Saturday, February 05, 2022

The Voice of the Pork Chop

Last week, Pittsburgh's music community learned that Jerry Weber, the beloved owner of Jerry's Records, had died at age 73. Jerry was THE source for vintage vinyl records here for over forty years. 

Over the past week, tributes to, and memories of Jerry flooded local radio, TV, and social media, as well as emails, phone calls and conversations. Instead of a pipe pic, today I'm sharing a photo of my friend, Pittsburgh legend Jerry Weber in his element.

Photo: Philip G. Pavely, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 2012

The word "generous" was almost universally used to describe Jerry. He wasn't in business to make a killing, but to rescue records and get them into the hands of fellow music lovers. Customers (myself included) have fond memories of spending hours shopping in the densely-packed maze of shelves, and approaching the counter with a stack of records to purchase. Jerry would flip through the pile, commenting favorably on some choices, and arrive at a total cost well under the already below-market prices.

If Jerry knew you were interested in a particular record, artist, or genre, he would hold items to offer to you. He regularly gave away miscellaneous things he found among record collections he'd purchased, like posters or photos. I can still hear his greeting whenever I entered the store, calling out, "Wayno-o-o-o! I have some oddball records you might like. Come back here and take a look."

Over the years, I did several designs for t-shirts and signage at Jerry's various locations, including the shirt he's wearing in the photo above. That design was originally created by his longtime employee Jay Malls, and in 2012, I adapted it for an event called Vinyl-Palooza. Here are my earliest t-shirt designs for Jerry's.

In 2013, Jerry and his son Willie came across a pristine copy of a rare 78 by Bogus Ben Covington, "I Heard the Voice of the Pork Chop." Only a few copies were known to exist in the 21st century, and Jerry got word of the discovery to underground cartoonist and fanatical record collector Robert Crumb, who had visited the store in 2004 when he was in town for a museum exhibit. Crumb offered to do a custom drawing of Jerry and Willie, giving the Webers full ownership and reproduction rights to use the art in any way they wanted, in exchange for the Covington record.

I scanned the art for Jerry, and was stunned by the beauty of the original drawing. A priceless record was exchanged for an equally priceless work of art.

Crumb even drew Jerry wearing the shirt Jay and I designed. The Crumb image was itself used on t-shirts and in advertising, as seen in the more recent photo below.

Jerry at Vinyl-Man's Clubhouse (photographer unknown)

Jerry sold his store to employee Chris Grauze in 2017, but his "retirement" was brief. A couple years later, he opened a smaller warehouse space in Pittsburgh's Swissvale neighborhood called Vinyl-Man's Clubhouse. The name was perfect. Jerry made every customer feel like a welcome member of his tribe. He helped generations of people build collections without going broke, and although he and his store were known worldwide, he was a true Pittsburgh treasure. We were fortunate to know this kind, friendly gent.

While drawing the following comics, I no doubt listened to several records that I bought from Jerry.

The only thing missing from Monday's cartoon was a frappuccino.

Pun Day arrived on Tuesday this week. This gag required some extra preparation for print. The main drawing was simple, but it took much longer to design the psychedelic background and to choose colors for it.

I tried to make that background work in the black & white panel, but it turned into a cluttered mess, so I deleted it for this one.
In order to show the complete figure in the strip version, I turned it into a vertical layout, with elaborate background in color strip only.

I rarely post all four variants of a daily comic, but these were different enough from each other to share for comparison.
I went more than a little meta with Wednesday's reversed vampire gag.

Another victim of parental and societal expectations.
Friday's comic pays tribute to the late conceptual artist Christo, and mocks the emerging trend of "immersive" art exhibits. Currently, people are going gaga over a multimedia van Gogh exhibit in several cities. In fact, there are two competing van Gogh "experiences" going on around the country. 
I haven't seen it, but I'm not convinced that animated projections and loud music constitute an appropriate appreciation of the artist's work. It feels like a dumbing down of history and culture.
Visitors to the Pittsburgh exhibition can even take selfies in front of a giant "Gogh Steelers" helmet. Everybody knows that Vincent loved American football.

Then, just the other day, I spotted this travesty:
I never had a chance to view any of Christo's large scale projects in person, but I saw his Wrapped Snoopy House when I visited the Charles M. Schulz Museum.

More photos of the wrapped doghouse, and a Peanuts strip referencing Christo appeared in a post on Jean Schulz's blog after Christo's death in 2020.
Research for this panel also led me to a Christo self-portrait, which prompted me to alter my original sketch for the gag.  

The cloth ropes and eyeglasses definitely improved the drawing.

Christo's work wasn't everyone's cup of tea, but what art is? He was pretty much the classic definition of a conceptual artist, with the idea and planning playing the most significant roles in a project.

In my younger days, I was aware of Jenny Holzer's art, which involves words and ideas shown via large-scale installations, billboards, or projections on buildings or other surfaces, through reading about it and seeing photos in magazines. At the time, I thought it was mildly interesting.
When some friends and I saw a 1990 Holzer installation at the Guggenheim Museum, her art affected me deeply, and I understood that it had to be experienced in person, on a large scale, as the artist intended. It was designed as an immersive experience, with the viewer entering the art and being surrounded by it. 

My objection to the van Gogh and Kahlo blockbusters is that I feel they don't honor the artists' intent. There was no conception of "multimedia events" in their time. But what do I know, I just draw cartoons.
Gags set in tattoo parlors always provide opportunities for placing secret symbols.

That's the latest from Bizarro Studios North. Thanks for stopping by. Don't forget to visit Dan Piraro's blog for his thoughts on these comics, plus a fresh Bizarro Sunday page.

Bonus Track

Esquivel and his Orchestra
"Bye Bye Blues"
from Infinity in Sound, Volume 2
RCA Records, 1961

In the late 1980s, while crate-digging at Jerry's Records, this LP cover caught my eye.

I'd never heard of this Esquivel fellow before, but I dug his fashion sense. Besides, the price was right.

In the old days, Jerry would price records so that, with sales tax, they'd round up to the nearest dollar.

After playing this best-of collection over and over, I asked about other LPs, and, true to form, Jerry would set aside clean copies of every one he found. I eventually acquired all of the albums, and grabbed extra copies to share with friends. I was part of a tape-trading network back then, and made my own Esquivel compilation, which I swapped with other music fanatics.

Paste-up Cassette Cover, 1991 from my archives

When my friend Irwin Chusid, a music historian, DJ, producer, journalist, and preservationist, was working on the release of Space-Age Bachelor Pad Music, the first Esquivel compilation for Bar/None Records, I was among several Esquivellians consulted to make suggestions for the track selection. I'd worked with Irwin in the past on several projects with freeform radio station WFMU.

Irwin put me in touch with Esquivel himself, and we corresponded for a few years. I spoke with him by phone once, and mailed him copies of his records that he no longer had. It was a thrill to speak with the maestro, and to read the letters he sent, composed on a typewriter outfitted with a wild Olde English style typeface.

Esquivel was thrilled to know that people were rediscovering his music decades after he created it, and he gave many interviews to journalists before his death in 2002.

Every day I see this snazzy photo of Esquivel, which hangs near my drawing board.

In 1990, Nonesuch Records released The John Zorn Radio Hour, a promotional CD with the avant-jazz musician playing and commenting on music that he loved, along with many of his own recordings. 

During the program, Zorn said, "Esquivel created a beautiful pop mutation." That's the best description of his music I've encountered.

As I review my introduction and closing to this entry, I'm reminded of the way that varied interests, activities, and people in my life linked up, leading to opportunities and friendships I never could have expected. 

The great power of music is in connecting people. Jerry Weber, through his generous nature and love of music, also brought people together and made their lives richer. Genuine shared experiences are infinitely more valuable and gratifying than crass attempts to turn the paintings of a great artist into an IMAX sports-disco-rave.

Apologies for the extra-long post. I'd better get back to work making more comics!

Take care, stay warm, and listen to some music you love, or something you've never heard before.

See you next week, with a new pipe pic.





  1. I'm so sorry to read about your (and Pittsburgh's) loss. That was a beautiful tribute to Jerry Weber. Thanks for writing it. And thanks for the Esquivel track. I need to listen to more of his work.

    1. Thanks, SSteve. I appreciate the kind words.

      Happy to share the Esquivel track, too. He was a wildly inventive arranger. Ernie Kovacs used Esquivel recordings for a couple of fantastic videos.

  2. Great blog this week. And not too long either. My favorite quote in this week's blog is "Everybody knows that Vincent loved American football." Thanks also for exposing me to music I've never heard, and I can say all the music you send our way is music I've never heard. Thank, Tim

    1. Thank you, Tim! I’m so glad you enjoyed the blog, and checked out the music, too.

  3. I have 15 of Esquivel's albums, including "Merry Xmas from the Space-Age Bachelor Pad." It's the official start of the holiday season when Esquivel tells his guests in the opening track, "There is a lovely view of Venus tonight." Classic.

    1. I admire your musical taste!

  4. What a beautiful post. Mixing a eulogy to what sounds like a top record store owner to your ties to both R Crumb and Esquivel. You lead an outstanding life, thank you!

    1. Thank you, gak. I’ve been fortunate to have met or spoken to quite a few of my heroes!

  5. I'm so sorry about the passing of your friend.

    My (artist) daughter went to a Monet "immersion" and loved it. She has been trying to get me to something similar -- they seem to be "popular" in Brussels (12 miles from where we live in Belgium). So far I have successfully resisted. I like my art on the wall, in the garden, wherever it was originally intended!
    Your van Gogh comment made me laugh out loud...

  6. My wife and I went to Paris to see the Van Gogh exhibit. It was very moving, and we stayed for 3 viewings (which we were told is OK). Give it a try, you might like it. Love the comics, as per usual!

    1. Thanks so much! Glad you like the comics.

      I just read an informative article in The New Yorker about the rise of immersive exhibits, and learned that there are at least five digital van Gogh exhibitions in cities across the world: “Van Gogh Alive,” “Immersive Van Gogh,” “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience,” “Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience,” and “Imagine Van Gogh: The Immersive Exhibition.”

      [Full article:]

      Were I to attend, I'd keep an open mind, but with a minimum ticket price of $50, I'd also reserve the right to be curmudgeonly.

  7. Walt Warren8:39 PM

    I hear selections of Esquivel's music quite often on "The Retro Cocktail Hour", a weekly show of space-age pop, exotica, and spy jazz on Kansas Public Radio. RCH is hosted by Darrell Brogden from his Underground Martini Bunker--which I now wonder might be so named as an homage to Esquivel's Space-Age Bachelor Pad. I recommend checking RCH out.

    1. I’ve heard of Retro Cocktail Hour, and will seek it out. Sounds like something I’d enjoy while drawing!