The Psychedelic Art Exchange is honored to offer for auction THE ORIGINAL ART that was used to create one of the finest 1960’s concert posters in our upcoming June 2021 Mega Sale. Alton Kelley’s “Sore Thumb,” tells the story of the Carousel Ballroom, a short-lived, 3000 seat dance hall, in the heart of San Francisco that would later become Bill Graham’s famed Fillmore West.
The Carousel Ballroom was essentially a coalition of the era’s major San Francisco rock bands that included The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Quicksilver Messenger Service. Wanting to create an idyllic concert venue, the collective brought their dream to life at a large capacity ballroom on Market Street. The cooperative of bands slaved over the project and did much of the work themselves. That is the explanation of the artwork that was created for the “Sore Thumb” poster. The Carousel venture was short-lived due to a myriad of circumstances but primarily because the operation lacked the essential business skills to pull it off. As an added threat, Bill Graham was intent that the competing enterprise would fail. When the Carousel did close, he quickly took over the lease and renamed the venue THE Fillmore West. However, according to legend, The Carousel was an insanely fun party.
The Sore Thumb poster was created for a March 1968 Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead concert at the Carousel. Only 500 copies were ever printed. It’s a very hard poster to find in top shape as the black background shows off flaws easily. The catalog # for the poster is AOR 2.172 which refers to “The Art of Rock”, published by Abbeville Press in 1987.
This poster features the two most enduring and popular San Francisco psychedelic bands of the 1960s: The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane in 1968 were on different trajectories. The Airplane was experiencing great commercial success and the Dead were playing at every opportunity and becoming known for their high-energy performances in town.
The creator of the poster, Alton Kelley, was one of San Francisco’s “Big Five” concert poster artists. Kelley and his partner Stanley Mouse were fixtures of the San Francisco psychedelic culture. Kelley belonged to the original Family Dog collective and was responsible for creating the poster for the very first Psychedelic Dance Party in San Francisco, “A Tribute to Dr. Strange”. He and Mouse are a vital thread in the tapestry of the San Francisco “Hippie Scene” and a frequent were contributors to the canon of Grateful Dead Art. Kelley was even given the high honor of creating the artwork for the Grateful Dead’s famed Egypt concerts in 1978.
This artwork is surfacing after decades in a private collection. The piece has excellent provenance. We have been told that Kelley had allegedly lost the art in an unpaid storage locker in Boston. The piece’s owner acquired the art in the mid ‘90’s from a respected concert poster dealer. It has been in the collection of the current owner ever since.
Original poster art is incredibly rare and valuable, pieces of this pedigree seldom come up for public sale. The values of the posters themselves have been exploding in recent months so we expect the art to follow. We at PAE believe this piece represents an unrepeatable opportunity for collectors. When compared to the superhot original comic book art market, the quantity of Concert Poster art is minuscule. We encourage all serious collectors to register for our auction that starts on June 8th and closes on June 17th, 9:00 PM ET.