The Santana Lion - 1968

Lee Conklin


The Santana Lion, 1968


lithograph, first printing, condition: Very Fine


Framed: 29" tall x 21 7/8" wide





Frame at angle


Close-up of frame 


The Lion has Roared Back into Stock!



This is an original, first edition of one of the most iconic of all San Francisco School posters. Certainly the finest expression of Lee Conklin’s finely drawn psychedelic style, Santana was so taken with the poster that they had Conklin adapt it for their first album cover, and the lion and Santana became permanently linked for evermore. The detail in this poster is simply amazing, and the imagery is both sublime and complicated. Although Bill Graham preferred color posters to advertise his concerts, BG134 was so powerful in its original pen and ink, it was sent to press that way.



Conklin was born in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey in 1941. He worked as a cartoonist for the college newspaper. He was inducted into the army in 1965, married, and worked painting murals on mess halls in South Korea. He moved to San Francisco after his discharge, and began creating concert posters for the growing music scene from 1968 to 1970. He created 35 posters for Bill Graham advertising shows at the Fillmore, Winterland and the Fillmore West.



Steppenwolf was super-hot at this time, with a #2 single, Born to be Wild.  The song became legendary for it's inclusion in the 1969 film Easy Rider where it is heard in the opening credits, with Peter  Fonda and Dennis Hopper riding their Harley choppers through the America of the late 1960s. The song, which has been closely associated with motorcycles ever since, introduced to rock lyrics the signature term "heavy metal" but the reference was not about a kind of music, but about a motorcycle: "I like smoke and lightning, heavy metal thunder, racin' with the wind...".



Santana was formed in 1966 in San Francisco as the Santana Blues Band. At the group's first audition at the Avalon in the summer of 1967, promoter Chet Helms told the band that they would never make it in the San Francisco music scene playing Latin fusion and suggested Carlos keep his day job washing dishes at Tick Tock's Drive-In in the Mission.



But Helm’s rival promoter, Bill Graham, took a liking to the band as they appealed to his younger days where he spent long nights dancing to Latin music in New York City. He eventually became their manager and arranged for them to be placed on the bill at Woodstock, in exchange for the Woodstock promoter getting several other San Francisco bands to appear. Santana’s first album was released in May 1969, a few months before Woodstock.  Here at these shows they were developing their style and presence.

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