The Musical Artistry of R. Crumb

The legendary underground cartoonist built an impressive portfolio of album covers covered in caricatures of musicians.

When Big Brother and the Holding Company wasn't satisfied with the album cover their record label had given them for Cheap Thrills back in 1968, they called up cartoonist Robert Crumb with an offer of 600 bucks and a wicked deadline. "So I pulled an all-nighter," he told me. "I took amphetamines and stayed up all night, and did the cover. And I had never heard any of the music!" So began Crumb's career of illustrating album covers and detailing cartoon portraits of legendary musicians, especially of venerated old-time blues musicians like Charlie Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Memphis Minnie. 

This is a selection of cartoons from Crumb's new book, The Complete Record Cover Collection, out this week from W.W. Norton. To read Crumb's take on selecting the right musicians to illustrate, turning down big offers from corporate CEOs, and living as an artist in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in the 1960s, check out our interview with him.

All images reprinted from The Complete Record Cover Collection by R. Crumb, © 2011 by R. Crumb. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.