I got to chatting with Charley Hafen about Utah’s cultural scene in the 60s and 70s.
Hafen knows about these things. He was in his teens and twenties back then, a card-carrying hippie who mixed with scores of other talented artists and musicians, he recalled.
Hafen, now an accomplished jeweler and owner of Charley Hafen Custom Jewelers, was part of a lively minority in this Mormon-majority state.
It was a “thick and rich” minority, he said. “Just look at the poster scene…These were active, active artists. There was lots of production.”
Salt Lake City might not have been a natural destination for rock bands, but it was a natural pit stop. The city sits near the Interstate 80 midpoint between San Francisco and Denver, a 1200-mile trek.
Bands booked gigs. Local artists churned out concert posters: The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, The Byrds, Ry Cooder, Ike and Tina Turner, Canned Heat, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Joan Baez, Santana, Bread. The list goes on.
At a site Hafen developed to celebrate and archive the times, you’ll see work for shows at the Terrace Ballroom, the Union Ballroom at the University of Utah, even the Lagoon, a Mormon-run amusement park in Farmington.
At right, Hafen stands next to one of his favorites, a 1968 poster by Kenvin Lyman for Vernal Equinox and Buffalo Springfield. (Lyman an accomplished commercial artist who would, among other successes, go on to become the area’s first commercial organic farmer in 2002.)
I asked how these rock bands – notorious for their blatant illegal drug use and casual lewdness – got away with all that at Mormon-run venues.
They flew under the radar for some time, he said. It was more or less ducky until Jim Morrison and the Doors visited the Lagoon in 1969. Mr. Morrison thought it would be fun to drop his trousers. Producers were not amused.
“That was the final kiss of death,” said Hafen. (A year later, Morrison was convicted of indecent exposure in Florida.)
Check out Hafen’s fabulous collection of poster work here.