Memories of Rick Griffin
Rick Griffin has touched the lives of many people in many different ways, as comments in the Guest Book illustrate. If you are one of those people and would like to share your personal experiences of Rick more fully, please e-mail your story to email@example.com and I'll add it to this page.
The following contribution is from Michael Bayes:
I recently got excited about Rick Griffin as a kind of spiritual warrior of his time. I grew up in the South Bay, Los Angeles and felt a lot of the similar cultural waves as Rick although I am eight years younger. I never understood the surf influence on the San Francisco Scene now I see it was mostly Rick who brought that. I saw the You Tube about Rick by Mr. Escalante and was thinking about AOXOMOXOA. My friend gave me an NiXON-AGNEW original campaign sticker from 1968 which is on my wall and I thought that is curious, look at the similarities. What do you think? bay7m_at_earthlink.net
The following contribution is from Jonathan Haylock:
I first encountered Rick's work in Surfer Magazine. It was Murphy the Surfer. I wasn't a surfer myself, but I had friends who were. This was all happening in Northern California. At the time, we kind of assumed that Rick must be in his thirties, a seasoned professional artist. We didn't realize he was in high school himself when he began working for Surfer. I was apparently vocal about my enthusiasm for Rick's work, at least among family and friends.
Imagine the calendar pages flying off, like in old Hollywood movies. Soon enough, I am in Danang, Viet Nam, working as a machinist. It is 1966. I get a letter from my sister, Susan, living in San Francisco. She says, "you won't believe this, but Rick Griffin and his wife Ida are sharing a flat with us on 17th Street". I got home from Viet Nam and go to meet Rick. He was working on "A Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In" at the time. We became friends.
Pretty soon, Rick and Ida moved to a flat on Diamond Street around 20th Avenue. I moved with my sister to Bernal heights, 101 Elsie Street. Rick and Ida moved into the other flat in that house. Ida had a sister named Laura Pfefferle who would visit. That's where he did many works including Zap Comix, the three-piece Charlatans posters, many album covers (viva vinyl), and the original mast-head for Rolling Stone, and a steady stream of art for the Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Grateful Dead, and many other bands.
I have recently been in touch with Ida. My sister Susan and Ida have been friends for all these years.
The following contribution is from John Sward:
I grew up in Palos Verdes, and had heard of Rick Griffin in high school. Most of my friends went out and bought Rapidograph pens in Hollywood Riviera because we had heard Rick used them. I knew of his work in Surfer. But, I was 6 years younger than Rick and had never met him. Years later, I recognized his work for the Dead and in Zap Comics.
In 1986 or 1987, I met Rick, his wife, and son Miles at the San Diego Comic Con. I was baby-sitting that day, and I had my daughter in her stroller with me. I wanted to tell Rick how important his work had been to me. All he was interested in was how sweet my daughter was and how I was blessed to have a beautiful child. What a nice man.
I still have the Rapidographs...
The following contribution is from Samm:
Hi! My name was just "Samm" back in 1964 when I met Rick at Chounard. He was in my drawing class and his drawing board was right behind mine. The instructor frequently used Rick's work as an example. Rick would whisper nonsense things to me during class. It was pretty funny. The instructor assigned me to Rick for some tutoring (I was hopeless! LOL!) Rick came to some parties at my apt. He invited me to his apt. I must have looked like a waif because he was always trying to feed me.
He turned me on to Bob Dylan. I would sit and listen to Dylan while he "met deadline" on Murphy. He always had surf boards lining the hallway that he was fixing for his friends. He loaned me a board so I could "try" surfing! Disaster! But a great experience.
Rick was so kind and so much fun. I just learned of his death this week end from one of his friend/surfing buddies, Rob Mehl. Over the years Rick has popped up in my memories and I wished him well, Always! He was one of those people you could not forget, nor would you want to. I always thought I would run into him again someday and have a chance to talk about all the years in between.
God Speed, Rick! Maybe we will meet again on the other side!
The following contribution is from Stephen Wimer:
I am a collector of Rick Griffin's art, and it brightens up every day I spend in my writing studio. The best thing Rick did for me was sell his Phil Edward's model for $50, a five redwood stringer with wooden tailblock, offset fin, and 10'6" of joy. It was by far the best surfboard I've ever ridden, which include boards by Brewer, Lopez, Foo, Hawk, Fitzgerald, et. al, over 200 boards, total, during a 30 year span.
Rick could surf! Rick had a "no fall off" style of drop, turn, set your line, and trim. I saw him, several times, surf Riviera Beach and Cotten's Point around '70. His "crime partner" Ron Stoner, had a simiar style, and Ron once caught a beatiful, perfect left at Riviera during the end of a two week August swell, doing a full Thunderbird arch in front of me as I paddled by watching. Boy, those two loved surfing!.
The following contribution is from Mike Murphy:
My recollection is that Rick and Randy Worth picked the name Murphy because I was the least likely person to be a surfer that they knew or could imagine. I went to Narbonne with them a long time ago.
The following contribution is from Fred Gromadski:
My memory of Rick, I think, is not significant to his history, but I thought I'd share anyway. I briefly met Rick about 4 months before he passed away in 1991.
It was one afternoon in San Francisco in an alley off Harrison street called Norfolk alley (also nicknamed Clockwork alley), which was a popular place to paint graffiti. I was 21 at the time, spray painting a couple characters on the wall, and just finishing a larger than life painting of a woman with light blue and purple paint. A van pulled up and parked beside me and 3 people got out. One was Rick and the other two were "unidentified" women. The three of them seemed to have a lil' bit of a liquor buzz. Rick walked over to me and looked at the characters I was painting and said "Man, this is so inspirational! You're out here putting up your art on the street for free... and illegally...that s**t's incredible! Keep it up." (I was becoming a bit dizzy with disbelief as I was recognizing who was speaking to me). I expressed my thanks and told him HE was incredible as he began walking down the alley toward the Holy Cow Bar (I assume that's where he was headed though I didn't see him enter).
The two women who were with him, kind of trailing behind him, came up to me and said, "Do you know who that is, that's Rick Griffin - he doesn't just say that to anybody!" I said I did recognize him, and thanks. They started down the alley to catch up with Rick. I was soooo stunned and it happened so fast I wish I had the clarity of mind to really express to Rick my appreciation for his work and his inspiration to me, then properly bow and kiss his boots, : ). - And maybe asked for an autograph! (Rick if you're reading this from any kind of afterlife--Thanks! You WERE/ARE fantastic!). I was totally shocked and deeply saddened to hear of his death a few months later.
My father George Gromadski was a lifelong surfer and musician, and used to draw Murph for me as a kid. From album covers to poster art I was surrounded by Rick's art growing up in San Francisco. It wasn't until my late teens did I realize that Rick's name and hand tied all those various artworks together that I'd been seeing. I really clicked with his surf/spiritual/psychedelic style. He was a true genius and visionary. I wish he was alive, enjoying, and creating... perhaps in some way he is.
LOVE, Fred "Sundance" Gromadski, Oakland, California.
The following contribution is from Steven Cerio:
I moved to New York City from Upstate New York when I was two months out of college, in hopes of becoming an artist. It was 1988 or early '89. Already a fan of 60's psychedelia I went to Psychedelic Solution Gallery on West 8th street with my portfolio, never dreaming of being shown there. The owner; Jacaeber Kastor in one of his many moments of kindness he's shown me over the years accepted my work into a group show he was assembling. When I heard "Griffin" in the list of artists I was overjoyed to say the very least! With a massive grin covering my face I headed towards the door when Jacaeber's assistant mentioned a job available at the gallery. MORE GOOD LUCK!!! I was in NYC for two weeks at the time and had under $200 to live on.
Skip to a year later. Still overjoyed to be handling psychedelic posters to pay the rent Jacaeber announced that the ZAP artists would be coming to town for the next group show. Rick Griffin arrived, so did Victor Moscoso, Gilbert Sheldon, S. Clay Wilson, Robert Crumb, Ron Turner and Robert Williams. You can imagine how exciting it was for a suburban boy to be in the vicinity of this event. I was too nervous to speak to Rick the first day or so. I am not a nervous person. Fan Boy nerves I guess.
When I got my nerve up I remember him answering my fan boy questions without a hint of the jaded quality we have all come to expect from many "established" artists. Rick was exceptionally kind, modest and extremely positive. At some point during his stay in NYC I remember having some takeout with Rick and Last Gasp publishing genius Ron Turner. They flipped through their copies of my newest 'zine and complimented it casually between bites, obviously pumping me up which was intensely sweet of both of them. It was one of a few different moments in my life that made me come face to face with the intensity I felt about art and led me to dedicating my life to it. Those are large satoris I believe, moments of clarity that define the road you take.
Some time later. I was no longer working at the gallery. I had begun my freelance carreer. I was showing in galleries. I was hustling my work all around town when I stopped to get cash from a teller machine on First Avenue and eighth street for a cab ride to a magazine I was illustrating for. I was a dozen people deep in line of twenty or so when I saw Rick through the glass... I knocked loudly... mind you, New York was still NY back then; loud and smelly... he didn't hear me... I tried again... no luck. I stayed in line but headed over to Psychedelic to attempt a visit later that day. He wasn't there. When I tried the next day he had gone back to Ca... Not much time later I heard he passed away.
The very instant that I heard that news I had another moment of clarity, I realized that... I moved to that city to be an artist like HIM... I went to that gallery because I was a fan of HIS... I became an artist with the help of HIS encouragement... but I didn't get to speak to Rick Griffin one last time BECAUSE I was busy being an artist.
I have a print of the ZAP poster from the Psychedelic Solution show on my studio wall. Rick signed it "To Steve, my close friend the idiot!, Rick Griffin." I guess so. We miss you Rick!!!!!!!!
All my Love, Steven Cerio.
The following contribution is from Wren Griffith:
I was about 17 when some friends and I attended a Halloween concert in Passaic New Jersey where some of the guys from the Grateful Dead were performing as "Hot Tuna". When I learned that Rick was opening a studio the next morning in New York, I convinced the guys to take the trip into the city that night. We got into New York early and slept in the car until the studio opened. Rick was working on an unfinished piece, I believe it was the "Crucifix". What had surprised me was that the little I knew about him had been summed up by the Dead covers I owned. I was surprised to see him working on such a faith provoking piece. I saved the autographed postcard he gave me.
That brief visit gave me a glimpse into the deeper Christian that Rick was. My faith has grown significantly since then and this week I found myself reflecting about the piece I saw in the studio that morning. I was convinced that I might be able to track down Rick and visit him again. I was most saddened to hear that he had passed away but pleased to see that this site was attempting to keep his work and story intact. Much continued success in protecting his legacy by promoting both his art and his faith.
The following contribution is from Robert Churchill:
Rick and his family lived in the flat above me in San Francisco in 1966 or 1967. Yes, time is like that for me. I greatly enjoyed the times of my visits and was so impressed with his ability to enjoy company and do very beautiful, detailed graphic artwork at the same time - not your typical "loner" artist. It was a pleasure to see his relationship with his family, one that might serve me for later times in my own life. We talked on the phone several times after he became a Christian and I had the phone answered once by an all grown up Flaven which shocked me - she was around 2 last I saw her.
I was in a bookstore and was buying what I thought were some new Rick Grifin art cards when I discovered he had passed away. I'm sure I felt like everyone else that touched his life, I was shocked and saddened beyond my ability to communicate it. Rick left a sincere legacy that came from his heart. I hope to see him again some day. Thank you for your recognition of a truely great artist - I am sure there is still more to learn about this fine person. "Bob"
The following contribution is from Dave Hunter:
Rick Griffins art is the cornerstone of psychedelia! I had the pleasure of meeting Rick when I worked at the Psychedelic Shop in San Francisco back in the 80's & 90's. We had just made preliminary arrangements for me to move up to Petaluma to be his apprentice when I got the phone call that he was on life support following his motorcycle accident. I cannot begin to describe the sense of loss I felt when he passed away, and not a week has gone by since that I haven't reflected on Ricks contribution to my path as an artist and the Psychedelic/Surf Art scene in general.
His art graces the walls of almost every room in my house. Finally, 10 years after Rick's passing, I was introduced to surfing in Hawaii, where I now live and surf as much as possible. So now I have come to understand Rick a little more through the art of surfing, which without a doubt is THE Psychedelic Sport!
Rick, wherever you are, Pacific Vibrations Forever!
Aloha, Dave Hunter, Hawaii 2003
The following contribution is from Joe Schmidt:
I was in an art class with Rick at Harbor College in the Long Beach Area in 1963. When I first heard his name, I asked him if he drew "Murphy." He just smiled broadly, shrugged his shoulders and said, "Yeah...that's me." He turned back to his art project and that was that.
As a surfer at the time, and avid reader of Surfer Magazine, I was of course very impressed that he drew "Murph' the Surf," but equally as impressed that he was such a friendly and unassuming person.
The following contribution is from Lonnie Argabright:
My name is Lonnie Argabright and I was the model for Rick's Murphy. I grew up with Rick and was in Haggertys Surfing Club with him, I was the youngest member and the smallest member of the club. I have many good memories of Rick but, there are 2 that stick out the most in my memory. The first is a photograph Rick took of me back in the winter of '1960' for his photo class at P.V. High School. I still have the original photo, and on the back its says "Rick Griffin per 3, Photo 1". The second is for a long time I would bug Rick about having his pastel chalks with him, he would carry chalk and pens and pencils wherever he would go. One day I was ribbing him (as a little kid he was like an older brother) about his chalk and he says, lets go to your house and I'll put some chalk on your bedroom wall.
He did a pre-Murphy cartoon of me surfing Haggertys with that Kilroy fellow peering over the back of the wave and saying "Golly Look At Lonnie". The sad part is in 1962 my parents sold the house at Torrance Beach and moved me to Arizona and I never took a picture of the cartoon and it was painted over before my parents sold the house. The last time I saw Rick was around 1964 or 1965 then I went into the service and was out of surfing until 1977 by then Rick was in San Francisco and I never got a chance to see him again. "Murphy misses him".
The following contribution is from Steve Pezman:
Rick's "Tales from the Tube" comic was originally produced as an insert for Surfer magazine circa-early 70s, (much later reprinted as a stand alone by Zap) and Rick recruited his Zap buddies to contribute features to it. R. Crumb's back cover panel presenting an African Amercian kid that comments "Us nigers always gets it after nobody else wants it!" after receiving a cast-off surfboard from a white surfer who proclaims the ocean too poluted for it to be of further use, stimulated much negative reader response as a racist comment.
Rick contributed several important pieces to Surfer in the 70s, Surfer wishing for his classic Murphy to ride again, but Rick producing versions of a born again Murphy much different than the gremmie of the 60s. One of Rick's 70s appearances in Surfer was in Craig Stecyk's episodic article on Malibu entitled "Curse of the Chumash" for which I (being publisher/editor at the time) asked Rick to paint a "diorama" of a Chumash village on the point at Mailbu to be used as an introductory image for the unprecedented mulit-page article, which Rick agreed to do for a fee of $3,000. Working on a large horizontal wooden panel maybe 4' X 8' Rick toiled all day and night on the project, but by the next morning had painted whatever he had done over and produced a large female figure laying on her side on the beach with a wave peeling off behind her.
This was not untypical of Rick at this time. Many works that visitors considered masterpieces were later destroyed by him, or painted over. His Mailibu opener was not at all what we had invisioned, but I asked Art Brewer to photograph Rick sitting in front of the painting and we used the portrait as the opener, and although it was rather cryptic relative to the subject matter, it was profound and worked in it's own right.
This was when Rick and the Griffin family lived on Cazador Street in San Clemente, which is now around the corner from my current residence. I often walk by the house and the memories of that episode are as fresh as if they happened yesterday. I rememeber visiting Rick at several of his San Clemente studios, mostly now torn down, but for me his spirit is still present at those sites.