This slideshow of R. Crumb’s blues-inspired works happens to be set to a Paramount record, Charley Patton’s “Down the Dirt Road Blues.”
What concerns us here are Paramount’s print ads, which ran in The Chicago Defender. I’ve tried mightily to find the names of the artists who drew these. People in a better position to know than I assure me their identities are lost to the years, though they may have been staff illustrators at a Madison ad agency.
The loss of that knowledge is a damned shame, because without knowing it, those artists altered the history of underground comix, by serving as an acknowledged influence on that form’s grand pooh-bah, Robert Crumb.
Even a superficial glance at some of these ads reveals a precursor to Crumb’s famous signature style (it’s strikingly evident in the slouching posture of some of these characters), and Crumb paid direct homage to these artists in a series of trading card sets that have been compiled into the book R. Crumb’s Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country—the comix artist’s abiding passion for the music of the early recording era has never been a secret.
Here are a few of those ads.
It’s astonishing that these have never been collected into a coffee table art book. The illustration work is wonderful, and for historical interest, these are hard to beat. The only place I know of where they’ve been compiled is in the insane Rise and Fall of Paramount Records box sets jointly released by Jack White’s Third Man label and John Fahey’s Revenant Records.