The voice of Tennessee Williams

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.

2012.11.11 407 2012.11.11 408 2012.11.11 406


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


From ‘A Gold Book’, 1957


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.


Tennessee Williams at a party in the Factory in 1965, dancing with Factory regular Elektrah Lobel, who performed with Lou Reed and John Cale pre-Velvet Underground, and played in Warhol’s movies Kitchen and Life Of Juanita Castro. From Andy Warhol, “GIANT” Size, Phaidon. Photo: David McCabe

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.

playboy1 playboy2

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


New Directions 1985, hardcover with DJ


Ballantine Books, mass paperback, 1986


New Directions, paperback edition, 1994

11 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!

    Liked by 1 person

  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… πŸ™‚

    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.


  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..

    Liked by 1 person

  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… πŸ™‚


  5. Pingback: ‘Adman’ exhibition at The Warhol | Andy Earhole

  6. Pingback: Poetas sin edad

  7. Hi! I sent you an e-mail as well. The photo of TW dancing is actually a photo of my mom, factory regular during those years. Her name was Elektrah πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for letting me know. So your mother was Elektrah Lobel, who performed with Lou Reed and John Cale pre-VU, and played in two Warhol movies? How incredibly AWESOME! I will now complete the caption of the photo.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s