Cover Stories with Paul Morris, Vol. 8

August 20th, 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 humorous edition features a “disturbing” and fascinating trend in 1950’s album art — Records on the Floor!

 

 

 

__________

 

 

 

      Some readers may recall my January column, in which 1950s consumers were holding, displaying, and communing with their records. This time we visit that decade again, to explore a disturbing and fascinating trend in album art: Records on the Floor.

     In January I noted how the record companies frequently urged buyers to handle their vinyl treasures with care. The admonitions often appeared on the inner sleeve. Below is what Capitol taught, including how to spread the album jacket by pressing it lightly against your body. But the art directors didn’t get the message. They liked to show people relaxing around the record player with not a care about inner sleeves, scratches, or fingerprints. These consumers were quite fond of scattering their albums on the floor — someone’s idea of fun!

a-paul-00-Protective Envelope

__________

      These kids can be excused if they did this without their parents’ knowledge. In Songs for Children the redhead likes to watch the colored record spin as he listens. In Kiddie Favorites the phonograph is an oldie.

a-paul-01-Songs for Children

a-paul-02-Kiddie Favorites

__________

      Here we have family night around the record player, with just a few items on the floor. Some of the cuts on this sampler album are fairly hip jazz, such as Jimmy Cleveland and Terry Gibbs. Was Dad into bebop?

a-paul-03-Mercury PJC-1

__________

      Nothing like slipping into a nightgown and slipping some records out of their jackets. The lady on the floor is holding a framed picture while gorging on Montovani. That shag rug will really get those records dirty! At least three of the discs have cover art by Alex Steinweiss.

a-paul-04-London LL 1452

a-paul-05-Westminster Pop Sampler

__________

      In a 1959 slumber party these girls spread the vinyl around. Note the modern chair.

a-paul-06-RCA CAS 523 1959 hits

__________

      I guess elegance is not incompatible with mistreating records, if this picture is to be believed. The Tchaikovsky lover has poured a martini and settled down on what could be a proto-futon.

a-paul-07-Hour of Tchaikovsky

__________

      A shag rug, Frankie Laine, and records on the floor: that was romance. I don’t recall the bracelet worn above the elbow in the 1950s. Was that a thing?

a-paul-08-Mercury MG 20083 Laine

__________

     These kids are ecstatic about the hits of the day and pretty careless with their records. There’s a Coke bottle just poised to spill on a record. Tops was a budget label, so perhaps no big loss. Another nice mid-century chair.

a-paul-09-Tops L1510

__________

      These young Christians seem to be singing, but they aren’t the artists on the album. One of the selections is by a group with a great name, Thurlow Spurr and The Spurrlows. The record player probably is stereo — it has a detachable speaker. Also memorable is the woman wearing a top with a built-in purse.

a-paul-10-Sing with Young America

__________

      Here the Decca photographer has used the same set — a big record — for dancing couples in two Jan Garber albums. Not exactly records on the floor, but in a similar vein. The four potted plants apparently are to make it clear that the scene is a patio or garden. The table is set with two drinks and, naturally, an ashtray.

a-paul-11-Decca DL 8484

a-paul-12-Decca DL 8483

__________

      Gus Bivona was a big-band-era holdover who collaborated with Steve Allen and recorded with many top L.A. studio musicians. Looks like someone first came up with the title Deals in Millions, then the art director decided on the bank vault idea.

a-paul-13-Warner 1361 Bivona

__________

      And last a reprise of one of my favorites, because it makes no sense and carries things to an extreme. Incidentally, I snagged this cover because of the sharp eye of Jerry Jazz publisher Joe Maita, who was vinyl shopping with me. He never leaves his records on the floor!

a-paul-14-Baxter Young Pops

 

__________

Next time: A varied selection of albums from the RCA label in the 1940s and 1950s

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”

Volume 6 featured teenagers of the 1950’s enjoying their music

Volume 7 featured Steinweiss album covers from his prime period — the late 1940’s and early 1950’s

Share this:

3 comments on “Cover Stories with Paul Morris, Vol. 8”

  1. I was around then. The old 78’s, the 33’s, and I had a friend with a battery run record player. We used to take it to the beach and play Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis and Cry Me A River by Ray Charles. What fun, those old memories.

  2. Astounding that record companies so often depicted their products strewn on the floor. I have never seen that in real life. Maybe it’s because I just hang around with record lovers who would never do such a thing.
    Thanks for the great album covers and this terrific series.

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In This Issue

Michael Cuscuna, Mosaic Records co-founder, is interviewed about his successful career as a jazz producer, discographer, and entrepreneur...Also in this issue, in celebration of Blue Note’s 80th year, we asked prominent writers and musicians the following question: “What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums; a new collection of jazz poetry; “On the Turntable,” is a new playlist of 18 recently released jazz recordings from six artists – Joshua Redman, Joe Lovano, Matt Brewer, Tom Harrell, Zela Margossian and Aaron Burnett; two new podcasts by Bob Hecht; a new “Jazz History Quiz”; a new feature called “Pressed for All Time,”; a new photo-narrative by Charles Ingham; and…lots more.

On the Turntable

This month, a playlist of 18 recently released jazz recordings by six artists -- Joshua Redman, Joe Lovano. Matt Brewer, Tom Harrell, Zela Margossian, and Aaron Burnett

Poetry

In this month’s collection, with great jazz artists at the core of their work, 16 poets remember, revere, ponder, laugh, dream, and listen

The Joys of Jazz

In this new volume of his podcasts, Bob presents two stories, one on Clifford Brown (featuring the trumpeter Charlie Porter) and the other is part two of his program on stride piano, including a conversation with Mike Lipskin

Short Fiction

We had many excellent entrants in our recently concluded 50th Short Fiction Contest. In addition to publishing the winning story on March 11, with the consent of the authors, we have published several of the short-listed stories...

“What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?”

Dianne Reeves, Nate Chinen, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Eliane Elias and Ashley Kahn are among the 12 writers, musicians, and music executives who list and write about their favorite Blue Note albums

Pressed for All Time

In an excerpt from his book Pressed for All Time, Michael Jarrett interviews producer Creed Taylor about how he came to use tape overdubs during the 1957 Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross Sing a Song of Basie recording session

Art

"Thinking About Charlie Parker" -- a photo narrative by Charles Ingham

Jazz History Quiz #128

Although he was famous for modernizing the sound of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra -- “On the Sunny Side of the Street” was his biggest hit while working for Dorsey (pictured) -- this arranger will forever be best-known for his work with the Jimmie Lunceford Orchestra. Who is he?

Great Encounters

In this edition, Bob Dylan recalls what Thelonious Monk told him about music at New York’s Blue Note club in c. 1961.

Art

Jerry Jazz Musician regularly publishes a series of posts featuring excerpts of the photography and stories/captions found in Jazz in Available Light by Veryl Oakland. In this edition, Mr. Oakland's photographs and stories feature Stan Getz, Sun Ra, and Carla Bley.

Interviews

Maxine Gordon, author of Sophisticated Giant: The Life and Legacy of Dexter Gordon, discusses her late husband’s complex, fascinating life.

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

Coming Soon

"The Photography Issue" will feature an interview with jazz photographer Carol Friedman (her photo of Wynton Marsalis is pictured), as well as with Michael Cuscuna on unreleased photos by Blue Note's Francis Wolff.

In the previous issue

Jeffrey Stewart, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, is interviewed about Locke (pictured), the father of the Harlem Renaissance. Also in this issue…A new collection of jazz poetry; "On the Turntable," a new playlist of 19 recommended recordings by five 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…

Contributing writers

Site Archive