by Corky Carroll
I woke up this morning, as I do most mornings, looking straight at the wall on the right side of my bed. Being a side sleeper and in the habit of laying on my left side I wake up facing that same wall each morning. On that wall is my copy of Rick Griffins famous “Flying Eyeball” poster for a Jimi Hendrix, John Mayall and Albert King concert from 1968. As I was laying there this morning debating with myself the merits of getting up, or just going back to sleep, I guess I was kind of subliminally looking at the poster and the idea popped into my semi functional little mind to write about my old pal Rick Griffin for todays trek down the wordily wonderland that is my column.
Some history: Rick was a surfer/artist that grew up in the South
Bay in 1950’s. He started out doing cartoon art for Greg Noll Surfboards and then became well known when John Severson hired him to do his infamous “Murphy” cartoons for SURFER MAGAZINE in 1961. This was followed by the Griffin-Stoner cartoon strips depicting adventures of himself and photographer Ron Stoner. In the later 1960’s Rick and his wife Ida moved to San Francisco where he would become world famous for his psychedelic concert posters, Grateful Dead album covers and even designing the script artwork for the masthead of ROLLING STONE magazine. In 1969 he moved back to San Clemente and did more work with John Severson, including the poster for his great surf movie “Pacific Vibrations.” He also worked with Greg MacGillivray and Jim Freeman on their classic film, “Five Summer Stories.” These were two of the greatest surf movies ever made. Rick would continue to do work on surf projects, album covers, posters, Christian art and paintings. He did the only surfing comic book ever, “Tales from the Tube,” and worked for the Christian based Maranatha Music. One of his great works was his visual telling of “The Gospel of John.” In 1991 he was killed riding his motorcycle without a helmet in Santa Rosa, he was only 47 years old.
I first met Rick when he was originally working for SURFER doing the Murphy and Griffin-Stoner cartoons. I was also pals with Ron Stoner at time. We became good friends and when he moved back to San Clemente my first wife Cheryl and I would often trade baby sitting with he and Ida. When I was first starting out in music Rick did the cover for my first “single” release, “Skateboard Bill,” and also introduced me to the legendary musician Chris Darrow. Chris was big time, having played with Linda Ronstadt, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, the Kaleidoscope as well as a solid solo career. He had just moved to San Clemente and we immediately became lifetime music and surf partners as well as friends. Rick also did a number of album covers for Chris. At one time we put together a make shift, yet actually dam good, surf band to play at one of Rick’s art shows at Chapman College. Some of my favorite times were hanging out with both Chris and Rick and our families at San Onofre Surf Beach having afternoon surf sessions and barbeques on the beach. The Paskowitz family was always there as well as Tubesteak Tracey and his tribe. Chris had a grapefruit tree in his front yard at the time and from these became the beginning of my love for tequila and grapefruit drinks, eventually leading to the now famous and extremely delightful “Corkarita.” It’s a zillion of these little things that you remember that seem to make up a life.
Rick eventually moved up to Petaluma and Chris moved back to his original home in Claremont. I didn’t see Rick again before he died, but Chris and I have continued to make music together, the latest being my recent album for Darla Records, “Blue Mango”, which also features Orange County musicians Matt Magiera, Richard Stekol, Doug Miller, Matt Marshall and Brad Fiedel.
So I wake up each day looking straight at Rick’s famous poster. Most of the time I really don’t think that much about it. But today, thankfully, it lit up my fading memory “find” button and this is what popped out the “retrieve your memory” slot.