, it's a treasure to have this original full-sized poster hand-signed by the two men who brought it into existence.

    Measures 14 1/8" x 19 7/8" and is in Very Good Plus condition. COA from Heritage Auctions.

    More Information: It's almost a surreal thought to us now, but the whole reason this thing exists was strictly to be used as advertising. Any print run done after this was for the purpose of making money off the beautiful artwork, and that's why collectors' interest in second printings-onwards generally plunges.

    The story behind Stanley Mouse & Alton Kelley's artwork is well-known in the psych poster world. But to the uninitiated, Mouse & Kelley would often search the shelves of the San Francisco Public Library to get images & ideas they could then build their posters around, with seemingly nothing off-limits. Earlier that summer, they had famously appropriated the image from Zig-Zag wrapping papers to create a popular Family Dog concert poster for Big Brother & the Holding Company. What could they come up with next?

    They struck gold by discovering a small black & white drawing by British book illustrator E.J. Sullivan. His book The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, first published in 1913, contained several images of skeletons. This particular one, of a skeleton picking roses and assembling a wreath of the flowers as well as wearing another as a headdress, really jumped off the page at them. How could it not? What a perfect image for a band called the Grateful Dead!

    Their perfect psychedelic lettering and gorgeous red & blue coloring sealed the deal, creating a four-color masterpiece that looks better with each passing decade. (Questioning that? Let's not discount the other two basic colors: black, used for the Grateful Dead's name; and white, used for the skeleton, Family Dog logo and "Avalon." Just as important as anything else!)

    So why aren't there more of these around? The main reason is that print runs were still relatively low in the summer of 1966, with the whole process having just been birthed a few months earlier. The first Family Dog and Bill Graham posters had appeared only in February, so there was no momentum yet behind saving & collecting these things. They were still being created purely as marketing tools to fill the ballrooms, so... "don't print any more than you needed."

    The other factor is that this poster was so popular that people all over the Bay Area would proudly tack them up on their walls, exposing them to daylight, pinholes and all measure of aging. In fact, sometimes hippies would move from pad to pad, taking this eye candy along with them each time. So the majority of first printings found of this poster are in used - even if lovingly - condition. To find one that doesn't have a single crease or corner bump like this is really a plus.

    Oh, and the music behind it was pretty good, too.

    Condition details: Poster has its full constitution 100% intact with, remarkably, nary a crease or corner bump anywhere. It does have one tack hole in the upper left corner, two in the upper right corner, one in the lower left corner and two in the lower right corner. General consistent toning throughout, but red & blue colors as robust as the day they were printed. Small, extremely light-brown marks in lower left and right corner areas, and upper left margin above the "G", all smooth to the touch. Has some exceeding light ghosting of printer's ink (for lack of a better term) in each white vertical margin next to the image, along the bottom below the ticket info, and filling the top white margin, often in the form of microscopic dots. All printed on beautiful, heavyweight summer 1966 paper from the Bindweed Press in San Francisco. This masterpiece has more charisma than all the other 146 Family Dog posters combined.

    Literature: See Grushkin, Paul, The Art of Rock - Posters from Presley to Punk, Abbeville Press, New York, 1987, p.97 (illus.).

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2020
    4th-5th Saturday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 27
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,665

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $300,000 (minimum $49), plus 20% of any amount between $300,000 and $3,000,000, plus 12.5% of any amount over $3,000,000 per lot.

    Sold on Apr 5, 2020 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
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