RIFFS 2010
Published April 14, 2010
It's the Vinyl, Lionel
by David Simerley

With the advent of downloadable music and I-pods, CD sales have dropped by half. Yet at the same time, the demand for vinyl discs has grown.

Vintage record buffs say that part of the appeal is the art on the cover of the album.

The album cover was a packaging idea that not only changed the way the recording industry marketed their product, but became an unique American Art Form, as well.

“Stompin’ Thru Time, a History of Lord Buckley Cover Art,“ now showing through April 2010 at the Tuolumne City Memorial Museum, examines the evolution of the art form using a collection of Lord Buckley comedy albums.

Before 1940, records were sold in brown paper sleeves with a hole in the wrapper so you could read the label. In 1939, Columbia Records created a poster cover for a recording of Beethoven’s music. The record had an 800% increase in sales.

Album cover art sold records, but over the years ended up depicting the changes in our popular culture, including our values, fashions and lifestyles.

Recordings of Tuolumne native and cult comic Lord Buckley are still available on CD and for download, but what is missing is the art on the jackets of the early releases.

Lord Buckley’s groundbreaking “Euphoria,” first released in 1954, created the genre of the modern comedy album which was followed by the likes of Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby and George Carlin.

Hand drawn, the two color cartoon abstract on the jacket has a decidedly “beatnik” appeal and is signed “Andi.”

Buckley’s “Hipsters, Flipsters and Finger Poppin’ Daddies,“ released the next year, features artwork by Jim Flora, who designed covers for the jazz titles at Columbia and RCA Victor during the 1940’s and 1950’s.

Buckley’s albums were included in the Jazz stacks because there was no comedy category at that time.

One cover features a photograph of Buckley taken by Jim Marshall, who later became famous for his pictures of 1960’s rock stars. Edited by Frank Zappa, “A Most Immaculately Hip Aristocrat,” has a bizarre and outlandish cover, while “The Best of Buckley” on Electra is pure “psychedelica‘.”