James Flora (1914-1998), a graduate of the Academy of Cincinnati (1935-1939), was hired by Columbia Records, owned by CBS, in 1942 to work in their art department, where Alex Steinweiss held sway. ‘Jim’ Flora had submitted his ideas to spice up the dull covers, which were displayed in stores with only the spine on view. Flora’s works changed the way records were marketed. He went on to work as the label’s Advertising Manager. In 1947 Flora designed his first album cover. But by 1950, fed up with his “desk job”, he quit. After a period in Mexico, Flora returned to the US, where he worked on graphics and illustrations for leading magazines – Fortune, Newsweek, Life, Look, Holiday, The New York Times Magazine and Sports Illustrated – wrote children’s books and designed album covers for RCA Victor. His zany covers fizz with lighthearted energy, full of cockeyed instruments and angular faces, the pictures vivid, curious, diabolic and, like the best jazz, find a mesmeric order amid the mayhem.
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