Friday, July 29, 2016


Jack Davis (John Burton Davis, Jr. December 2, 1924 – July 27, 2016) was an original, an icon in the world of cartoon art. You may remember him best for his early, demented “Tales From the Crypt” and “Vault of Horror” illustrations. When Harvey Kurtzman's E.C. Comics evolved into William Gaines' Mad Magazine, he switched from ghoulish grotesques to hideously hilarious caricature.

His style was so infectious, Jack found himself in huge demand from Madison Avenue, the very people that Mad Magazine loved to parody. His frantic artwork was often on the cover of TV Guide, and many of the 60’s and 70’s wackiest movies were promoted by frenetic Davis posters, including “Mad Mad Mad Mad World,” “Viva Max” and “Bananas.”

Jack was from Atlanta, Georgia and had a special affinity for crazy country music. While he contributed cover art to many types of “musical mayhem” (including “Monster Rally” by Hans Conried, and discs by Spike Jones, Johnny Cash and Ben Colder,) he was most prolific for Homer and Jethro.

I remember buying “Old Crusty Minstrels,” when it came out, since I knew I’d be getting a funny album, and I’d have the extra fun of staring at the jacket a whole lot. Yessir, Jack’s album covers made most any record worth the money.

When he died, I recalled those Homer and Jethro records, as well as my copy of “The Art of Jack Davis,” which included a signed lithograph. I was rather disappointed to see that a similar copy was sitting, unsold, on eBay for just $95. This, after news of Jack’s death was all over the media! What a fucking insult.

Why does a music blog have an entry for a non-musician? I made an exception for three reasons. First, it’s my blog. Second, Jack contributed mightily to the sale of many recording artists. And third, Homer & Jethro’s definitive take on “The One on the Right Is On the Left” is more timely this week than ever.

The tune's on “Old Crusty Minstrels,” which has a very good balance of corny gross-out tunes (Homer bites a dog and it gets rabies), timely political jabs (about “The Great Society”), bunion-tender satire (“She Broke My Heart at Walgreen’s and I Cried All the Way to Sears”) and even a failed TV theme (“Camp Runamuck”). The song is a cautionary tale for those who were bored, annoyed or enraged by the fucked up Democratic and Republican conventions...and the jerks who kept yapping about 'em.

The crowning of two disliked people for President brought out the worst in just about everybody, including the candidates. The coverage was tedious. The people attending the conventions were obnoxious and often intolerant. That includes the "Black Lives Matter" bunch who heckled a moment of silence for dead police officers, and the naive nitwits screaming "Bernie or Bust," intent on forcing their choice or else. Or else what, littering the floor with granola? Both sides called on pitbulls to heave insults at the opposition while the crowds roared and waved banners.

People basically showed up to hoot, holler, get drunk, jeer, scream, bellow, and be far more bellicose and corny than any audience at a Homer & Jethro show. This took place during a blistering heatwave throughout the USA, and the news that aside from unendurable weeks of oppressive humidity, there would be three SOLID MONTHS of oppressive stupidity, with the candidates riding every poll and trying to push ahead via inane hyperbole.

Unfortunately, you can’t turn off your friends. Even if you avoided newspaper and TV coverage of the primaries and convention, your friends would NOT SHUT UP. Right? Talk to them in person or read e-mails and Trump, Hillary and Bernie were a main topic. On Facebook, you had to be astonished at which of your non-friends turned out to be irrationally for one clown or another, and insisting you had to read their slanted and biased and witless MEMES.

I think quite a few people on Facebook began to defriend idiots who just wouldn’t stop with the idiotic, sappy insults hurled at any "Libtards" or "Rednecks" or anyone who didn't agree that "Donald Rump" or "Crooked Hillary" was the devil returned to Earth. What happened to the good old fashioned apathy of "they all suck?" Why did anyone have to become so fucking shrill in rooting for their particular delusional choice? DEFRIEND! FUCK OFF! PLEASE, SHUT UP!

It comes down to this song, which not only has one of my favorite chord changes of all time (wait for it, “and the folk songs of our land”) but a vital message: “If you have political convictions, just KEEP ‘EM TO YOURSELF.”

And let’s agree that Jack Davis was one of the greatest cartoonists of all time.

HOMER AND JETHRO The One on the Right is On The Left


Brian Prebble said...

Good to see the legendary Jack Davis remembered and as far as I'm concerned he contributed to popular culture via the album covers and MAD magazine... lest us not forget how other non musicians such as Crumb and Warhol contributed to pop culture as well hence Jack has a rightful place here. The CD age has of course destroyed all that since those Homer and Jethro albums shrunk to CD size, you're gonna miss all the finer details so indeed that's a major facet many tend to overlook about the good old days of vinyl, the fun one could have from the artwork, immersing ones self into that along with the music. Sometimes, the artwork was better and funnier than the actual bloody musical content, Janis and Big Brother's "Cheap Thrills" being a prime example though in a way it does kinda prepare you for the fact they were dreadful musicians as they blundered their way through those songs!

The tie in with "The One on the Right is On The Left" is perfectly timed since as you probably know, it's not been much fun in the UK either on the political front and it is indeed better to keep quiet about one's political leanings as people one consider to be good people can quickly become very unlikable as they rant away and shove their political beliefs into your face.

Anonymous said...

7/30/16 Wrote:
Jack was the greatest in any kind of funny energetic sketches that appeared on LP covers, movie posters, and magazines over the past 60 years. As far back as 1942 he started out doing war-themed (and horror-themed) comic books long before shacking up with MAD magazine, so he left behind a sheer volume of work. It was a great pleasure to have known his art, and his dozen or so cover art work for Homer & Jethro was a delight to have in any collection. Johnny Cash's "Everybody Loves A Nut" LP cover from 50 years ago was actually my first exposure to his art style before I started reading MAD or Cracked (yes, he also worked for the competitor with Harvey Kurtzman (who walked out on Bill Gaines at MAD over a payment and management dispute) from 1958-1965, rejoining MAD thereafter until his 2015 retirement.) It was a worn out, beat up cover of Johnny Cash's album that my grandmother had (being a big fan of Johnny's back in the 1960's), but that Jack Davis drawing struck me as hilarious over the years since I first laid eyes on it (I think it was 1969, when I was about 2 years old, but even then I knew what a funny drawing was.) R.I.P., Jack, there'll never be another one like you. Oh, and about your statements of pointless political squabbling, I'm proudly apolitical, so I agree in your beliefs, and say to The Donald, The Queen of HRC, and Old Man Bernie, "SHADDUP!" Same thing to you, Baldie Putin bad guy from Russia. Don't go mixing politics with the folk songs of our land, indeed. words of wisdom composed 50 years ago by Jack "Cowboy" Clement.

Ill Folks said...

Thanks, and thanks again! (I have very literate readers!) Indeed, 12x12 vinyl was the PERFECT place for Jack Davis art. I'm still waiting for Bear Family to do for Homer & Jethro what they did for the Sons of the Pioneers and Del Shannon and so many others: come out with a large format boxed set WITH BIG BOOKLET. PS, I have "Cheap Thrills" for the cover, not the caterwauling.

Thanks for mentioning that Jack Davis worked at Cracked. I forgot about that, and that, typical of the publishing world (and the whole world) nobody gets along. So Kurtzman split with Gaines. I'm pretty sure I first saw Jack's album work via "Thank You Music Lovers," a Spike Jones compilation. But "Nut" is a great one, and so important in varying Johnny Cash's image. He wasn't just the glum "man in black." Thanks too, for giving credit to Jack Clement. H&J's authors (and lyric fracturers) never got much notice for their underratedly ridiculous rancidity. I'd love Clement's song to be blared night and day in front of Republican and Democratic Headquarters, 10 Downing Street, the offices of every newspaper...