But two years out of art school, I did become one of the eight finalists for the best album cover art for 1972! That was pretty cool, but even then I knew it wasn’t exactly because my art work was so amazing. Those were the years of the concept album covers. And mine was one of those. Ernie Cefalu, one of the owners of Pacific Eye & Ear, an album design studio, asked me to do the cover for a band called Five Dollar Shoes.
I don’t mean to be too modest, but I really don’t even know if Ernie asked for me. I was working for Peter Palombi at the time, and Peter was probably busy, so he passed it over to me. Drew Struzan was the staff artist at PE&E, and I remember when I went over to pick up the project, Drew was sitting there working on his “Sabbath bloody Sabbath” cover for Black Sabbath. I suppose that was why they passed the Shoes album over to our studio. Besides, Five Dollar Shoes only had that one album, and not many people ever heard of them before or after. They were a little bit Glam, and this wasn’t a very important album. But Ernie had this idea to make the album like a tin of vintage shoe polish, to tie in with the band’s name. We were going to make it round, but I think it was Grand Funk Railroad who had a round album that same year, so Ernie decided on a square format with rounded corners.
The front cover was the lid of the shoe polish tin, you open it up and you see the inside of the lid, and the actual polish with spit on it for lubrication. Pull the sleeve out and you see the shoe polish almost gone, and the back cover is the bottom of the tin. And once Ernie gave me the concept, he left me completely alone. Great art director. I did the whole thing, logo design, illustration…it was such an exciting project.
Also a shock to get the nomination. When the notice came in the mail, I thought it was a prank. Nobody told me what to do, except I got four tickets to the awards ceremony. My roommate, Bob Krogle and I, rented a limo and took our girlfriends. We sat at a table with Bruce Botnick who I didn’t know, but he and his wife were very encouraging to me. He was a record producer for the Doors, Love, and many other bands and albums. I felt like he was much older, but I just looked him up and he was only two years older than me. Anyway, no one told me what to do if I won. I didn’t know if I was supposed to go up on stage and say anything. So it was sort of a relief to not win, I would have been terrified.
Almost better than the nomination (oh yeah, just being recognized is an honor in itself, I almost forgot to say that) was that I became a member of the recording academy and got to vote for album covers every year after that. I also got to order record albums for $1.50 every month or so. I have a fantastic collection of albums because I would order records by people I never even heard of, just because their names sounded interesting. At $1.50, you can’t go too far wrong. I gave a lot of album presents on Christmas and birthdays.
A year later, Ernie asked me to do the cover for George Carlin: Occupation Foole. Drew had done a beautiful prismacolor sketch for it of Carlin wearing a court jester’s hat, and I painted his design in a Leyendecker style. But Carlin said that his comedy was using his whole body, so they wound up using photography of him in silly poses. I had Drew’s sketch in my scrap file for years, but I think someone swiped it. That sketch was probably worth $20,000 or so nowadays! Ernie was selling the Five Dollar Shoes artwork for $80,000 or more a few years ago.
Sorry the Five Dollar Shoes scans are so poor. I only found them online, and this is the best I could do.