Tuten’s first poster for Bill Graham advertised performances at the Fillmore West by the Grateful Dead, Blood Sweat & Tears, and Spirit on January 2, 3, and 4, 1969. The poster combined Tuten’s drawing skills (a red doorway; a black-and-white bus stop), his interest in collage (a photo of the RMS Queen Mary in dry dock looms over a picturesque bay), and his fondness for Rick Griffin’s lettering style.
The Queen Mary should have been a clue of things to come; subsequent posters from 1969 would feature trains, bridges, gears, and more ships. “I always had an affinity for ships and trains, buses and cars, pretty much anything mechanical,” he says. “I saw beauty in those things, even though they weren’t necessarily designed to be beautiful.”
A car would dominate Tuten’s second poster for Graham, which advertised three Fillmore West shows presented a week later, on January 9, 10, and 11. The opening act was Taj Mahal and the headliner was Country Joe and the Fish, but it is the second-bill act on Tuten’s second poster that makes it valuable—Led Zeppelin. Created in collaboration with his friend Bill Bostedt, a.k.a. Daddy Bread, and featuring a photograph of the chrome grille on a 1946 Lincoln taken by a friend of Daddy Bread’s named Peter Pynchon, the poster is famous for memorializing Led Zeppelin’s first show in San Francisco, as well as a rare example of the band getting anything other than top billing.
“When I started working for Bill Graham,” Tuten says, “I learned pretty quickly that the band names were more important than the artwork. If I did a nice piece, that was all fine and dandy, but it was the band name that made the poster collectible.” In fact, Tuten designed a lot of Led Zeppelin posters that have since become quite collectible. “Rick Griffin ended up doing most of the Jimi Hendrix posters for Bill,” he says. “I ended up doing all of the Led Zeppelin posters. It wasn’t planned that way. It was just an accident.”
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