by Art Chantry ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
most people who are familiar with my work think that i was the art director (or even the owner) of estrus records. but, that just ain’t so. all i ever did for dave crider (the guy who owned it with his wife bekki) was do stuff for him as a freelancer. i wasn’t the only guy doing stuff for him all that time, either. i may have done the lion’s share of estrus record covers, posters, logos, swag, etc. but i would ‘guesstimate’ that it maybe was somewhere around 60-70% of the total output. the rest of those covers and posters were done up a cast of some of the greatest underground designer/illustrators working in the world at that time. and dave crider was the real ‘art director’ behind it all. sure, it was a great collaboration, but dave had amazing great ideas and an inventive “git ‘er dun” DIY energy that allowed us to achieve the impossible on a regular basis.
of course, that really doesn’t include the various bands and band members who did their own artwork, either. bands like supercharger, the 1,4,5′s and the mummies lived an almost religious low-fi DIY lifestyle that provoked them to create amazing covers all by their lonesome. so, it was a quite a heady stew brewing in dave crider’s spare bedroom (the home offices). some of the the other names who did work for estrus records while i was working with dave are people like frank kozik, jim blanchard, coop, pete bagge, ed fotheringham, charles peterson, jamie sheehan, jacob covey, hank trotter, richard m. powers, darren merrinuck, rockin jelly bean, amy jo, tim kerr, pat moriarty, thingmaker, and even dave crider himself. yup, dave became a really hot designer while we all worked with him. the guy had an eye and he picked up the skills as everybody plowed headlong into the projects.
this little 45 cover i show you today is put together entirely by alex wald. he still worked in airbrush (one of the last few i knew who still did) and created some amazing covers for southern culture on the skids, the 5,6,7,8′s and others through dave at estrus. there were actually two 45′s that were slotted into a slip case cover – making this a ‘double’ 45 release (the slip case was designed by jamie sheehan.) estrus always loved slick little packages with smart thinking and gimmickry in them. it became the trademark of the label, in fact. dave created estrus record bcause he loved records. he wanted to release VINYL RECORDS. as CD’s came along, it was a battle to keep the vinyl alive. dave was right there in the front of the pack, still releasing vinyl to this very day.
you recognized a snappy estrus release the moment you laid eyes on it – a ‘good housekeeping seal of approval.” the same attitude went into the music released. it was a specific taste (dave’s taste) , but the very best within the framework of that taste. if you liked garage/surf/hotrod/trash/pop/rockabilly/punk/guitar/rock played with relentless style and energy, this was the label for you. they didn’t release any bad records, period (so long as you had the same taste.)
the band “the galaxy trio’ hailed originally from portland, oregon. they were a trio (of course) that played really really intense instrumental surf music (no lyrics). try to imagine ‘the wipers’ playing surf guitar rock and maybe you’ll begin to understand this band a little. jim crabbe, the guitarist in the band, was an intensely obsessive perfectionist, spending hours recording exactly the sound he desired. the result was that i don’t think they ever released a full LP, but several 10″ EP’s and a number of singles. none of it has ever been re-issued, but it deserves notice (as most estrus bands do). they were extraordinary and beyond intense. listening to the galaxy trio was to be dragged into another darker whirling place. most of the estrus label bands had intensity as a trademark – even the goofier bands with “schtick” would eventually get tired of the pretense and turn into a kick-ass rock band in front of your eyes. these estrus bands were among the very best live bands i’ve ever seen perform. and i’ve seen an awful lot of rock bands perform over the last 45 years.
if you ever get a chance to check out estrus releases, do so. none of them are disappointments. they’re hard to find, having been issued in small editions originally. dave has only recently begun any re-issues (and only then, specific bands still with followings.) the estrus catalog is further complicated by loss. there was a warehouse fire in the mid 1990′s that seriously removed inventory from distribution – which was slim even in the best of times) . many of these old estrus releases are so rare now that even dave crider doesn’t have any copies. his own personal “owner’s stash” got burned to smoldering bubbling ashes in the fire. it’s amazing how well vinyl burns…
AC:dave also lost all his vintage instruments, his personal record collection, his other collections – including complete runs of mad, famous monsters, and virtually every 1950′s girlie mag. i mean, and that was still the tip of an iceberg. all the master tapes and original artwork and other people’s product from their catalog sales – it was really bad. they never really fully recovered from that. but, it’s all an old ghost story now. long time ago. best leave it there….same goes for a lot of these names. and there’s even more names that should be added, too (this is just off the top of my head.) for instance, coop sort of got started at estrus too. he did his very first ‘monster in a hot rod’ image for dave. after that, it was superstar time….so many of these estrus bands have moved on to new lives by now. but, they were the seed for this entire new wave of ‘garage bands’ you hear on all those commercials. estrus was the trail blazer label for that current sound. it was always a surprise that jack white became the big star from that early scene. he was always just another guy in that circle. never consider ‘the best’ by a looooong shot. but the stars lined up for him. came as a surprise to everybody….