Cover Stories with Paul Morris, Vol. 6

April 9th, 2014


Paul Morris is a graphic designer and writer who collects album art of the 1940’s and 1950’s. He finds his examples of influential mid-century design in the used record stores of Portland, Oregon.

This edition features teenagers of the 1950’s enjoying their music!

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     This time I’ve brought some examples of 1950s album covers that attempted to appeal to the growing youth market. What I love about these James Dean-era photos is how square the youngsters appear, and how old the models often were. In this teenage dance party one girl is having some finger-snapping fun.

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     Boyd Raeburn was a big band leader known for experimental ideas, but here he was reaching for a crossover with “a solid beat for dancers.” The dancers in the photo, credited to Leigh Charell, are collegiates dressed in sweaters, saddle shoes, and skirts. One girl is playing along with her ukulele.

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     It’s time for a open house party with Les Brown, with a host of invited singers, “the ideal guests for your evenings at home, with friends or strangers, for a party of two or a party of twenty—even for the listener alone.”  This crowd looks too young for the likes of Hoagy Carmichael, but they’re very into their Les Brown albums. This photo is by Joe Weitz. Note the knotty pine paneling and mid-century bamboo furniture.

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     Another party set in a basement room, this one with shag carpeting. I’d be a bit startled if Don Cornell showed up in my basement, but these teens are taking it in stride. As in the previous photo, the drink of choice is Coke.

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     Yes, there really were poodle skirts, if this photo is to be believed. And teenagers wore sport coats to the malt shop. Buddy Morrow was another big-band holdover trying to reach the youth market.

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     “When the lettermen or campus Casanovas take comely co-eds around the waist…well, clearly the occasion’s a fraternity hop,” say the liner notes. Eddie Miller, the leader, was born in 1911, so it was perhaps a stretch for him to accompany a college party. The very happy couple at left seem old enough to be grad students. The lights and brick wall are great; one of the joke signs reads, “Halitosis is Better than No Breath at All.”

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     These 1958 music fans are more believable as teenagers, though some of them are quite serious about their dancing. Apparently four inches below the knee was the skirt length of the day. At Sandy Nelson’s house party, the crowd is on the young side, and Mom has gone all out with the party decorations and snacks. I wonder if Brylcreem is still on the market?

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     In the Teen Scene photo the younger kids are loving Chet Atkins, supposedly “a favorite of Young America.” This cover  is from 1963, as evidenced by the skinny ties and big hair.

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     These dancers actually are supposed to be adults won over to rock and roll by the Twist, but their dance party is very similar to the teen variety, complete with portable phonograph and soft drinks. There’s no obvious connection between the Twist and Dr. Pepper that I can see. The 10, 2, and 4 used to be on the label — those are the times of day when it’s fun to drink it. The second image, from the back, shows advanced variations of the Twist, including the never-seen Holdin’ Hands Twist.

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     And here is a dance party staged for the 1963 movie Bye Bye Birdie. These high schoolers are enjoying the “Telephone Hour” catching up on gossip (notice all the phones) while dancing. The costumes here are a Hollywood costumer’s idea of teen fashion. Some of the colors are very much of the time.

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In Volume 1 of “Cover Stories,” Paul shared his collection of covers by Alex Steinweiss, known as the father of the record album cover, and for many years in charge of Columbia Records’ art department.

Volume 2 focused on Columbia covers

Volume 3 featured jazz illustrations from the early years of the record album

Volume 4 revisited the 1950’s with images of fans holding and enjoying their albums

Volume 5 explored the work of Alex Steinweiss when he used the pseudonym “Piedra Blanca”

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In This Issue

Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, talks about her book, and the complex life of her late husband.

Also in this issue…A new collection of jazz poetry; "On the Turntable," a new playlist of 22 recommended recordings by seven jazz artists; three new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Great Encounters”; several short stories; the photography of Veryl Oakland and Charles Ingham; a new Jazz History Quiz; and lots more…

On the Turntable

This month, a playlist of 22 recently released jazz recordings, including those by Chris Potter, Sons of Kemet, Stephan Crump, Brittany Anjou, Julian Lage, Joey DeFrancesco and Antonio Sanchez

Poetry

Seventeen poets contribute 21 poems in this month’s edition…

The Joys of Jazz

In new podcasts, Bob Hecht tells three stories; one about Miles Davis’ use of space in his music, one on the mutual admiration society of Sinatra, Lady Day, and Lester Young, and the other about the train in jazz and blues music.

“What are some of your all-time favorite record album covers?”

Gary Giddins, Jimmy Heath, Fred Hersch, Joe Hagan, Maxine Gordon, Neil Tesser, Tim Page, Veronica Swift and Marcus Strickland are among the 25 writers, musicians, poets, educators, and photographers who write about their favorite album cover art

Art

“Thinking about Ida B. Wells” — a photo narrative by Charles Ingham

Jazz History Quiz #126

In 1964, along with the orchestra of arranger Lalo Schifrin (pictured), this flutist/alto sax player recorded one of the first “Jazz Masses,” and soon after studied transcendental meditation in India. He would eventually become well known as a composer of music for meditation. Who is he?

Great Encounters

Dexter Gordon tells the story of joining Louis Armstrong’s band in 1944, and how they enjoyed their intermission time.

Art

In this edition of Veryl Oakland’s “Jazz in Available Light,” photographs of Red Garland, Dizzy Gillespie and Rahsaan Roland Kirk are featured.

Short Fiction

"Strings of Solace," a short story by Kimberly Parish Davis

Interviews

Romare Bearden biographer Mary Schmidt Campbell discusses the life of the important 20th century American artist

Cover Stories with Paul Morris

In this edition, Paul writes about jazz album covers that offer glimpses into intriguing corners of the culture of the 1950’s

Short Fiction

"And so we went to Paris," a short story by Sophie Jonas-Hill

Coming Soon

National Book Award winning author for non-fiction Jeffrey Stewart is interviewed about his book The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke

In the previous issue

The question “What are some of your all-time favorite record album covers?” was posed via email to a small number of prominent and diverse people, and the responses of Gary Giddins, Jimmy Heath, Fred Hersch, Joe Hagan, Maxine Gordon, Tim Page, Veronica Swift and Marcus Strickland are among the 25 writers, musicians, poets, educators, and photographers who participated...Also, the publication of the winning story in our 50th Short Fiction contest; an interview with Romare Bearden biographer Mary Schmidt Campbell; a collection of jazz poetry; two new podcasts by Bob Hecht; the March edition of "On the Turntable," and lots more...Click here to be taken to the issue.

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