VICTOR KALIN ALBUM COVERS
an appreciation by Music Librarian Christopher Popa
Some of the finest album cover illustrations for big band LPs were done by Victor Kalin (1919-1991), an artist, photographer, and musician.
During World War II, he had worked for Yank magazine, widely read by soldiers overseas.
From around 1958 to 1972, he drew a number of beautiful color illustrations, mostly for RCA Victor swing reissues and Decca’s “Jazz Heritage” series. Legendary bandleaders whom Kalin depicted included Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Glen Gray, Lionel Hampton, Jimmie Lunceford, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, among others. (There are additional covers that I think may be his, but since they are unsigned I am not sure.)
A 1965 article in Billboard told about a display of original art at Lyon and Healy’s music store in Chicago, including Kalin’s, that had been commissioned by RCA Victor. Ralph Ergas, RCA Victor branch manager, explained that that idea was “to acquaint the public with the high quality of art used on album covers.”
I like Kalin's work so much that I have framed some of his big band covers.
Meanwhile, his daughter, Rebecca, has created a website in his honor, victorkalin.com.
Incidentally, one of Kalin’s friends was Jim Flora, who also did album cover illustrations for some big band records – but in a very different style.
“Cover Art Replaces Pop Art in Chicago,” Billboard, May 15, 1965, p.57.
“Victor Kalin – Artist,” victorkalin.com. Retrieved Feb 14, 2016.