An early, fun Charlatans window card from their debut at the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada with a given date of June 1-15, 1965.
But actually, those dates were premature on this first, initial printing of the poster… opening night actually occurred three weeks later, on June 21, for which a second poster was designed.
This Amazing Charlatans psychedelic poster has been given its own nickname, “The Seed,” because it’s such a seminal poster in the history of 1960’s San Francisco concert-poster art.
Simply put, it’s considered the first psychedelic concert poster ever, which is quite a badge of honor, given all that would follow over the next few years.
One of the coolest features of this Charlatans window poster is how the five band members have their first names right by their faces. All except one, that is… the man in the middle, between “San Francisco” and “Dan,” has a piano keyboard where his name should be.
That would be keyboardist Mike Ferguson, but the trouble was, the name “Mike” was already taken on the poster, by lead guitarist Mike Wilhelm, top center. So Ferguson cleverly used his musical instrument to distinguish himself from the other Mike on the poster.
In addition to the individual faces, you have the full-band drawing in the bottom half of this Amazing Charlatans concert sign, with the guys all playing away. For me, the funniest elements of this drawing are the piano player’s extra long arms, and the small registered trademark symbol on the drum head! I’m guessing Ferguson put it there facetiously.
I should mention here that the other band members were leader George Hunter (top left), drummer Dan Hicks (middle far right) and Charlatans bassist and co-founder Richard Olsen (below Hicks).
Keyboardist Ferguson is credited with designing all the intricate art for this Charlatans tour poster, including the five portraits.
And then the band’s most visible member, Hunter, came up with the distinct lettering used for the Charlatans’ name across the center in big letters. The name is also adorned with a small “registered trademark” symbol; talk about confidence you were going to make it!
Measuring just 10 x 14 inches, the Amazing Charlatans in-person poster is pretty small in size, but collectors still consider it a poster, not a handbill.
Its complicated, swirling artwork is popular with fans of psychedelic concert-poster art, and was very influential on the Bay Area poster artists who would start designing their own advertisements within just a few months.
This first printing of the Charlatans street poster was done using blue ink all the way through, and carries the incorrect June 1-15 dates; the second printing was done with black ink, and correctly states “Opening June 21.” For comparison, I show you an image of that second printing in my video.
The band ended up playing the Red Dog Saloon for six weeks in the summer of 1965, which means their historic run ended during the weekend of July 31-August 1.
It’s historically humorous to point out that this Amazing Charlatans billboard states under their name, “Direct from San Francisco.” By most accounts, the group had never played together live on a stage before!
Then there’s the banner under their group drawing, “The Limit of the Marvelous.” Designer Ferguson has stated in interviews that some elements of the Seed poster were derived from another, foreign poster that he happened to stumble across.
Unquestionably, the most controversial feature of this Charlatans appearance poster is the swastika down in the lower right-hand corner. Ferguson admits to doing that, but never explained why. A German swastika back then was considered a harmless historical doodle, compared to the extreme political incorrectness is carries today.
I find it interesting that Ferguson and Hunter didn’t sign their poster as the graphic designers, which would become commonplace going forward starting with Alton Kelley and continuing on with Stanley Mouse, Wes Wilson and virtually every other artist.
This Amazing Charlatans concert advertisement is displayed for your enjoyment by serious poster collector Pete Howard. That’s me, and I can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org or by ringing 805.540-0020. As a serious collector, I will PAY TOP DOLLAR for this Charlatans Seed poster, in any condition!
To see a few other mid-sixties psych concert posters of interest, please check out this page right here on my Web site: http://www.postercentral.com/psychedelic.htm