Psychedelic poster

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Psychedelic Relic

The process of accepting donations of books, photographs, manuscripts, and other items into the Maryland Historical Society’s collection can be unpredictable. Donations run the gamut from a single postcard, to a family scrapbook, a collection of personal papers, to the entire archive of a business or corporation. Sometimes the entire transaction of accepting a donation can take less than half an hour. On occasion it can be a many month process involving multiple emails and phone calls, hours of exploring the potential research and historical value of a particular donation, filling out paperwork, coordinating schedules, and arranging the actual transfer of materials. There are other instances where a potential donor will simply show up at the front door with something they’d like to give us, we have one look and take it off their hands, as is the case with the item featured here.

Cream, Baltimore Civic Center, November 3, 1968, Edgar Argo, poster collection, Maryland Historical Society. The Baltimore Civic Center (today the First Mariner Arena) has played host to countless musical acts over its history, including two performances by the Beatles on September 23, 1964 – their only visit to the city.

This is an original concert poster for the rock group Cream’s November 3, 1968 concert date at the Baltimore Civic Center during their “farewell” tour of the United States. Often referred to as the first supergroup, Cream, consisting of Eric Clapton on guitar, Jack Bruce on bass and lead vocals, and Ginger Baker on drums, broke up immediately after the tour amid growing tensions between band members. Although the poster indicates that the Baltimore concert was “their farewell performance,” the group also performed the following night in Providence, Rhode Island. This was followed by two shows at the Royal Albert Hall in London on November 26, their last performances together until reuniting for a number of concerts in the 1990s and 2000s.

Baltimore Sun, November 2, 1968

While it’s debatable that the members of Cream were “the most important controversial pop stars in the world” in 1968—other groups were more important in the history of rock and roll, for instance a group called the Beatles comes to mind, and bands such as the Rolling Stones and the Doors were arguably more controversial—the band was hugely popular and influential, with Clapton recognized as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Wheels of Fire, their recently released album, had a four week run atop the Billboard album chart and would become the world’s first platinum selling double album. The opening acts for the date at the Civic Center were the Moody Blues and the Terry Reid Group. (Terry Reid is pictured at the top of the poster)

The poster was designed by Edgar Argo, a Maryland-based cartoonist and illustrator who passed away in 2009. Durwood C. Settles, the promoter of the concert, was responsible for bringing many of the biggest acts of the era to the Baltimore – Washington area including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, James Brown, and the Grateful Dead. Although not present here, the byline “Durwood C. Settles Presents” on a concert poster usually indicated a quality program. As in many of the rock posters of the era, there are rumored to be a few obscured or hidden images. See if you can spot them. (Damon Talbot)