Not too long ago I blogged about my recent acquisition of an Australian pressing of the Capitol Classics edition of Copland's 'Billy the Kid', performed by the Ballet Theatre Orchestra conducted by Joseph Levine. I quite love the cover and was keen to discover who was responsible for it.
I asked my mate Coatsie, who is an artist, as well as other artist and record collecting mates if they happened to recognise the style or know who the artist might be.
Coatsie suggested it might be Thomas B. Allen. Not a bad suggestion. Turns out Allen did provide the cover art to a recording of Copland's 'Billy the Kid'. But not this one.
His work adorns the cover of The Copland Album, a CBS Masterworks release (nowadays it'd be on the Sony Masterworks label) featuring the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Bernstein, performing a number of Copland's pieces.
In my travels, googling 'Billy the Kid', 'Copland' and 'Capitol Classics', I stumbled upon an excellent website belonging to Nori Muster, outlining aspects of the Capitol label's history. Nori's father Bill spent some years as Capitol's merchandising manager during the 1950s. In addition to being a working musician, her stepfather, Don Hassler, was a sales rep for Capitol for the better part of that decade, beginning in 1953. Given the Capitol Classics Billy the Kid album was released in 1953, this could well lead me to the information I was after. So I emailed Nori.
Sadly, Nori's stepfather passed away a few months ago. It's likely he would have known the answer but we couldn't put the question to him. Instead, Nori offered to put the cover on her site and ask the question there.
Her historian friend, Mark H.N., suggested it might be the work of Donfeld, "better known," according to Mark, "for his costume design for movies and television". I admit, I didn't know Donfeld's work. Or rather, I did; I just didn't know his name. Mark gave me an excellent example: Donfeld designed Linda Carter's Wonder Woman costume.
Mark goes on to say Donfeld's first job, after graduating from college, "was as a designer and art director at Capitol Records starting in 1953, the year this album was released". He points out similarities in the Billy the Kid cover to some of Donfeld's costume sketches, "especially the upraised hand holding the gun":
Mark offers, as an example, Donfeld's sketch of Sylvia Miles's costum in Evil Under the Sun.
I will admit my ignorance of the work of Donfeld. I love how, like Sting, Bono and Miles, he gets around with just the one name. Although a little bit of research reveals he was in fact christened 'Donald Lee Feld' and his film and television work is as extensive as it is varied. (Spaceballs and Prizzi's Honour!)
That means the thing by the showgirl's thigh that looks like a bit of a running writing on its side is in fact just filigree or ribbon, and not a stylised signature.
I hope he produced more covers. I look forward to stumbling upon more of his work. Meanwhile, check out his portrait and see if you aren't drawn to his hands, which seem very similar to the hands that he's drawn.