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Randy Tuten
Birth Date: 
Birth Place: 
San Francisco
One of the leading rock concert poster artists, Randy Tuten was part of the second wave of artists who rose to prominence during San Francisco’s psychedelic era. Known for work that remained within the style of traditional commercial advertising, Tuten was inspired by the posters designed by the artists who initiated the psychedelic style and produced designs with strong visual impact. Born in San Francisco in 1946, Tuten’s family moved to Los Angeles during the late 1950s, where Tuten attended public schools. He began drawing at an early age and in high school decorated his classmates’ binders and drew posters for class elections. The art instructors arranged for him to do art work for other teachers in return for passing grades. A surfer, Tuten was aware of the drawings by Rick Griffin (1944-1991) published in “Surfer Magazine.” Griffin’s later rock concert posters would have a strong influence on Tuten’s own art. By 1966 he was hitchhiking to San Francisco to attend rock concerts being promoted by Bill Graham (1931-1991) at the Fillmore and Chet Helms (1942-2005), who operated as the Family Dog, at the Avalon Ballroom. The psychedelic concert posters of Stanley Mouse (b. 1940) and Alton Kelley (1940-2008) inspired him to settle in San Francisco in January 1967 to work as a graphic artist and try to break into the rock poster business. He submitted work to Jaxon (Jack Jackson [1941-2006]), the Family Dog’s art director for a year without success. He apparently returned to Los Angeles for a time in 1968, where he studied at the Los Angeles Valley Junior College. While there he designed his first album cover for a band called “The Hook.” Back in San Francisco, the first poster he designed for a concert promoter was for a Family Dog concert at Winterland on October 31, 1968 (King FD-681031). Then he showed his work to Bill Graham, probably in late 1968, who commissioned Tuten to design four posters. The first, featuring an ocean liner coming through a door, was originally intended to promote a New Year’s Eve concert, but was instead used for weekend concerts on January 2-4, 1969 featuring the Grateful Dead, Blood, Sweat & Tears and Spirit (BG-154). Tuten’s second poster, for a Fillmore West concert featuring Country Joe & the Fish, Led Zeppelin and Taj Mahal the following weekend (BG-155), was created in collaboration with his friend William Bostedt (1945-1998), known as “Daddy Bread.” Tuten and Bostedt collaborated with photographer Jim Marshall (1936-2010) on the famous poster (BG-165) for a March 1969 concert featuring Janis Joplin (1943-1970). Another notable poster by Tuten was for the first live performance by The Band at Winterland in April, 1969 (BG-169). While he continued to for Graham, Tuten took other work. With Bostedt he designed an album cover for the band “Rejoice” in 1969 (Dunhill Records Inc., DS-500049, RTPL005). At Helms’s request Tuten designed sixteen posters for the Family Dog concerts held in the Edgewood Ballroom on San Francisco’s Great Highway during 1970. Also that year he created posters and handbills for other promoters, including Direct Productions in Sausalito for concerts in Berkeley and Portland, a group of former Bill Graham Presents employees who put on a few concerts at Winterland, concerts at the Euphoria Ballroom in San Rafael, Calif., and concerts in San Diego and Fort Worth. By the time Graham closed Fillmore West in June 1971, Tuten had designed thirty-one posters for him. Tuten continued to work for Graham for decades. He became Graham’s in-house artist in the 1970s, serving in that capacity for ten years, designing weekly newspaper ads for Graham’s concerts as well as posters. Notable posters included one for the 1975“SF SNACK” benefit at Kezar Stadium to benefit the San Francisco public schools’ after-school athletic programs (Grushkin 4.49) and commemorative posters for Pink Floyd (Grushkin 4.47) and Led Zeppelin (Grushkin 4.50) concerts at the Oakland Coliseum in 1977, both collaborations with Bostedt. Tuten also designed a number of record album covers during the 1970s, including works for The Pointer Sisters and Carlos Santana (b. 1947). Tuten moved to California’s Lake County in 1980, where he continued to design posters for Graham until he suffered a stroke in 1984. After a long recuperation, in 1986 he began collaborating with Rick Griffin in Santa Ana, Calif. Tuten moved to El Granada, on the Pacific Coast south of San Francisco, in 1989, where he currently resides and works. In addition to working for Bill Graham Presents, Tuten has continued to create CD covers and poster art for a variety of clients, including posters for programs in the Greek Theatre at the University of California at Berkeley in 2012, 2013 and 2015. (TNB 1/2016) Selected bibliography: Grushkin, Paul. The Art of Rock: Posters from Presley to Punk. New York: Abbeville Press, 1987. Lemke, Gayle and Jacaeber Kastor. The Art of the Fillmore: The Poster Series 1966-1971. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1999. Medeiros, Walter P. From Frisco with Love: An Introduction to the Dance Concert Poster Art. San Francisco Rock Poster Art. San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1976.