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Tower Records Original 1976 Poster Calendar Litho by Frank Carson KFRC KCBQ

Tower Records Original 1976 Poster Calendar Litho by Frank Carson KFRC KCBQ

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This original printing was published by Tower Records in 1976. Artwork by Frank Carson. 

The early proper calendars had generalized editions for distribution in markets where there was no radio sponsorship. The changeable slug on this one is "Rare Jazz, Nostalgia, Big Band, Bluegrass, Old Time Radio. 1975 was the first year of the annual Tower Calendar. Very rare. The one pictured has the musical genres but I also have this same poster with KFRC (San Francisco), KCBQ (San Diego) where the radio slug goes.  

This is one of a number of very high quality poster and calendar lithos produced by Tower over around four decades starting in 1960. These posters, particularly ones from the late '60s to early '80s, feature ambitious illustrations by Frank Carson, using top-quality paper and printing. It's hard to convey in a photo how good these large pieces look in a frame.

These very collectible Tower Records calendars and art prints were made throughout Tower's long tenure billed as the "greatest record store in the known world." The number of prints Tower did over the years is not precisely known. They date back to the early '60s and might have been one-offs celebrating a concert, a poster created to be used in-store to publicize a certain release or just commissioned and printed up because somebody liked a band and wanted to promote them. Cat Stevens, the Jefferson Airplane, Aretha Franklin and Bob Dylan were just a few of the artists whose image or work graced early Tower prints.

Later, the prints and calendars publicized store openings or took the form of calendars which touted the local radio stations in Tower store markets all over the country.

Starting in around 1975, the prints morphed into calendars which Tower published until its demise in , most of which were produced in cooperation with the radio stations, who would pay or trade for the insertion of their logo on a certain number of the calendars. The printing plates were changed to create numerous editions with each station or sponsor's logo, and the result would then be distributed primarily through the Tower stores in that particular market, but also by the stations during promotions.  They were highly sought-after and often turned up in TV sitcoms and movies, such as the music movie FM or the long-running TV sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati. 

Artist Frank Carson did virtually all of the art from the mid-'60s into the '90s. They are quite beautiful, evolving from early shots of bountiful hippie chicks employing deco and art nouveau themes to bountiful contemporary chicks surrounded by pop art and symbols of popular culture.  After Carson mysteriously disappeared from the Sacramento art scene in the late '80s, a number of different approaches were used to adorn the calendars, from hiring notable fine artists like Jerald Silva to acquiring art by holding competitions between store artists and employees.

These art prints and calendars are increasingly rare. They are mementos of the days when Tower's aisles teemed with a record biz vibe as customers, store employees and record company salesmen bought, sold and talked music and recordings. It was a highly enjoyable communal ritual that is sorely missed.

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