All In The Family: Bob Masse
Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Byrds, Bob Dylan, Grateful Dead... Vancouver-based artist Bob Masse produced iconic concert posters for a veritable who's who of music and managed to pioneer the emerging psychedelic art genre along the way. Here we get to know the brilliant designer and follow his path from art school to Haight Street to Laurel Canyon.
What was the first concert poster you designed?
This all started in my 4th year of art school. My final year project was to produce a product and deliver it on time. My friends and I were hanging out at a lot of coffee houses... we were young, aspiring beatniks! So this was an opportunity for me to produce a poster and deal with a customer, and deadlines. My very first posters were for the folk clubs and I did them for free, which allowed me to get into the venues and go back stage and hang out with the likes of Gordon Lightfoot, Ian and Sylvia, etc. One of my well-known pieces is one I did for Bob Dylan's first show in Vancouver, and I spelt his name wrong! He wasn't particularly well-known at that time, so I just spelt it the way I thought It should be! It's turned out to be quite a collector's item.
Tell us a little bit about the San Francisco influence and how it affected your work.
Vancouver at that time mirrored San Francisco in that we had an area similar to North Beach, where all the folkies and beatniks hung out. There was the emergence of folk bands that had gone electric and the scene moved over to another part of town, similar to Haight Ashbury. This was the time of the advent of the electric bands, bands like Jefferson Airplane, The Byrds, Big Brother & The Holding Co. and, of course, the Grateful Dead.
I was doing posters for the venues and another perk for working in the music world was driving down to the Canada/US border, which is very close to Vancouver, and helping the bands clear customs and welcoming them to Canada. This is how I first met the Dead. Of course, there were subsequent parties after the shows! I then went down to San Francisco with the main Vancouver promoter of that time to organize future Vancouver concerts with the San Fran bands. We hung out at the Dead's Ashbury street house and I walked the neighbourhood streets and my eyes popped out at the unique and colourful psychedelic posters on display, for the Fillmore, the Avalon, etc. So that's where my influence came from; and I continued to visit San Francisco several times.
First Grateful Dead poster you designed/Favorite Grateful Dead poster you designed.
My first Grateful Dead poster was for their August 1966 concert in Vancouver. Probably my most famous poster and my favourite is one I designed for a Grateful Dead 1967 concert in Vancouver. That was the last piece I did for the Dead because I then went to Los Angeles and stayed there until 1969, doing local posters and working for the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, and the Cheetah Club in Venice Beach.
Any memorable moments from your L.A. years?
I rented a place in Laurel Canyon; it had been Errol Flynn's property; I lived in the converted garage, and his daughter Rory Flynn, lived in the main house. I was a couple of blocks down the road from Frank Zappa's place. The days in the canyon were great! You could walk up many of the side streets and hear Joni Mitchell playing her piano, Crosby, Stills, & Nash singing; Loggins and Messina... a great neighbourhood. My favourite poster from the Cheetah Club was for a Big Brother & The Holding Company Show, where I spent a lot of time backstage drinking southern comfort with Janis Joplin. I also did work for the LA Forum, and one of my favourite pieces from that time was for a Doors show. Jim was in fine form that night.
Grateful Dead favourites?
My favourite Dead music is their jams! I like to listen to them while I'm working. What a long strange trip it's been...