Grateful Dead

Legendary Artist Alton Kelley Passed Away

1940 - 2008

Legendary artist Alton Kelley created a graphic style that rocked the world beginning in the psychedelic Sixties. His concert posters, logo designs, LP album covers, and fine art have forevermore defined that time. Kelley, born June 17, 1940, passed away peacefully at home June 1st of complications from a long illness.

He is survived by the true love of his life, Marguerite Trousdale Kelley. He also leaves his mother Annie, sister Kathy, and beloved children Patty, Yossarian, and China, and beautiful grandchildren Life and Lacoda.

Through his mind-expanding creativity and over several decades, Kelley gave rock music new colors, shapes, and themes expressing the optimism and enthusiasm of young people around the globe. His graphics defined youth culture as much as the music itself-in effect his art was a break-through collaboration with musicians and bands such as the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix. As Joel Selvin, rock critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, put it, “Kelley and Mouse drew the first face on rock music.”

Kelley and his life-long collaborator Stanley Mouse are best known for their posters for “San Francisco style” dance-concerts at the Fillmore Auditorium, Winterland Arena, the Fillmore West, the Avalon Ballroom, and a host of other Bay Area theaters and amphitheaters. They also created world-renowned posters and album covers for the Grateful Dead, Journey, Steve Miller, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, and others.

The two artists historically worked as a team, in their words “riffing off each other's giggle.” They joyfully appropriated from historic sources, in one instance re-working an obscure nineteenth-century etching to create their iconic Grateful Dead “skeleton and roses” design. They combined vibrant Sixties color with French poster-making joi de vivre enthusiasm, and their own adapted technique, to generate compelling pieces often issued on a weekly basis, ultimately dazzling millions worldwide. Thus, they changed advertising art forever, as their posters were key examples of what became one of the most important art movements of the latter part of the twentieth century.

When Kelley (a native of Maine) met Mouse (a native of Detroit, MI) in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district in late 1965 (the “Haight” was the epicenter of the hippie movement, culminating in the “Summer of Love” in 1967), they instantly recognized they were kindred spirits in what Mouse describes as “one of the juciest scenes of all time.” Their concert posters, commissioned by Fillmore promoter Bill Graham and the Avalon's Family Dog collective, were eagerly snapped up by bands and fans alike.

In the decades since, Mouse and Kelley's classics have established even greater popularity, rivaling the interest long shown by collectors of French turn-of-the-century Belle Epoque art made famous by Toulouse-Lautrec and others.

In his later years, Kelley joyfully turned to illustrating hot rods and custom cars, fine art paintings, and designs for t-shirts and other merchandise.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made at the Washington Mutual Western Street branch in Petaluma, CA for a memorial bench in a Sonoma County Park. A memorial event will be announced shortly.

For members of the press: photographs, selected artwork, and video bites are available by contacting Jennifer Gross at 323-658-8700.


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Mark Lomas's picture
Joined: Mar 19 2015
Miss you, and thank you Alton...

From the mid 70's up till Kelly's passing in 2008 we had some amazing times together. The Food Company in Sausalito. Creating the Artista Gang. Endless partying. Mike Pickel and Lowriders. Kelley's chopped Merc. Stanley and I watching the sun rise too many times. Chasing women, and being chased. The stories behind many of the paintings. American Beauty American Reality. Told not to tell the story behind the artwork for the ice cream in the forehead World Tour double album. Watched so many famous pieces created. Backstage Winterland for all three shows (77) and going back to Mickey Hart's studio after the show while he and Jerry were working on Terrapin Station. Many other wonderful backstage memories. Thank you Alton! The best laugh, more of a rolling chuckle. And a brilliant contrarian - mostly just for fun - the curse of being a Gemini - we both are/were...take care Alton, you did good!

Joined: May 24 2008
My friends did come around...

Thank you for the years.

Joined: Apr 2 2008
Just observations from
duaino's picture
Joined: Jun 13 2007
A Tearful Farewell

Kelley/Mouse artwork has left major imprint in our lifes and hearts. You can see their art everywhere with us Deadheads and older rock fans in general. Thank you Kelley for a lifetime of creative giving and sharing. We will miss you.

carlaplattwatercolors's picture
Joined: Jul 5 2007
What an inspiration

I have been inspired by his great artwork since before I was a teenager, back in the day.Thank you. I embroidered the skull and roses on my denim jacket back in 1972 and I still have it , though the jacket wore out, I put it on another jacket and wear it today !

TigerLilly's picture
Joined: Jul 2 2007

Bo Diddley too? I didn't know that. How sad-is one I am grateful have seen live several times.
Don't part with your illusions. When they are gone, you will still exist, but you have ceased to live.
Samuel Clemens

catfishrushdie's picture
Joined: May 21 2008
So long Kelley

Hey Al, my best to you in the next world. You were always a gentleman and an artist in this one, sharing your experience and expertise with us younger cats- When I think of you I see the beautiful original wood and veined mirror American Reality hanging over the sofa...the Peanut Gallery stairwell bathtub full of old marblelized paint... the Tiger Rose, the Steve Miller Pegasus, masterpieces one and all, and your kindness and generosity most of all.
All the Best!

Joined: Jul 20 2007
RIP Alton Kelley

Let my inspiration flow in token rhyme, suggesting rhythm,
That will not forsake you, till my tale is told and done.

TonyG's picture
Joined: Jul 24 2007
Odd Serendipity

I recently met a witness to the meeting of Mouse and Kelley, George Conger.
The way he desribes the event is that Mouse drove up, Kelley was with George, and George, being a fellow Detroit person introduced the two.

History may remember it differently, but that the story I have, and I'm sticking to it.

\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ ; }

buddy plant's picture
Joined: Jul 7 2007
and another link to the expresso beans site

you're welcome Hal R, here's another from an art related site:


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