The voice of Tennessee Williams

7 comments
Fifties, Literature, Spoken word

The speciality of record label Caedmon was literature and spoken word, preferably read by the author in person. Andy Warhol delivered a beautiful illustration for the cover of ‘Tennessee Williams reading from The Glass Menagerie, The Yellow Bird and Five poems’. Warhol’s cover art is used only from the 4th printing onward (1960). The recording itself was made in June 1953. Most of the drawings on the cover were very likely executed in 1957. The original drawing for the album cover was on view at the exhibition ‘From Silverpoint to Silver screen’, in Copenhagen, 2012. Two colour variations of the cover exist. Calligraphy by Julia Warhola, Andy’s mother.

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Original drawing, in the exhibition catalogue ‘From Silverpoint to Silver Screen’ by Daniel Blau (2012).

Three of the blotted line drawings on this cover can also be found in Warhol’s ‘A Gold Book’ (1957): the sleeping girl, the little boy top right on the cover, and the bird. In a Schiaparelli ad for Vogue Warhol also drew a unicorn – not exactly the same unicorn as on the LP cover – but also 1957.

From ‘A Gold Book’, 1957

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From ‘A Gold Book’, 1957

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Ad for Schiaparelli gloves, in Vogue Sep. 15, 1957.

Warhol met Tennessee Williams several times. The eccentric writer, world famous for his plays The Glass Menagerie, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire, loved a good party, and was also a close friend of fellow writer Truman Capote.

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Tennesse Williams dancing at a party in the Factory, in 1965. From Andy Warhol, “GIANT” Size, Phaidon.

After Williams’ sudden death in February 1983, Warhol painted two portraits of him. They were published in Playboy Magazine (Jan 1984), to illustrate a personal memoir, written by Truman Capote.

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A year later, in 1985, one of the portraits was chosen to be the cover image of the book ‘Collected Stories’ by Tennessee Williams.

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New Directions 1985, hardcover with DJ

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Ballantine Books, mass paperback, 1986

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New Directions, paperback edition, 1994

7 thoughts on “The voice of Tennessee Williams”

  1. Once again a fascinating dive into this rather unusual Warhol cover. I have really never studied this cover having not seen beyond the garish colours. How could I not have noticed Warhol’s name at top left? Learning where the drawings came from is interesting, too – as are the portraits of Williams in Playboy and on book covers. Thanks again!

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  2. Great post on one of the best looking covers! Do you know anything about which version that was released first or why the changed it? And thanks for sharing the drawings from “A Gold Book”, can’t believe you have a copy of that. Not at all jealous… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Have to look it up. Maybe has to do something with an address change of the record company. Also maybe the printer of the second batch did not get clear instructions. Can be as banale as that.

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  3. The original 1952 release had a nice cover, too. Caedmon was then located at 468 Fourth Avenue, New York 16. When the 1960 4th printing (with the Warhol covers) was released their address was 461 Eighth Avenue, New York 1. Both versions of the Warhol cover have the same Eighth Avenue address..

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  4. Sorry, by “move” i meant the placement of the word “Caedmon” on the cover. Top right on one version and bottom right on the other. Just curious as to why and when… 🙂

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