Robert Donovan “Bob” Thomas RIP
July 21, 1938 – December 16, 1993
Bob Thomas designed the Grateful Dead’s iconic Steal Your Face “Skull and Lightning”/”Lightning Skull”/”Stealie”, the album covers for “Live Dead”, “Bear’s Choice – History of the Grateful Dead, vol 1” and “Steal Your Face”, the iconic Grateful Dead “Dancing Bears” (actually they were marching bears) and the Alembic logo.
He was a friend of mine from the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Agoura (southern California), Black Point in Novato (Marin county), and the Dickens’ Christmas Fair in San Francisco and Oakland.
Robert Donovan “Bob” Thomas was born in Hollywood, California on July 21st, 1938. He died on December 16, 1993 from complications from the flu and years of unrepentant drug, tobacco and alcohol (over)indulgence.
Bob Thomas was the leader of “The Golden Toad Band”, the “Raggle Taggle Gypsies”, the “Newcastle Pipe+Bowl Morris” band and The French Cheese band “Le Camembert”.
The Golden Toad Band opened for the Grateful Dead on a number of occasions, the first time was at the mysterious “Celestial Synapse” show at the Fillmore West February 19, 1969.
“I haven’t seen anything like this in years — it’s like one of the old Ken Kesey Acid Tests,” said Bob Thomas, piper of the Toad and, like the Dead, veteran of many an Acid Test, “– only it’s less hectic and confused. It’s f***ing amazing.” – Bob Thomas
The Golden Toad Band also opened for the Grateful Dead on November 1st and 2nd in 1969 at the Family Dog On The Great Highway.
“The Art of the Grateful Dead”
Bob Thomas’ art from “The Art of the Grateful Dead” exhibit at the Grateful Dead Archive (McHenry Library Special Collections) at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Bob and The Bear created the original “Steal Your Face” Skull and Lightning design.
“Steal Your Face” “Skull & Lightning” or “Lightning Skull” Design (aka the “Stealie”)
The cover art for the Grateful Dead’s 1976 album “Steal Your Face” features the “Lightning Skull” or “Skull and Lightning” logo (aka the “Stealie”). One of the band’s iconic images, it was originally designed by Bob Thomas and Owsley Stanley (aka “The Bear”) as a stencil to mark the band’s equipment cases.
Grateful Dead Album Covers:
“Live Dead” (1969),
“Bear’s Choice – History of the Grateful Dead, vol 1” (1973)
and “Steal Your Face” (1976)
“A large complement of iconography is associated with the Grateful Dead. Along with the “Skull & Roses” and dancing terrapins, perhaps the most ubiquitous are the “Lightning Skull/Stealie”, and the “Dancing Bears”, which notably made their first appearance on the front and rear covers, respectively, of this album. Designed by Bob Thomas, the latter have been incorporated into an endless array of both fan-produced and official merchandise and ephemera. Though usually referred to as the “Dancing Bears” they are, in fact, marching and not dancing. The front cover also has the first appearance of the “Good Old Grateful Dead” epithet, circling the “Lightning Skull” graphic.”
The cover art and a page from Paul Grushkin’s “Dead Letters” Book:
Bob Thomas also designed the iconic Grateful Dead “Marching Bears”
The dancing bears were drawn by Bob Thomas for the back cover of the 1973 album “Bear’s Choice – History of the Grateful Dead, vol. 1“. The bear was a tribute to Owsley Stanley, aka “The Bear”, who recorded and produced the album. The Bear himself wrote: “the bears on the album cover are not really ‘dancing’. I don’t know why people think they are; their positions are quite obviously those of a high-stepping march.”
From The Bear’s website>
From the Institute for Traditional Studies website>
From the Hooterrollin Blog>
Bob Thomas also designed the Alembic logo in 1969:
From the Alembic website>
The cloud, representing the universe
The dragon, representing wisdom, in a circle, representing infinity
The hand, representing mankind
The prism, representing focus
The rays, representing energy
The alembic, representing purity and a goal
Then tie them all together:
General: Mankind takes everything available in the universe and in an infinite search for wisdom, focuses energy into the alembic resulting in the purest goal.
Specific: Alembic utilizes all available materials and in their quest to learn, focuses their efforts in their factory and produces the purest of electric guitars and basses available.
NOTE: The Ouroboros is a symbol originally from Ancient Egyptian of a serpent or dragon eating its own tail.
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NOTE: The pictures of Bob Thomas at the Renaissance Faire and Dickens’ Fair are not our pics. They were collected over the years from friend’s posts on the interweb. If you took the pic and would like credit, send us a message. Thanks, and thanks for the memories!