A Rare Find

More Pious Friends and Drunken Companions

Illustrated by John Held Jr.

When I got my out of the Marines back in 1985, I moved back into my folk’s house, attended college and was working as a pizza guy in the small California town of Danville. I was really into collage at the time and was an avid dumpster-diver. Just behind the pizza place sat the dumpster for the Public Library…Eureka! I found so many wonderful things in that dumpster and the thing was relatively clean, containing mostly books, tapes, paper and the occasional phonograph. I was regularly diving in that thing, in between pizza deliveries.

One night, I stumbled upon this book. It’s a collection of bawdy songs and poems, stuff like “Cocaine Lil and Morphine Sue” which was cool enough…but.. it was also illustrated by the great John Held Jr. who I’d been exposed to while growing up, my head buried in my folk’s New Yorker Cartoon collections. His style varied depending on the medium. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I like the way that scratchboard forces me to adopt a style that is inevitably different than say, my pen and ink style.

A Tale of Woe

Alas, the cigarette fiend.

Held’s woodcuts are wonderfully primitive and hilarious. Here’s one of my favorites from this collection.

Rich Powell

I'm an artist/illustrator residing in a small, North Carolina town. I worked for a few years as a conceptual artist and art director in the computer game industry but set off on my own to freelance. I currently do humorous illustration and cartoons for publications such as MAD Magazine and Highlights for Children.

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5 Responses

  1. nolan galloway says:

    Thanks for posting this, Rich. I was not familiar with John Held Jr’s work, great stuff! Kind of reminds me of another of my all time heros, James Flora.

    • Rich Powell says:

      Glad you liked it Nolan. I’m a big fan of Flora too, I’ve got one of his books: The Mischievous Art Of..” but I need to get the other, “The Slightly Sinister Art of..”!

      • nolan galloway says:

        I just got “The Curiously Sinister Art of…”

        A couple of years ago I was thumbing through the bins at The Record Shop in downtown Asheboro and found an original 1954 pressing of the “Inside Sauter-Finegan” album with an awesome Jim Flora cover. Paid about 6 bucks for it, if I recall! My hands were trembling as I took it to the register! Needless to say, I spent a bit more time there going over every inch of the place looking for more. You should check that place out if you haven’t already, it is a real throwback to a lost era. We used to go there when I was a kid, back in the late 60s, to buy all of our music (or what the old-timers call “records”). The same old guy named Archie still owns it. Sells mostly gospel music now, but has a large collection of vinyl in the back.

  2. Rich Powell says:

    Yeah, I’ve been in there. Amazing number of records there. Unfortunately Archie is really sick. I didn’t know this and used his last name (Burkhead) in a cartoon about a guy at the Dr! I was referring to my buddy, Bob Burkhead but I don’t think folks knew that.
    It’s a real treasure. I wonder what will become of all that stuff in the next few years.

  3. I’m a writer from St Fergus, Great Britain just sent this onto a colleague who was doing a bit of research on this. And she in fact ordered me lunch simply because I came across it for her… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the food… But anyway, thanks for spending some time to write about this subject here on your blog.

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