A pioneer of 1960s-style poster art, Bob Masse illustrated posters for bands like
The Grateful Dead, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, and The Steve Miller Band.
Masse's work is highly sought by art collectors of the period.
He continues to produce poster artwork for contemporary musical acts
from his studio in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Bob Masse was the poster boy of Vancouver's '60s scene, providing the visual art that many now recall as the essence of the times -- a psychedelic art nouveau that advertised dances and later, rock concerts.
Some of his first colour posters and handbills were for the Afterthought, run by Jerry Kruz, who held concerts at the defunct Pender Auditorium at 339 Pender and later the Kitsilano Theatre at 2112 West Fourth Ave. (now the Russian Community Centre).
Those early shows featured bands now considered essential listening on the Summer of Love soundtrack: the Grateful Dead, Country Joe & the Fish, Steve Miller, Jefferson Airplane, the Doors, Yardbirds, Cream and many, many more.
Masse's posters were heavily influenced by the psychedelic movement from San Francisco and are widely regarded as some of the best from the period.
A grad of the Vancouver School of Art, he went to Haight Ashbury in the mid-'60s, which blew his mind and expanded his art palette. He stayed at homes of the Dead and the Airplane.
"I was greatly influenced by what was going on down there," he recalls today from his home on Saltspring Island.
"The Red Dog Saloon in Nevada, that's where it all started, with shows by the Charlatans [a band from San Francisco]."
Back in Vancouver, he did posters for the Afterthought, Dante's Inferno and the Retinal Circus, located at 1024 Davie St. at Burrard. The one for the Grateful Dead concert, with Vancouver band the Collectors as the opening act, is one of his best from those days -- and one of the most collectable.
"Most of the early posters were black and white," he explains. "The promoters didn't have any money."
How much was he paid then? "Ten bucks," he says.
How much do those original posters sell for today? "$1,200," he says.
He recalls going to the Canada-U.S. border to help the Grateful Dead get through on their first trip to Vancouver.
"They were driving this psychedelic-painted bus, like a Ken Kesey bus, and the border officials almost fainted when they saw these guys," Masse recalls.
He laughs as he remembers misspelling Bob Dylan's name on an early poster. "I spelled it Dylon." He thinks it was 1965 or '66. "I don't know what year it was because I didn't put dates on them."
He would go to Haight Ashbury every few months in the early days of psychedelia to see what other poster artists were doing. "Mouse, Wes Wilson, Rick Griffin -- I took little bits from all of them."
But one of his biggest influences at the time was an old book he came across. "It was an early, turn-of-the-century sign painting manual. It had all this great lettering and borders. A lot of my stuff comes from that."
He went to Los Angeles with the Collectors to design their first psychedelic record album cover.
"I was at Warner Brothers [records] meeting with the art director and he says there's a girl here from Canada you should meet. It was Joni Mitchell. She was with [David] Crosby and [Graham] Nash. She was this skinny little girl with buck teeth."
Crosby and Stephen Stills (of Crosby Stills & Nash) worked on Mitchell's first album, Song for a Seagull, released in 1968 by Reprise Records, part of Warner's Music. The album remains one of his favourites from that year. Another fave is It's a Beautiful Day, the 1969 debut record of the San Francisco psychedelic band.
His trip with the Collectors was his introduction to the music scene, where he did posters for the legendary Whiskey-A-Go-Go club. "I lived right above the club, so I was there all the time."
He later moved into a garage in Laurel Canyon. "It was a magic place, the canyon," he recalls. "Where I lived used to be the garage of Errol Flynn. Houdini had [built] a castle down the street. And Frank Zappa had a place that used to be owned by cowboy movie star [from the 1920s] Tom Mix. It had a guest house in back with a pond with ducks, and a mini bowling alley in the basement."
He recalls one day exploring what he thought was a cave in some rocks behind Zappa's house "and I noticed a light switch on a rock. I turned on the light. The rocks were fake. It was all this Tom Mix stuff [from the movie sets]."
He later did posters for Donovan ("I think he's underrated today") and more recently has done posters for U2, Tori Amos and Guess Who alumni Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings.
"I think I'm the only poster artist from those days still working," says Masse, 62.
"I'm making more money now than I ever did then."
He now produces his old rock posters on T-shirts and has a 2007 calendar retrospective of his work, available on his website: bmasse.com.
Reproductions of his early posters are also available at Neptoon Records on Main Street in Vancouver, which has released a four-volume History of Vancouver Rock that captures the best of the '60s. The store also sells records by '60s Vancouver acts such as Chilliwack, My Indole Ring, Tom Northcott, the Nocturnals and Seeds of Time.
'NEAT ERA' OF BEATLES AND 'REEL' MUSIC
During the summer of 1967, Nancy Greene was a member of Canada's national ski team, training on the Kokanee glacier in the Kootenays.
"The national ski team was based in Nelson in those days," she recalls. "We had summer training camps on the Kokanee glacier and in Chile on a glacier there."
She had already won the World Cup title in May 1967 and was training for the 1968 Grenoble Olympics, where she won silver and gold medals. She also won another World Cup title that year -- her total of 13 World Cup victories remains a Canadian record. She was named Canada's female athlete of the century in 1999.
"We knew about Haight Ashbury and Fourth Avenue," she says of the Summer of Love, but adds she was travelling most of the time. She fondly recalls being in a packed Volkswagen van with a portable reel-to-reel tape player, listening to the Beatles and Otis Redding's Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.
"That really was a neat era," she recalls, adding she worked six weeks at a Montreal hotel during Expo 67, taking people on tours. "We didn't make any money back then," she says of ski team members.
After almost 10 years with national ski team, she retired in 1968. She was 24. The next year, she married Alan Raine and they had twin boys, Charley and Willy, now 37. Nancy and Al Raine were instrumental in the developing and promoting ski tourism in B.C., first at Whistler and then at Sun Peaks Resort, north of Kamloops, where they built and ran Nancy Greene's Cahilty Lodge, which they still call home.
Now 64, she is director of skiing at Sun Peaks. "I skied 130 days last year," she says. "I'm a ski bum, at my age."
THE WAY THINGS WERE . . .
Event: Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies toss paper money onto the floor of the N.Y. Stock Exchange to protest capitalism.
Song: All You Need Is Love -- The Beatles.
Film: In the Heat of the Night with Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger.
Book: Rosemary's Baby - Ira Levin.
Quote: "The enemy is Lyndon Johnson" -- Dr. Benjamin Spock (above, in 1969)
Compiled by Vancouver Sun librarian Kate Bird
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About Bob Masse
and his wife Clair live on Salt Spring Island just off Vancouver Island
in British Columbia, Canada
As folk became folk-rock, and Vancouver was visited by such bands as the Grateful Dead, The Doors, the Jefferson Airplane, and Steve Miller, Bob helped pioneer the emerging psychedelic art genre. And as he was greatly influenced by his daze in the Haight he was also influenced by the incredible rock scene in Los Angeles where he worked in the late 60s producing posters and album covers.
Since his move to Salt Spring Island, Bob continues to produce pieces for contemporary performers like the Smashing Pumpkins, Tori Amos, Alanis Morissette and supports such causes as RAINN, Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Also such events such as the KSER Benefit in Everitt, Washington, covers for the Indie Bible and also the 30th Anniversay Summer of Love event. And he keeps on creating up to today.
MASSE CONCERT POSTER GALLERY
Please visit our
60s & 70s
Rock Concert Poster Review's