« Speaking of winners, I’ve got Zwellyn Zablow of 11 West Second Street in Freeport, New York, who saw me at the Rockefeller Center dance. I want you to check in at Murray Hill 85-700. Anyway, MU-700 within the next ten minutes… »
Now then, here’s part two of our exclusive conversation with Mr. Mike Royer, picking up the thread from where we left off in Part One.
Michael Royer: Richard, you asked « How were you selected? » Well, I’d been working with Paul, and apparently he liked what I did on the Mormon history slides, so he asked me if I would do the ‘final art’ and all the research and everything on the covers, and the last time I saw Paul, before the second batch, that started with The Cruisin’ Years, that had the tickets on the table, and the picture of… I don’t know if it was Eddie in uniform or not… but whatever, that was when Howard Silver of Increase Records decided to do more for the line. And continue the series.
MR: And from that point on, all of the writing, and all the ideas, were totally mine.
WOT: I figured it would happen at some point…
MR: I think the ideas might have been a collaboration between Jacobs and Gruwell, but one of the reasons Howard Silver asked me « Do we need to contact Paul Gruwell? », and I said « Nope, you have no reason in the world to contact Paul. »
WOT: Cut out the middleman!
MR: I’m the guy who Paul used to introduce at parties as « This is the man who *inked* my Cruisin’ covers. »
WOT: Oh, boy. Okay.
MR: “Up yours, pal!”
WOT: Oh, this is gold, thank you!
MR: So I said « We don’t need him! », you know, and so all the rest of the albums after that were mine. And there are two covers that were done for a packaging, done for big box stores, that would have had either two or six cds in a tall case…
WOT: I remember those. ‘Longboxes’, shoplifting deterrents of the early cd era.
MR: … and one of them, Eddie is saying « We’ll be late for something at the theater » and Peg is saying « … but, but, the Beatles are on Ed Sullivan tonight! » So they were done to fit in the chronology of the covers. When he said « I’d like to start over with 1968 », and I said, « Well, I don’t wanna do the Woodstock. »
MR: « I don’t want Peg to have a kid from her serviceman, who obviously… died in service. »
MR: So I, and you’ve probably seen it, the cover is in front of a theater showing 2001: A Space Odyssey. Eddie discovers Peg there, as one of the Vietnam Widows for Peace. So now we know what happened to the serviceman that she ultimately married.
MR: ’cause I think, uh, the shot of Eddie and the musician with the beard…
WOT: Luthor, yes.
MR: … in college, and he’s got a newspaper clipping taped to his lamp that says « Peg marries… » somebody.
WOT: « Kevin Buchanan III » … he appears to be a society boy.
MR: I don’t know if you have all of them…
WOT: As far as I know.
MR: And of course, I continued, on all of the covers, to introduce a little bit… of tension.
WOT: Do tell.
MR: ’cause there’s some in every cover, sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s overt. But I believe I did through… what year is the Kent State thing?
WOT: Let’s see… 1970. Eddie’s talking with his boss about it.
MR: Peg says « That’s okay, because Mike wants to give me another tennis lesson. »
WOT: Well, another “lesson”, at any rate. Whether it’s tennis remains to be seen. She’s got the racket, but…
MR: So… I can say all those new covers were made… the one previous to that is where they’re at Niagara Falls, and he’s talking about things could happen at his firm, and she’s saying « But Eddie, *I* might want a career! » And I enjoyed doing that cover, because I just wanted to do her standing there at the little motel sink in her slip.
MR: … and of course, being male and having to draw female forms, I made sure that her skirt was blowing in the wind… and in her little tennis outfit in the next year.
MR: We did, uh, let’s see: there was The Cruisin’ Years, which re-established the whole series. And then, starting with ’68 through ’70.
Waitaminit, that’s only three years.
WOT: Many years later, you did Cruisin’ With Porky Chedwick in ’94, I think.
MR: Okay, I did two ‘Cruisin’ With‘… the second one, I guess it was never published…
WOT: Ah, right.
MR: … or produced, or released. And it was just another… let’s see: Porky Chedwick has got her in a poodle skirt and they’re dancing, right?
WOT: Yeah, that’s it.
MR: Okay, the next one was outside on a city street, and in the brick building behind them you see the silhouette of a disc jockey, and the broadcast booth at a radio station, I think the sign is on the roof. And Peg is protesting something. She’s got a banner, and Eddie and she are arguing about something. Ah, I only have a copy of my rough on that, or my comp. And of course there’s more detail on her than on him. I enjoyed drawing her. That last ‘Cruisin’ With’ I thought was much better than the first one I did, for cover art.
WOT: (laughs) exactly.
WOT: Is Cruisin’ a frequently-evoked topic by your fans?
MR: Every once in a while, it’s funny… for years, once in a blue moon, somebody would say something about Cruisin’. But I was in Charlotte, just… less than two weeks ago.
MR: … and I swear, a dozen or more people talked to me about the Cruisin’ covers at my table. Maybe that’s because there’s a new series of Cruisin’ albums… with art that I don’t like.
WOT: Oh, I don’t like it either: it looks like, and likely is, clip art.
MR: I don’t know who’s producing it. I don’t think it’s Howard Silver.
WOT: It’s called “The Cruisin’ Story“, it’s out of England, and it’s just a series of run-of-the-mill compilations, without the defining radio program concept.
MR: Howard Silver ran Increase Records. I don’t know if he bought out Increase and that was [Ron] Jacobs’ company or not. He’s in Hawaii now, last I heard. Jacobs [Indeed he was, but Mr. Jacobs passed away in 2016].
Our interview concludes in Part Three!