19 November 2009

R.I.P. Bill Narum : Legendary Artist of the Texas Counterculture

Below, cover of Space City!, June 1, 1971. Illustration and design by Bill Narum.
Bill Narum was a dear friend of The Rag Blog and my personal friend and colleague for more than four decades. He was art director at Space City!, the pioneering underground paper we published in Houston in the late Sixties and early Seventies. He was a major force in the Houston underground radio scene -- at KLOL and KPFT -- and became one of the most important graphic designers and poster artists in the Texas counterculture. And he was still going strong.

He was also an activist, deeply committed to social justice, to basic political and cultural change, but -- as with most things in his life -- he did it without bombast or bluster.

Bill Narum was an exceptional talent; he was also a calm and gentle human being. His death leaves a void that cannot ever be filled.

Thorne Dreyer / The Rag Blog / November 19, 2009
R.I.P. Bill Narum:
Legendary Texas counterculture artist,
underground radio pioneer

By Chris Gray / November 19, 2009
See gallery of Bill Narum art, Below.
Bill Narum, a key figure in Houston's counterculture in the late 1960s and early '70s, passed away Wednesday night, November 18, 2009, at his home in Austin. The cause of death was an "apparent heart attack or something that took him quickly while sitting in his studio at the art table in his chair," said Narum's close friend Margaret Moser, who profiled him for the Austin Chronicle in 2005.

Austin native Narum, who was in his early 60s, grew up in Houston and discovered his talent for graphic design early on. "In the fifth grade, I'd been drawing girlie cartoons from Playboy in a notebook, and I left it in my desk after class," he told the Chronicle. "The next day I was reprimanded for disrupting class because they were passing around my notebook."

In the late '60s, Narum co-founded Houston free-form FM rock station KLOL and worked as an illustrator for underground newspaper Space City News. He struck up a long-lasting friendship with a band then just starting out, which had recently rechristened itself ZZ Top. Narum would go on to become ZZ's house graphic artist, moving from posters and album covers such as 1976's Tejas to epic murals for the band's fleet of semis and the famous cactus-and-cattle-skull stage design for the trio's legendary 1975-76 "Worldwide Texas" tour.

Bill Narum, from left, with Houston underground radio pioneers Dan Earhart and Larry Yurdin. Photo by Gloria Hill, Austin, 2008.

After moving back to his hometown in the '70s, Narum continued designing posters for venues such as Antone's and Armadillo World Headquarters, and explored a budding interest in both video and computer-game design. In 2005, he was elected president of the board of directors of Austin folk-art storehouse the South Austin Museum of Popular Culture around the same time his 40-year retrospective, "You Call That Art," opened at the museum.

Speaking of Narum's many achievements, SAMOPC director Leea Mechling told the Austin Chronicle: "He's a major contributor to the cultural dynamics of not only Austin, but Texas, the United States, and the world."

Source / Houston Press

Senator John (Corn Dog) Cornyn, R-Texas, aka Lapdog to President Bush. Graphic by Bill Narum / The Rag Blog / May 23, 2008.

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