As with comics and cartoons, I learned to play music just by working at it on my own, with no formal lessons. But I did not possess a “real” instrument til I was in my late 20s. It was not until then that I finally met others my age who liked and played the same kind of music as me. I have always enjoyed playing music but never particularly enjoyed performing in public. Though I did play many gigs with various bands, I never got over feeling extremely nervous and self-conscious in front of an audience. A career in music did not interest me. I already had a “career” as a cartoonisht/artist, anyway. Plus, there really is no such thing as a career in the kind of music I like to play. You gotta have a regular job and play old-time music on the side, for the pleasure of it.
3) Aside from those illustrations directly related to music, album covers, promotional materials etc. what if any influences did the music you love have on your art work?
None that I can perceive.
4) Your first commission for an album cover was, I believe, for Big Brother and the Holding Company in 1966. How did that come about?
In 1968 I was living in the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco. ZAP Comix had already come out and I was beginning to be well-known in the hippy subculture. I was approached by someone in the “Big Brother” band to do the album cover. I was not crazy about their music but I needed the money. We (my wife Dana and I and our son Jesse) were living on public assistance, or welfare, at the time. Columbia Records offered $600 for doing the cover. That was big money to me at the time. Actually, I was drafted at the last moment, as the band was not happy with the cover produced by the record company. I had to “pull an all-nighter” to get it done. I took some amphetamines and cranked it out. I remember finishing the work as the sun was coming up over the house tops outside my window. You can do that kind of thing when you’re 25.
5) Did you start actively seeking out gigs doing album covers after that, or did you think of it as a one off deal at the time?
I’d given up on being a commercial artist by 1968, and had found to my complete amazement that I could do my own crazy comics and get them published in the hippy so-called “underground” press. There was little or no money in it, but who cared? It was TOTAL FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION in my chosen medium — print! It was the hippy era, man, survival was “transcendental.” We didn’t worry too much about money. That came later, when my work actually started to MAKE money, then there were lots of money problems, I was buried under money problems by the mid-1970s. But that’s another story.