Friday, June 29, 2018

How a really bad album cover picture became my obsession

I admit to having a fascination (some might say obsession) with private issue (vanity) albums, but somewhere in time, I became preoccupied with LPs featuring this out-of-focus, faded picture of a man wading in a stream, along a mountain backdrop.


Is that man on this cover relieving himself, burying a body, fishing, dancing... or is it Bigfoot?


Here's the deal - I have amassed, not a couple, not even a half dozen, but a grand total of 12 different albums, with the exact same stock photo.       

No kidding.


It all started with this Colorado Springs folk gem, by the Emanon Majority. Then I spotted another one, and another...(see all of them, at the end of this post). Saying I was fascinated, is an understatement. Who is this guy and what the hell is he doing?

I mean, come on, how is one not scratching their head over this, especially when you learn that all of the artists could have chosen any one of the other (much cooler) 49 cover art options, from the custom album art outfit, Bert-Co., the company responsible for this picture.


(Thanks to my friend George Gimarc, for finding the original 1966 Bert-Co custom cover art brochure - click on image to see a larger picture)

Was the art chosen because there is a mountain in it? I guess I get that, for a Colorado group, but what about Al Stewart's (not THAT Al Stewart) Collegiate Singers, out of Chicago? How does mystery guy best represent a choir recording, out of Illinois?


Catalog picture is actually flipped, compared to the final product.

One might wonder if, after receiving their albums, the client also wondered who this guy was. I couldn't help but notice that "Bigfoot" is really unnoticeable in the original picture of the art sample (above). So, I completely understand how it could have been the obvious choice for mountain state recordings (or they could have picked the other mountain art, below).


The back of the brochure shows a drawing of the Bert-Co building, in Los Angeles (which looks very much like the Century Custom building, I might add)



A bit of history: Bert-Co was based out Los Angeles, and founded, in 1930, by Berton P. Couturier. The company was originally in the printed matchbook and travel brochure business, when they started printing record labels for RCA, Capitol and Columbia. In the 1950s they began to include stock album cover art, whereas a guy in his basement recording studio could press a couple hundred LPs for friends and family, and include a cool custom cover.

But don't think Bert-Co was only catering to unknown vanity vinyl. The company's typesetting efforts can be found on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, and Elvis Presley, Loving You, just to name a few. According to the company's website (yup, they are still in business) "Bert-Co had the distinction of printing, Abbey Road, the first record jacket produced in the U.S. for The Beatles."

(Full disclosure, Bert-Co had no clue who the model is in the picture, nor did they have any additional information on cover production, including locale).

No telling how many artists used the "mystery man wading in the water" cover. I'm surprised I have uncovered a dozen. Needless to say, if you find any others. I'm buying!






 Larry Taylor Plays For The Handicapped (Colorado Springs)


 MIA Conference 1968 (Denver)


 Surely Goodness and Mercy - Gene and Bobby Moore (Abilene, TX)


 Beside Still Waters - First Baptist Church Choir (Las Cruces, NM)


 The King's Harvesters - Gospel Favorites (Twin Falls, ID)


 Matt Shumac - Mother Lode Laments (Placerville, CA)


 Meet the Sneed Family (Spanaway, WA)


 Ray Turner and Dick Barron - Christ For Me (Fort Worth, TX)


 Glen Walker - Christ in My Heart (Baytown, TX)


 Al Stewart's Collegiate Singers (Chicago, IL)










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