LANCASTER, Pa.—Tim Truman grew up in West Virginia, his teenage years straddling the 1960s and '70s.

Though San Francisco, with its vibrant art and music scene, was thousands of miles away, its sights and sounds seeped into Truman's home in Gauley Bridge.

He became a fan of the city's famous bands, especially Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna, the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service. And he became a fan of the city's artists, who drew the bands' elaborate album covers and the psychedelic posters that advertised their gigs.

Truman, 56, can vividly recall getting his hands on Tuna's second album.

"I just remember laying in my bed when I was 16 and looking at that 'First Pull Up, Then Pull Down' album cover and going, 'Man, this is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. I hope I get to do a Hot Tuna album cover'—never dreaming I would ever be able to."

Truman, who lives in Manheim Township with his wife, Beth (they have two grown children), did fulfill that dream: It is his painting of a guitar-playing tuna that adorns the cover of Hot Tuna's 1999 album "And Furthermore ..."

An accomplished artist, he is famous for his comic books, including "Grimjack," "Jonah Hex" and "Scout," and his work designing album covers, posters, comics and T-shirts for musicians.

In particular, he has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with the Grateful Dead that started in the early 1990s when Truman learned that a publisher was launching Grateful Dead Comix. He expressed an interest in contributing.


The publisher told him to send a portfolio but called back a short time later and told him it wouldn't be necessary: Jerry Garcia, the band's late lead guitarist and singer, was familiar with his work and counted himself a fan.

Using that as a springboard, Truman went on to become friends with Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, who had him design a poster for one of his shows. That led to later work with the Grateful Dead Almanac and album covers, including the fanciful cow that graces "Live at the Cow Palace, New Year's Eve 1976," which was released by Rhino Records in 2007.

And Rhino tapped Truman last summer to use his graphite-and-watercolor technique to draw the four album covers for this year's archival releases of the "Dave's Picks" series of shows.

"When we talked about finding an artist for 2013," says Mark Pinkus, the general manager of Grateful Dead Properties for Rhino, "I loved the idea of working with Tim Truman, an artist who clearly got the band, clearly came at it with a unique angle and a unique way that he creates his art.

"I'm confident that our releases in 2013 will be every bit as amazing as previous ones." The first four in the series were released in 2012.

Rhino released the first of the albums Friday (the other three will be released in three-month intervals) and it is available online at Volume 5 of the Dave's Picks' albums features a show recorded Nov. 7, 1973, at Pauley Pavilion, where the UCLA Bruins play basketball.

Truman says Rhino asked for something with a sports theme.

"They wanted me to do basketball players, and I just despise sports so I got the big blue bear for the Bruins and there's a basketball laying there," he says. "And that's about as close as I could get."

The bear is listening to a skeleton play the guitar.

Truman says he's gotten more direction from Rhino on this project than he's used to when it comes to the Dead. In fact, he says it's the first time he's ever gotten any sort of directions.

"I was so used to having such a free hand with the work I've done for them before—absolutely no instructions or citing of preferences about what they wanted to see in the material," he says. "I would just listen to the music and usually I ended up drawing the first pictures that came into my head."

Next up in the series will be a multidisc set featuring two complete shows—a show recorded in San Francisco Dec. 20, 1969, and one recorded in St. Louis on Feb. 2, 1970. Tapes of these shows had been lost and were recently found, meaning they have not been widely circulated by the legion of fans who collect recordings of Dead shows.

Truman, who has started the cover, says he plans to work the Golden Gate Bridge and the St. Louis Arch into his painting.

Rhino's Pinkus says he's anxious to see the finished product.

"I can't wait to see how he captures that '69-'70 feel, and you couple that with the lost-tapes story and I can't wait to see what image he comes up with for the cover."

Truman also says those shows coincide with his favorite Dead period.

"I particularly like the late '69 to '72 period, when they were sort of doing the country-rock thing," he says. "That's the stuff I really, really like. Also, I really like Garcia's guitar tone in that period, a little gnarlier."

Truman, who also is a guitar player and singer, says he does have an extensive collection of Dead tapes, especially from 1969 through 1972.

However, he says he only saw the band play live about four times in the 1990s.

"I grew up in West Virginia and the Grateful Dead just never came through there," he says.

Truman, who says he gets more satisfaction from the rock 'n' roll artwork than from his comic books, remembers the highest compliment he ever received.

"After I did my first contribution to Grateful Dead Comix," Truman says, "the art director called me up and said they showed the stuff to the band and Garcia really liked it. He was sitting there looking at it and he said, 'This guy draws what I see in my head when I sing the song.' It was 'Dire Wolf.' "




Information from: Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era ,