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Jeff Beck 1944 –2023

Jeff Beck, one of the greatest guitarists in the history of rock and roll, passed away from bacterial meningitis yesterday, January 10.

I saw him every time he played Los Angeles. The first time I saw Jeff live was in 1968 at the Shrine Exposition Hall. The opening act was promoted as “Introducing Pink Floyd.” They were followed by Blue Cheer. The Jeff Beck Group (Jeff, Rod Stewart, Ron Wood and Micky Waller) headlined. Each band played two sets (!). The tickets: $2.50 in advance; $3.00 at the door. I wanted to meet Jeff, so I found out where his dressing room was. It was upstairs. I walked up to the second floor where I saw Rod Stewart leaning against the guard rail. He looked like the saddest soul in the world. I asked Rod if he would take me into the dressing room and introduce me to Beck. Rod kindly obliged. I followed him inside where Jeff was opening up advance copies of their first LP: Truth.
I asked if I could take a picture of him with my Polaroid camera. He declined at first because he had a zit on his nose.

“It will never show”, I assured him and he let me take my snap:

I created about 45 bootleg record album covers. There were three that featured Jeff Beck. Two were Yardbirds LPs (Golden Eggs and More Golden Eggs). I also did this Jeff Beck Group cover:

Those are little Jeff Beck-shaped puffs in the cereal bowl.

Here is the Jeff Beck bio I wrote for my forthcoming book, Legends of British Blues:

Jeff Beck (Geoffrey Arnold Beck)

Main Instrument: Guitar

Born: Wallington, England; June 24, 1944

Died: Surrey, England; January 10, 2023

Recommended Cuts: “I Ain’t Done Wrong,” “Jeff’s Boogie,” “I’m Not Talking;” (The Yardbirds); “You Shook Me” (Jeff Beck Group); “Rolling and Tumbling” (Solo)

As a teen Jeff Beck built his first guitars using cigar box bodies. He began playing with The Rumbles and The Tridents in 1963. Backing Screaming Lord Sutch (and the word of pal Jimmy Page, their first choice) helped land him The Yardbirds’ lead guitar gig following Eric Clapton’s 1965 exit. Most of the Yardbird’s hits occurred during Beck’s two-year tenure. They made one full LP with Jeff: 1966’s Yardbirds (a.k.a. Roger the Engineer). The incredibly experimental guitarist left the band (he claims he was fired) after briefly sharing lead guitar duties with Page. Following his 1967 anthem “Beck’s Bolero” (with Page, John Paul Jones, Keith Moon and Nicky Hopkins), he formed the Jeff Beck Group with Rod Stewart. Truth (#15 in 1968), featuring Willie Dixon’s “You Shook Me” five months prior to Led Zeppelin’s version, established heavy metal’s musical template.

After Stewart left for the Faces, Beck’s power trio plans with Vanilla Fudge’s bassist and drummer Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice fell apart when Jeff fractured his skull in a car crash. By the end of Beck’s 1971 recovery, Bogert and Appice were in Cactus, so a new Jeff Beck Group was formed. Rough and Ready (1971) and Jeff Beck Group (1972) included soul, R&B and jazz. After finally recording Beck, Bogert & Appice (1973), BB&A disbanded before completing their second studio LP. Beck, Bogert & Appice Live was released after their 1974 split.

Jeff’s most successful LP was the George Martin-produced Blow by Blow (1975). Beck and Mahavishnu Orchestra keyboardist Jan Hammer recorded three LPs together (1976–1980). The 1981 Amnesty International concert saw Jeff playing with Eric Clapton. 1985’s Flash featured the hit “People Get Ready” (with Rod Stewart). After Jeff Beck’s Guitar Shop (1989), he co-headlined a tour with Stevie Ray Vaughan. Crazy Legs (1993) was a Gene Vincent/Cliff Gallup (lead guitarist with the Blue Caps; along with Les Paul, an early Beck influence) tribute. Jeff accompanied Paul Rodgers on his 1993 Muddy Waters tribute, then resurfaced with three more LPs (1999–2003). He appeared at Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2004 and 2007 and released Performing This Week: Live at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in 2008 as well as Live and Exclusive from the Grammy Museum (2010). Beck has supported artists as diverse as Kate Bush, Herbie Hancock, Mick Jagger, Tina Turner, Kelly Clarkson, Roger Waters and Stevie Wonder. Excepting Jimi Hendrix, on a good night no one could touch this incendiary guitar legend. There are more great hooks tossed away in one hot Jeff Beck solo than most guitarists create in a lifetime, yet Beck never achieved the same success as his peers, perhaps because of the seemingly random approach to his career. Jeff died of bacterial meningitis.

Trivia: Jeff was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice: with The Yardbirds (1992) and as a solo act (2009). He has taken home six Best Rock Instrumental Performance Grammys. The only time all three Yardbirds lead guitarists ever played on stage together was for the 1983 ARMS benefit concert.

Rest in Peace, my supremely talented friend.

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Communication Delays

If you’ve been trying to reach me lately, it’s been difficult.

My mom died last Sunday, so I’ve been pretty consumed, working on an appropriate obit.

Hang in there, my friends. I’ll be emerging soon.

Bill

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LightBox This Weekend!

I will be exhibiting Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Flesk Publications booth at LightBox, a celebration of concept design at the Pasadena Convention Center. Saturday is sold out but there are still tickets for Friday (today) and Sunday. I’ll be signing and selling books all weekend. It’s an amazing show, incredibly curated. There is not a single bad piece of art in the show. The cream of the motion picture design world will be in attendance.

See You There!

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Post-Comic Con Report

Comic Con International 2022 was one of my more successful Comic Cons.

Unfortunately, on Sunday, the last day of the show, I came down with my second case of COVID. I was able to safely drive home that night, as the effects of COVID didn’t hit hard until Monday, the day after I got back home. My wife immediately got this highly contagious variant (from me, obviously). We have been on COVID meds since my getting a “Positive” on my COVID test.

For those of you folks who have ordered items from my website shop, please be patient. I try to fill an order whenever I get a brief reprieve from the disease — but those instances are few and far between. I am sleeping about 18 hours per day, off and on throughout each day. Eventually, I am hoping to gain enough strength to fill my remaining orders as quickly as possible.

Thanks for your patience!

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Bootleg LP Book! Legends of the Blues Trading Cards!

A Pig’s Tale – The Underground Story of the Legendary Bootleg Record Label is the true story of the celebrated bootleg record album company Trademark of Quality Records (TMQ). The softcover book’s 322 pages covers every aspect of that company. I licensed all 34 of my TMQ covers (plus some other related material) for use in the book (I will eventually be coming out with a separate book on all of my music-related art. It will include all of my record covers, both bootleg and legit. A Pig’s Tale should satisfy those who can’t wait for that book of mine).


For those out there who don’t know what bootleg record albums are, here’s an explanation:

Bootleg records were fan-produced LPs whose content came from live audience concert tapes — occasionally soundboard tapes, unreleased studio recordings or other rarities, like radio and TV performances, obscure single B-sides, etc. Bootlegs should be differentiated from pirate records — counterfeit productions of legitimate studio releases. A lot of pirating was financed by the Mafia and then distributed and sold through large department store chains. I’ve used the past tense in this paragraph because bootleg LPs are no longer produced; these days everything is on CD.

Why get one here instead of on Amazon? Easy: I personally sign each book and Amazon’s charging the same price ($50).

What else?

My old pal Denis Kitchen has just published two trading card sets of mine: Legends of the Blues (with Muddy Waters on the cover) and More Legends of the Blues (with Ma Rainey on the cover).

Each deck has 50 cards (50 color portraits plus 50 back-of-the-card bios). Most of these images come from my book, Legends of the Blues. I included a few blues musicians that aren’t in the book and deleted two musicians that are in the Robert Crumb Heroes of the Blues card set (also published by Kitchen). So, none of Robert’s musicians are depicted in my two card sets and none of my players are in Crumb’s card set. No overlap! Just $13 per box.

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William Stout Dinosaur Playing Cards!

William Stout wasn’t just sitting around during COVID — he illustrated an entire deck of playing cards with a dinosaur theme for Art of Play. 54 brand new, never-before-seen dinosaur images (52 card images plus 2 different Joker cards).

Bill also designed the stunning Letter Press packaging (see above) and the card backs, a stylistic nod to the famous Bicycle deck card back (see below).

You can find them on this site’s shop. Go to Store>William Stout Bazaar>Uncategorized.

Each deck is just $30 + $5 shipping (save on multiple deck shipping — still just five bucks no matter how many you buy). If you want Bill to sign the package, he will break the cellophane seal and sign your deck box at no extra charge.

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Comic Con International Special Edition!

One week from today I’ll be exhibiting at Comic Con International: Special Edition. I won’t have my regular booth — just a table in Artists Alley this year. I hope to see you there! It should be a fun, relaxing show! I’ll have my brand new William Stout Dinosaurs Playing Cards for sale at the show. 54 brand new dinosaur images (a guy’s gotta do something during COVID), plus I designed all of the packaging.

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Untold Tales of Hollywood #116

Mention should also be made of my award-winning children’s book, The Little Blue Brontosaurus.

Byron Preiss and I co-wrote the book, I designed all of the characters, painted and lettered the cover and did a handful of original illustrations before handing my layouts over to Pogo artist Don Morgan.

The book won the Children’s Choice Award for 1984.

Caedmon Records was the publisher of the book. They also released the book as an LP and cassette, both of which included a Little Blue poster.

Caedmon was a spoken word record company — and that was the problem. This was their first book — and they didn’t know how to sell it. Every store that carried the book promptly sold out of the book. Yet Caedmon wasn’t there to follow-up with more orders. I also noticed just how difficult it was to get copies for myself, so their marketing and distribution departments appeared to be filled with useless individuals.

Back Cover

I felt that Byron and I had a terrific intellectual property. I pressured him to begin the second Little Blue volume. Plus, I wanted to create a Little Blue coloring and activity book. He dragged his feet for what seemed like forever. I finally gave up and wrote the sequel myself. I titled it Little Blue’s Big Race.

The color here is a bit garish — not so in the original; I don’t know why.

This was the cover I designed for the book. Instead of saying “Thank you” for moving this project along, Byron became upset that I had written the sequel without his input. I told him to edit and contribute to what I had written. I was happy to share the writing credit.

There was no more communication on the sequel project for several months. I instructed Byron to return my original. It’s known among artists and writers that worked with Byron that he was cheap. He countered his cheapness by offering artists and writers dream projects to work on. He underpaid his employees, so he didn’t always necessarily get the brightest bulbs from the box.

Byron had one of his interns take care of shipping my Little Blue’s Big Race original painting back to me. The idiot packaged my art between two sheets of cardboard — no bubble wrap or extra padding — and shipped it off. The original arrived with huge gouges in the packaging. The art was folded in two, ruining the carefully airbrushed gradation of the background. There were rips through some of the characters. Until this happened, I had a buyer for the original art.

Fortunately the piece was insured — but I would have preferred to receive the picture in good condition instead of getting the insurance money.

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Untold Tales of Hollywood #115

Film #24: The Natural History Project (1985)
Directed by Jim Henson
Screenplay by William Stout
Production Designed by William Stout

This begins an interesting and ultimately ironic story.

Lisa Henson, the daughter of Muppet Master Jim Henson, wanted to make a film or mini-series on the great war between two of the earliest and greatest paleontologists, Edward Dinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh. At the same time, Jim was looking for what he called his third “serious Muppet movie” (his first two were Dark Crystal and Labyrinth). Jim thought that maybe a dinosaur film would work both as his next film project and as a visual test for aspects of Lisa’s project, perhaps making Lisa’s film or series more likely to happen.

They took a vacation in the Bahamas to research and discuss ideas for both film projects. They were having lunch on the beach while perusing a stack of dinosaur books they had brought with them. Their cook saw what they were doing.

“You think those are dinosaur books?” she harrumphed. “I’ll show you a dinosaur book.”

She went back to the house and retrieved a copy of my book, THE DINOSAURS – A Fantastic New View of a Lost Era.

Jim and Lisa examined my book, getting more excited with the turning of each page. Then, they got to my bio in the back of the book and discovered that, lo and behold, I had also worked in the film business.

Lisa promised to contact me as soon as she got back to L.A., which she did. She set up a meeting at Warner Brothers between the three of us.

The first meeting consisted of Jim, Lisa and me agreeing that it would be great to make a serious Muppets dinosaur movie.

Our second meeting consisted of Jim, Lisa and me agreeing that it would be great to make a serious Muppets dinosaur movie.

“Uh oh,” I thought “— this isn’t going anywhere.”

The next day I wrote a treatment for our dinosaur film. I surprised Jim and Lisa at our third meeting by giving them copies of my treatment. They read my treatment and loved it. I turned my twenty page treatment into a screenplay. I wrote two, actually. I did not want the dinosaurs to speak, so I gave them a choice of having a film with narration or a film with no voice-overs whatsoever, a completely visual telling of our story (My preference, as we’d end up with a film that could be shown in any country without dialogue or subtitles).

Warner Brothers heavyweight Lucy Fisher loved it, too, and committed to a healthy $20 million budget for the film with an extra $5 million for R & D on Muppet dinosaurs. So that no one else would jump on this idea and make a similar film, we gave our film a secret, vague, generic title: The Natural History Project.

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Untold Tales of Hollywood #114

Here are the other seven United Artists logo roughs I drew:

United Artists then changed their minds and backed off the idea of having an animal represent their company. They asked for architectural symbols instead. I complied.

None were chosen.

I had fun doing these, though.

Next: Date With An Angel.