What we have here is a beautiful, spectacular Tribute to Dr. Strange window card harking all the way back to the fall of 1965.
This was an extremely seminal dance-concert in San Francisco, a forerunner to a tidal wave of pop culture that was just about to wash over the Bay Area, followed by the entire country.
So this event was advertised by this Family Dog Presents a Rock ’n’ Roll Dance Concert poster, which, as usual, was placed all over town to lure in the hippest of customers – still very much underground at the time.
It was undoubtedly startling for people to pass by and see this in a store window… the whole psychedelic era was just beginning to take shape.
So yes, you’d call this Tribute to Dr. Strange poster board a piece of psychedelic art… and one of the first ones, I might add.
The item’s creator, Alton Kelley, would go on to be a key player in designing concert posters for years to come.
Kelley, who is no longer with us, must have been very proud of his Family Dog Presents a Rock ’n’ Roll Dance Concert placard. Just look at the intricacies of its design… it’s a masterwork.
Of course, psychedelic poster design would get a lot crazier in the years to come… but given that there was scarcely anything else like this at the time… makes it absolutely innovative.
There’s another poster from the summer of ’65 that’s referred to as “the seed,” but there’s no question that this Tribute to Dr. Strange broadside is a seed all unto itself. Plus it’s from San Francisco proper, whereas “the seed” was from Nevada.
Kelley was actually part of the promotion team, too… he was one of four people who founded & ran the Family Dog. The other three members would soon peel away, whereas Alton carried on and did tons of more posters.
I love the way he chose to color in his Family Dog Presents a Rock ’n’ Roll Dance Concert show poster. The event was in the fall, and he used nice autumn colors to enhance this copy.
In fact, this poster was Kelley’s own personal copy. He ended up giving it to his friend, poster artist Stanley Mouse, who years later sold it to a lucky collector. So it’s provenance is accounted for, and solid.
My favorite part of Kelley’s Tribute to Dr. Strange window display is the sideways airplane buzzing along with the Jefferson Airplane’s name. It’s a really cool little graphic.
And notice how The Charlatans are represented by band member George Hunter’s stylized logo, which he had drawn up just that summer for their extended stay in Virginia City, Nevada.
Stepping back for a moment, notice how this Family Dog Presents a Rock ’n’ Roll Dance Concert placard is roughly comprised of four quadrants. The upper left gives the promoter and event name; the upper right gives the description and date.
The lower left presents the four band names playing that night, and ticket info down in tiny print. And the lower right gives the location and ticket price. Interesting!
Although this Tribute to Dr. Strange show placard wasn’t designed to be cut and half and stacked one side on top of the other, it’s interesting to note that that could almost happen… if you cut along the tall stack of circles.
This is the technique that the designers of the famous Acid Test posters used just a couple of months hence, in Dec. 1965 and Jan. 1966 – cutting a poster in half and stacking it.
It’s not known how many of these Family Dog Presents a Rock ’n’ Roll Dance Concert window posters were printed up, but my wild guess would perhaps be between 50 and 200.
It’s quite possible more than that were done, but the FD promoters also had a lot of handbills to distribute, so maybe fewer posters were needed.
In looking over the design of Alton Kelley’s Tribute to Dr. Strange event poster, one might conclude that the two most common elements are ‘flames and spheres.’
You’ve got circles in the upper left, the middle left and then running down the length of the poster. And then there are flame-like design elements simply everywhere, although not necessarily representing fire.
Of the four bands listed on the Family Dog Presents a Rock ’n’ Roll Dance Concert psychedelic poster, only the (unknown) Marbles don’t have a logo customized to their name.
I’ve mentioned the Airplane and Charlatans already; and the Great Society has stars & stripes as part of its lettering. But the Marbles has no such customization, just balloon lettering.
One of the reasons this Tribute to Dr. Strange street poster is so important is that it represents the birth of a scene. So says Darby Slick of the Great Society, in his book Somebody to Love:
“We had arrived, and we were weird, interesting and loveable,” Slick writes of this event. “The excitement was intense and vibrant.”
So while a lot of people might want to point to BG-1 or FD-1 as the start of the psychedelic poster scene in San Francisco, this visual evidence would point right at Alton Kelley’s Family Dog Presents a Rock ’n’ Roll Dance Concert announcement as being the harbinger.
There was so little that had come before it… just the Beatles and Stones playing the Bay Area, the Charlatans playing the Red Dog Saloon over in Nevada, and… what else? No Acid Tests yet, no Trips Festivals, no Mime Troupe Benefits, no Bill Graham shows, no Chet Helms.
So if you have a piece of Tribute to Dr. Strange concert memorabilia like this, you have a slice of early hippie pop-culture history. This is the first large public event that locals can remember everyone dressing up in hippie garb for.
I haven’t found many photos from this event, but boy, would that be great if someone stepped forward with an unseen roll of film or unpublished pictures from this night. Too good to be true.
It’s worth noting that this Family Dog Presents a Rock ’n’ Roll Dance Concert cardboard poster wasn’t done on typical paper stock, whereas almost all other concert posters were printed on paper once Bill Graham and Chet Helms took over – even during the winter.
All throughout the 1930s to 1960s and beyond, typical concert posters were usually made of rigid card stock, or cardboard, so that they could be posted outdoors and not be affected by the weather.
So this Tribute to Dr. Strange fence poster would’ve held up quite well in San Francisco’s fall weather, although the strongest rains probably didn’t come until the winter months.
On the other hand, this Kelley hand-embellished specimen probably spent its life indoors, not outside. In fact, since it was Kelley’s, it might not have been used at all to advertise, it might have just remained in his studio. Who knows?
This Family Dog Presents a Rock ’n’ Roll Dance Concert advertisement is lectured upon and shown from all angles by myself, Peter Howard, of California’s central coast. If you’d like to reach out to contact me, either go through firstname.lastname@example.org, or ring me on 805.540-0020. And do keep very much in mind that as a serious collector, I’m happy to pay THE BEST PRICES IN THE HOBBY, PERIOD, for the best & earliest S.F. concert posters like this. I still need this one!!
If this item interested you and you’d like to see a few more dynamite psych concert posters, just move your mouse over to this page right here on my site: http://www.postercentral.com/psychedelic.htm. Thanks and have a great day.