Page 2 of 2   <      

Alton Kelley, 68; Graphic Artist With a Flair for the Psychedelic

Alton Kelley, 68, a graphic artist whose mind-blowing posters and album covers ushered in the era of rock music, died June 1 of complications of osteoporosis at his home in Petaluma, Calif.

Soon enough, reporters who were trying to divine the meaning behind the "Summer of Love" found him. Mr. Kelley, Miller, Victor Moscoso, Rick Griffin and Wes Wilson were named by Life magazine in September 1967 as the seminal poster artists of the era, or the "phantasmagoria of best-selling avant-garde."

Musicians including Pete Townshend and Mick Jagger sought out the pair, and Mr. Kelley moved into album art, designing six Grateful Dead album covers, the Pegasus image for Steve Miller's 1977 album "Book of Dreams" and three Journey albums in the late 1970s.

He also drew several posters in 1966 for bluesman Bo Diddley, who died yesterday. [Story, Page A1.]

Corporations eventually took over the rock-and-roll music scene. Mr. Kelley worked for a few years on album covers, then returned to an earlier love, hot rods. He illustrated the cars in fine-art oil paintings, then sold the images for T-shirts and other merchandise.

Survivors include his wife, Marguerite Trousdale Kelley of Petaluma; three children; his mother; a sister; and two grandchildren.

In 2007, the 40th anniversary of the "Summer of Love," Mr. Kelley said that people have forgotten how the 1960s sparked an era of creativity by cracking open the uptight culture that came out of the 1950s. Unfortunately, he said, the whimsical tenor of the mid-1960s turned darker as more young people flooded into the San Francisco Bay area. "By 1968, it had pretty much gone to hell with all religious nuts coming, the politicos, the junkies, dope dealers, it really kinda went crazy. Then everyone got out of town," he said.

"But those first years, '65, '66, '67, it was really a great neighborhood, the Haight-Ashbury," Mr. Kelley told Selvin. "Everybody knew everybody. It was really fun. Everybody was really enjoying themselves. . . . For that short period of time there, it was really fun and we had a helluva good time. That was a long-running party."


<       2

© 2008 The Washington Post Company