Books: Draws the Blues, by R. Crumb (1993)

by Derrick Lord

Occasionally jazz and blues fans need to be reminded that we don’t have to limit ourselves strictly to musical recordings. Keep in mind there is plenty of great artwork available that would be a nice addition to any collection or music room. Of particular interest to me is the work of Robert Crumb.

Most are aware of Crumb as a founding father in the underground comics movement in the 1960s or perhaps are familiar with his work in Zap Comix and characters such as Mr. Natural or Fritz the Cat. What you might not realize is Crumb has long been an avid music fan and has produced some fine work inspired by early jazz and blues artists that is to be recommended.

Crumb is apparently in possession of a notable record collection and hosted a BBC radio series featuring his favorite records as well as being a solid musician himself, producing three albums with his own band R. Crumb & His Cheap Suit Serenaders featuring blues, jazz and novelty ragtime — a good enough band to turn down the chance to perform on Saturday Night Live in the 1970s and to reunite in the 1990s for a performance on Garrison Keillor’s popular PBS radio program “A Prairie Home Companion.”

Along with those albums, much of his blues and jazz artwork can still be had on sites such as Amazon.com and eBay for a reasonable price including the collections R. Crumb Draws the Blues and one titled simply Blues. Also something to consider is his Heroes of the Blues Trading Cards series.

An excellent value is R. Crumb’s Heroes of Blues, Jazz, & Country which also includes a CD of handpicked music by the artist. A nice page of Crumb’s musical art can be found here, including his complete Charley Patton Biography.

Crumb also worked on quite a few gig posters and album cover art most notably Janis Joplin/Big Brother and the Holding Company’s Cheap Thrills and a really nifty one for Harmonica Blues: Great harmonica performances of the 1920s and ’30s (Yazoo 1991). Check this stuff out and see if you dig it as much as I do. If you are like me, you will find his style the perfect match for portraying the grit and grime of the early blues lifestyle.

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Derrick Lord

Derrick Lord

An Alabama-based blues- and roots-music lover, Derrick Lord was an original co-founder, with S. Victor Aaron and Nick DeRiso, of the music site that grew into Something Else! Reviews. One of Nick's all-time favorite meals happened with Derrick, at the legendary Dreamland BBQ. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Derrick Lord