Reid Miles & (just a dash of) Julia Warhola: MONK, Prestige Records 7053 (1958)

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Fifties, Jazz

The last cover to be discussed in this series of posts about Reid Miles and Andy Warhol, is that of the Thelonious Monk album on the Prestige label, with serial number PRLP 7053. The Reid Miles cover was issued in 1958.

There is a lot of confusion about the release date, for different reasons. In the catalogue raisonné of Warhol record covers, Paul Maréchal has dated the LP in 1954, being the last recording date mentioned in the liner notes. But the 7053 album is a later compilation album, of tracks first released on a 7″ single in 1953, and a 10″ EP in 1954.

In a lot of listings and blogs you will also read that the Miles-Warhol cover was released in 1956. Also that is incorrect: the 7053 LP was indeed first released in 1956, but with a photo of Monk on the cover, probably taken by label owner Bob Weinstock. (Blue Note’s Francis Wolff would have done a better job).

The original cover of the Prestige 7053 album. Not a Reid Miles design, and an uncredited photo, but probably by Bob Weinstock.

Reid Miles was asked by Weinstock to design a new cover for the album in 1958. The cover art was included in the 38th Annual of the Art Director’s Club of New York in 1959, the same volume in which Warhol’s stationery was mentioned (discussed in a previous post)

What brings us to the discussion of what was Warhol’s involvement for the creation of this Monk cover, if any. It’s interesting to compare the credits for all entries in the ADC’s annuals: in the 1958 yearbook for the Story Of Moondog album cover, the credited artist is Andy Warhol’s Mother; in the 1959 yearbook for the Warhol stationery letterheads art director is Reid Miles, but credited artist is again Andy Warhol’s Mother; in the same 1959 yearbook for the MONK cover all credits go to Reid Miles: art director, design ánd artist. No mention of Warhol or his mother for the few scriblings on this cover.

So my guess is that the design for the Monk cover is a 100% the work of Reid Miles. The bold typography is one of his trademarks after all. And, who knows, maybe it went like this: Sure Andy, I will help you with the letterheads, but in return I will also need your mom to write down a few short words for me. Just my imagination going here, but yeah, it could have happened like that…

The entry in the 38th Annual of the Art Director’s Club of New York. No credit for Warhol or his mother.
Andy Warhol’s business card, designed by Reid Miles, and Andy Warhol’s Mother credited as artist.

I will end this story with an absolutely stunning statement by Reid Miles, as later told in a web interview with Graham Marsh, who is one of the authors and editors of the two volumes Blue Note: The Album Cover Art. The first volume was issued in 1991 when Miles was still alive, (he died two years later) and Marsh still has had the chance to speak to him about the covers.

Marsh: “The most surprising part of research for the book was when I interviewed designer Reid Miles on the telephone. Of course he was proud of his Blue Note output but when I asked him the impossible question, “What is your favorite cover?” he replied “Thelonious Monk with Sonny Rollins and Frank Foster.” It was an album simply called ‘Monk’ and it was on the Prestige record label.” (madeinnyjazz.com)

Who saw that coming? And who are we to disagree?

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