Album Cover Art Wednesday: Way Out West

Other than the opening track being Johnny Mercer’s I’m An Old Cowhand, I have no idea why photographer William Claxton had Jazz sax great Sonny Rollins pose in cowboy mufti. Sonny *was* something of a musical gunslinger. Otherwise the cover of this 1957 album makes no sense whatsoever. Of course, some of the best and worst things in life make no sense.

Here’s the whole damn album:

4 thoughts on “Album Cover Art Wednesday: Way Out West

  1. M. Bouffant says:

    Synchronicity: I was looking for “I’m an Old Cowhand” over the wknd. (Music post somewhere.) & YouTube gave me this. Ray Brown & Shelly Manne, too.

    Why no gun in the holster ‘though?

  2. Tad Shull says:

    Rollins is in Western garb because Rollins wanted it to be. When he was growing up he loved the black cowboy film genre exemplified by Bronze Buckaroo (and Ellington vocalist) Herb Jeffries. There is ample precedent in the real history of the Old West, by the way, since many actual cowboys were of African descent. It was simply erased by Hollywood later on. In addition, Claxton did not choose the Western themed titles of the recorded tracks nor play on them–Rollins did.

    • Peter Adrastos Athas says:

      Thanks for the info about Sonny’s love of black cowboys. I never said Claxton had any role in selecting the music.

      • Tad Shull says:

        True! But you said you had no idea why Claxton chose this theme or garb. It’s because Rollins chose it–the musician is the “auteur” here. Cover photos are usually shot after the recording date, in my experience.

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