Underground Cartoonist R. Crumb Introduces Us to His Rollicking Album Cover Designs

Music and com­ic book art are the two pas­sions of Robert Crumb’s cre­ative life. In this video from W.W. Nor­ton, Crumb talks about his obses­sive inter­est in the old-time blues, folk and coun­try music of the 1920s and 1930s. “I think it’s neu­ro­log­i­cal,” he says. “Some quirky types of ner­vous sys­tems are just attract­ed to that old music.”

As one of the pio­neers of the under­ground comix move­ment in the late 1960s, Crum­b’s work often relat­ed in some way to his love of music. His famous “Keep on Truckin’ ” com­ic of 1968 was inspired by the lyrics of Blind Boy Fuller’s song, “Truckin’ My Blues Away.” That same year Janis Joplin, who was singing with Big Broth­er & the Hold­ing Com­pa­ny, asked Crumb to design the cov­er of the band’s album Cheap Thrills.

Since then, Crumb has designed hun­dreds of album cov­ers and music posters. His new book, R. Crumb: The Com­plete Record Cov­er Col­lec­tion, brings togeth­er all the cov­ers and many relat­ed works. The book con­tains por­traits of famous artists like Robert John­son and Woody Guthrie, along with works fea­tur­ing obscure artists with names like “Ukelele Ike” and “Big John Wrencher and his Maxwell Street Blues Boys.” There are also cov­ers and posters made for Crum­b’s own band, the Cheap Suit Ser­e­naders.

Crumb is a ban­jo and man­dolin play­er. One group he has sat in with in recent years is Eden & John’s East Riv­er String Band. This video was direct­ed by the group’s co-leader, John Heneghan, and includes appear­ances by him­self and his part­ner Eden Brow­er. The video fea­tures the fol­low­ing songs:

  1. “Sing Song Girl” by Leroy Sheild (1930)
  2. “Some of these Days” by Cab Cal­loway (1930)
  3. “Lind­berg Hop” by the Mem­phis Jug Band (1928)
  4. “Down On Me” by Eddie Head and His Fam­i­ly (1930)
  5. “Chasin’ Rain­bows” by R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Ser­e­naders (1976)
  6. “Singing in the Bath­tub” by R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Ser­e­naders (1978)
  7. “So Sor­ry Dear” by Eden & John’s East Riv­er String Band, fea­tur­ing R. Crumb

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Con­fes­sions of Robert Crumb: A Por­trait Script­ed by the Under­ground Comics Leg­end Him­self (1987)

Robert Crumb Illus­trates Philip K. Dick’s Infa­mous, Hal­lu­ci­na­to­ry Meet­ing with God (1974)

R. Crumb’s Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Coun­try Fea­tures 114 Illus­tra­tions of the Artist’s Favorite Musi­cians

A Short His­to­ry of Amer­i­ca, Accord­ing to the Irrev­er­ent Com­ic Satirist Robert Crumb

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