In the mid-1960s, a group of people who called themselves The Family Dog emerged in San Francisco. This collective began to put on dances that were responsible for the design of some of the first psychedelic concert posters. In 1966, The Family Dog began to put on shows at the Avalon Ballroom. From 1966 until 1968, there were 147 posters produced for shows at this venue. These make up the numbered series, which features some of the most famous and valuable concert posters in history.
The History of The Family Dog
In 1965, The Family Dog put on their first show, which took place in Carson City, Nevada. This show featuring The Charlatans took place at the Red Dog Saloon and was responsible for the design of the first-ever psychedelic concert poster. The poster was designed by band members Michael Ferguson and George Hunter and was dubbed “The Seed”. Later that year, The Family Dog began to put on dances in San Francisco, which artist Alton Kelley designed posters and handbills for. After the success of these dances, rock promoter Chet Helms took over. He helped The Family Dog put on shows at the Fillmore. For a few months, they shared the space with Bill Graham. These shows spurred the legendary numbered series of posters.
After the first several Fillmore shows, The Family Dog moved its events to the Avalon Ballroom. This venue is the one featured on a majority of the posters in the numbered series, although there are also 13 posters associated with events that the Family Dog produced in Denver, Colorado. A majority of the posters in the series were designed by the “big five” poster artists of the era: Wes Wilson, Victor Moscoso, Stanley Mouse, Alton Kelley, and Rick Griffin. However, by the end of the series, there were also several other artists creating poster designs.
Classic Posters for Classic Bands
The Family Dog numbered series features some of the most classic posters ever created. These include Skeleton and Roses, which was produced by Mouse and Kelley to promote a Grateful Dead show. Mouse and Kelley were also responsible for designing the legendary “Zig-Zag Man” poster, which advertised a show featuring Big Brother and The Holding Company and Quicksilver Messenger Service. Many other classic bands are represented in the series, such as Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, and The Velvet Underground.
The first 41 posters in the numbered series were accompanied by handbills. These are extremely rare to come by in good condition today. After number 41, the handbills were replaced with postcards. Family Dog posters are easy to spot, as they all contain the group’s logo. Designed by Wes Wilson, the logo depicts a Native American fur trader smoking a long pipe. Though most of the series features colorful designs, the final few posters were designed in black and white due to a lack of funds in The Family Dog’s art department.
Collecting FD Posters
As was the case with most vintage concert posters, these pieces were not designed as collectibles but were used as street advertisements. They were taped to shop windows as well as stapled to telephone poles. However, a mailing list for those interested in collecting new posters was set up in 1967 by Jack Jackson. He may have been the first person to realize that concert poster could have a value outside of advertisement.
Because these pieces were produced in small quantities for advertising purposes, they are quite valuable today. As always, value for these posters is tied to condition as well as rarity. No poster collection is complete without at least a few Family Dog prints. If you haven’t already, make sure to add a few to your collection!