Andy Warhol art on 45s – part 1

I have mainly collected LPs and have never really been interested in singles or extended play (EPs), which has proved to be a mistake from an investment point of view. Original pop EPs from sixties bands have become valuable as they sold in relatively small numbers.
Columbia Records indroduced the LP record in June 1948. RCA Records was initially unwilling to licence this format and was developing its own rival format. RCA introduced the seven inch 45 rpm single in February 1949. The seven inch single could accomodate one three minute recording on each side. However, almost immediately RCA began producing extended play versions of the seven inch disc, with two tracks on each side, increasing playing time to almost ten minutes per side.
Andy Warhol’s first commissions as a record cover artist came from Robert M. Jones, who succeeded Alex Steinweiss as art director at Columbia Records, soon after Warhol had arrived in New York in 1949. That same year Warhol also received a commission from RCA to illustrate the cover of a promotional EP box released to promote NBC’s “Night Beat” radio serial, which featured Frank Lovejoy as the Chicago Star’s reporter Randy Stone. “Night Beat” was broadcast in the US between Febrary 1950 and September 1952. This promotional release was produced as three EPs on blue vinyl in a box.
RCA and its daughter labels (such as Bluebird and Camden) continued to release EPs with selections from LPs throughout the 1950s and usually used the same cover art on the EP as had been used on the LP. Andy Warhol was one of a number of commercial artists commissioned by RCA to illustrate record covers. Paul Maréchal only includes three EP covers in his 2008 book “Andy Warhol – The Record Covers 1949-1987”. These are the “Night Beat” box, the Boston Pops “Latin Rhythms” EP from About 1952 and the Johann Strauss Jr “Waltzes” EP from 1956. One of the first, from about 1954, was probably the cover for a project that appears never to have been released. RCA obviously planned to produce a ten inch LP and a double EP comprising eight tracks of jazz piano music entitled “Progressive Piano”, even assigning the release a catalogue number, LJM 3001 for the LP version and 45EP-EJB 3001 for the EP version. Andy Warhol designed the cover and The Warhol Museum has lithographies of the design.

17 thoughts on “Andy Warhol art on 45s – part 1”

  1. I’m an art historian working on Warhol, and wondering how we can tell Night Beat was released by RCA. From images I’ve seen of it, and from Paul Marechal’s catalog, there’s no RCA logo on the box (is it on the actual EPs, maybe?) And are we sure the date for Night Beat is 1949 — Marechal says 1952. Any help getting this right much appreciated!

    1. Hello Blake! Thanks for asking this not so difficult question. The box was released by NBC, not RCA and the NBC logo is at the bottom of the spine. Maréchal was careful not to include a picture of the spine in either edition of his book on Warhol’s recprd covers. The catalogue number for the Night Beat set is EO-CX-342. The three EPs were pressed on blue vinyl.
      That’s all I know about it. I wish I had one, though.
      I hope this is some use to you.
      Best regards

      1. Now I’m even more confused! So are you now correcting your mention of RCA on your posting about Night Beat? Marechal doesn’t mention RCA at all! Or are you saying that it would have been manufactured by RCA for NBC — because only RCA made EPs? — but distributed w/o the RCA name or logo. Help!

      2. Well, NBC is/was a bought up by RCA so indirectly the Night Beat box was an RCA release. I cannot remember what the record labels showed; it’s been a while since I’ve seen pictures.
        I am not sure of the date the box was released. I would go for 1949, though, as the first Night Beat radio show was broadcast (if I remember correctly) in February 1950. The point of the Night Beat box was to interest sponsors and it seems reasonable to assume that NBC would be trying to find sponsors at the start of the show.
        However, it’s mostly speculation. If you haven’t already, perhaps you could ask Paul Maréchal for his opinion. But don’t mention you’ve been in contact with me as he doesn’t appreciate my reviews of his book!

    1. Thank you! Glad you find it interesting. It’s almost a full time job collecting cover art by five artists. More to come on record cover art by the “Artist Known as Banksy” and on some new Damien Hirst cover art. I haven’t much to report on your namesake Peter Blake’s record cover alrt though I’m currently researching his covers with the hope that I can write a book… It’s a long way off yet, so we’ll have to see how that turns out!
      Have a great weekend!

    2. Dear Blake – some time ago, you asked me about The Night Beat record box with cover design by Andy W. Since then I’ve been researching AW’s medical history (I’m a retired physician) with a view to possibly publishing it in a medical journal. In my research I have stumbled across your article about Dr John Ryan’s Seattle prestentation about AW’s gallbladder op not being routine. I understand that you are a real Warhol expert and currently writing a new biography of AW. Any idea when it will be published?
      I look forward to reading it.

  2. I have a 45 rpm vinyl recor with cover ON THE TOWN Bernstein CAMDEN RECORDS ( RCA SUBSIDIARY)
    Just curious Is this one of Andy Warhol Print ?

    1. Hi Don!
      Apparently the Camden CAE 203 is a rare Camden release with striking cover art and there are two copies up for grabs om Ebay just now with asking prices of $1000 and $2000. I don’t know why these are being priced so crazily, no one knows who did the cover art – certainly not Andy Warhol!
      Thank you for asking.

      1. thank you for your expertise I will watch these two sales on EBAY to see how they end up ..Until then mine is open for bid 🙂 Be well 🙂 Don

      2. I have a rare Warhol ink stamped Who album with the purple cows stamp, & was wondering if you might now an estimated value. Wasnt sure how else to contact you, & i can send you a picture through email, any help would be appreciated. thanks, Ken

  3. wondering about an RCA Victor Red Seal 10″ LRM-7050 having Warhol artwork? it’s an illustration of classical pianist Alexander Brailowsky that uses watercolor / ink was the way Warhol did the Count Basie and Nightmare LPs. i’m thinking it’s likely not by him, but thought to see what you thought. i’d attach a photo, but can’t seem to see how to do that, so here’s my Discogs entry for it (before it wasn’t in the database)

    1. Hi! Thanks for asking about this RCA 1954 LP. The label is right and the release year is right as we know Warhol had commissions from RCA from 1953-1957, but the drawing technique, and in particular the shading is not in Warhol’s style. Compare with the Count Basie portrait that you mention—Warhol only washes in Basie’s face to show he is black.
      So my opinion is that the Brailowsky portrait is NOT by AW.

    1. Thank you very much for this fascinating link. I’d never heard of this collaboration. Pity Ellington didn’t commission Warhol to do a record cover!

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