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Who was Joe Ephgrave?

BritFlorida loves to track down historical stories, especially scandals and mysteries from the UK.


The art of Joe Ephgrave: Did he really exist?

I recently wrote about Klaus Voorman and suggested that although many readers didn't recognise the name, they would definitely recognise his work. And the artwork of Joe Ephgrave is the same - I can almost guarantee that you know his most famous work.

You might even have it in your own home. But unlike Voorman, there is a definite air of mystery surrounding this artist.

Despite the fact that he once worked with undisputed greats, there is very little information available about him. This has led people to wonder - did he really exist or was his name an invented one and part of a huge conspiracy?

What was the famous work he created? The clue is in the image above. Can you see it?If not, scroll down to see his work.

Images from Wikimedia Commons. The image above is from Wikipedia & artworked by me.


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

This shows a portion of the album cover designed by British artist, Sir Peter Blake.

The artwork on the drum - the Victorian styled lettering - is attributed to Joe Ephgrave.Joe, or so conventional wisdom tells us, was a 'well-known' fairground and circus artist.

Looking at the style of the drum skin, you can see the influences.It's said that he created two. Certainly both John Lennon and Paul McCartney have both been photographed in their homes with this artwork on the walls in the background.

Blake's co-creator of the album cover was his then wife, Jann Haworth. In an interview, she recalled that she was the one who employed Ephgrave as she had used his work before.

So who was he?


No-one knows.There is one site on the internet - see above - that claims that his real name wasn't Joe, but Frederick, and that he was born in England in 1928.

Does the fact that a family went to Australia (during wartime) leaving behind an eleven or twelve year old boy ring true to you?

Does any of it?

The article (the section above is just an extract) was written by Lennie Payne. I'm assuming that this is the British artist who creates his artwork using toast.


The Paul McCartney conspiracy theory

The Sgt Pepper's album coincided with a huge rumour (started in the States evidently) that Paul McCartney was dead.

There are literally hundreds of items of 'proof' and the drum skin is one of them.

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The fact that no-one knew anything about the supposed artist added fuel to the fire. If a mirror is placed in the centre of the words in the middle of the drum skin, it's possible to read '1 ONE lX HE <> DIE'. (The <> represents a diamond shape formed by the letter A and points upwards directly at Paul.)The first part is translated as '11 lX' or '11 9'.

Theorists speculate that it was on this date that Paul died. They argue about that too depending on whether they are looking from an American or British point of view. (The two countries write dates in different ways).

This means that they believe that Paul died on either November 9th (American) or September 11th (British).They expand on this theory by saying that the artist's name is obviously faked and is amalgam of 'epitaph' and 'grave'.


  • Is the artwork really in a fairground style? Look closely. It seems to be strongly influenced by the then-popular psychedelic look more than the traditional travelling show style.
  • Why was nothing more ever heard from the artist? One of the two drum skins was sold at Christie's auction house in 2008. The price was over one million dollars. (It's said that the purchaser was Paul - or the doppelganger who supposedly took his place). Why did no journalists seek out Ephgrave or his family for comment?
  • Did Blake and Haworth really have to employ someone to produce what is - frankly - mediocre work? Blake reportedly said that his fee for the cover was a mere £200. Why cut into that rather meagre profit to employ an artist? The work isn't truly brilliant. Blake and his wife were both artists, as were John Lennon and Paul McCartney - couldn't one of them have created it quickly and easily enough? The lettering in particular is pretty amateur - click here to see fairground art.
  • Was the artist's name Joe, as every internet mention says, or was it Frederick as speculated above? The one thing that made me suspect that Joe Ephgrave was a fake name is that I couldn't imagine parents naming a child Joseph Ephgrave - eph eph?
  • On two websites,I found a lady whose last name is Ephgrave who says that Joe was her grandfather. She indicated that her mother and grandmother often spoke about Joe's work on the album and that they use to have (and lost) the 'blueprints' for the drum skin. Fairground artists tend to work freehand and not from 'blueprints'.
  • Maybe this is just me being materialistic but Joe's artwork was supposedly on an album that was a top seller and has been since it was made. Why hadn't he - or his family - ever tried to capitalise on that? I understand that once a fee has been paid then the copyright of the image more than likely went to the Apple Corporation but that doesn't explain Joe's failure to capitalise on it.

But my big question is...

Where's the apostrophe?

This has absolutely nothing to do with the conspiracy theory but where on earth is the apostrophe? If Joe Ephgrave was such a well-known artist (who had worked for Jann Haworth previously) then why on earth did he miss out the apostrophe in 'Pepper's'?

Why did no-one else notice? Or is it just me being pedantic again....

Man of mystery


The genealogy sites I visited shed no light on 'Frederick Ephgrave born in 1928 near Slough'. (Slough is in Berkshire, not Norfolk or Kent). I've done a lot of work on my own family history (and others) over the last fifteen years or so and it's very unusual to find absolutely no references at all to a real person.

Further reading

The first thing I did when I heard the preposterous theory about Paul McCartney and the connection with the drum skin was to drag out my copy of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Did the cover of yours fall apart too? The album is still available online

Study your own copy

© 2014 Jackie Jackson

What do you think?

Kenneth Irked on November 02, 2017:

Then why hasn't he come forward ? Ms Haworth and Ms Priest are suspect, no offence intended. There is a very good reason why the cover story exists and the lack of an apostrophe plays into it. Lay a mirror diagonally from the upper left hand corner to the lower right hand corner to see what I'm referencing (reflecting the diagonal half showing the new Beatles doubled; the drum skin now becomes the symbol of the Thelemic Order of the Golden Dawn/OTO complete with dove and chalice)

Why not just come clean ? It's been 50 years after all:)

Donna Priest on July 27, 2017:

There are plenty of people in the fairground business that remember him. Bob Rawlins for instance, and the Bottons of Norfolk. He was a fairground painter who painted the horses on the ride that was used in Half A Sixpence and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. And he didn't encode any message in the Sgt Pepper drum btw.

Charlie X on July 09, 2017:

It had to be Nov 9 and not Sept 11 because on the back cover Harrison is pointing to the time of the car accident 'Wed morning at 5 O clock as the day begins'...Nov 9 1966 was a Wednesday. Sep 11 was a Sunday

jann haworth on June 02, 2017:

I was the co-designer for the cover and commissioned Joe to do the drum. He was real - was a fairground painter and a friend. He did two wardrobes for me one for me and one for my Mom. He also did the painting on the round-a- bout in the Film Half a Sixpence.

Jake on February 21, 2017:

The bass drum on Sgt. Pepper--the only artwork ever attributed to Ephgrave--is the epitaph for a grave. Famously, if you hold a mirror to the middle of the drum, a la Aleister Crowley, the epitaph is revealed (I ONE I X - HE DIE).

This has been taken up by the Paul is Dead conspiracy, to which I do not belong. But whatever buffoonery these lads were up to, or put up to by command of the grand wazoo, it is safe to say that Joe Ephgrave is just another clue to ever evolving code that works its way through Beatles lore and out across the grand design of western culture.

More recently, an epitaph for Lewis Carroll was unveiled in Westminster Abbey bearing a similarity to Ephgrave's bass drum. It is all part of a great scavenger hunt being built over generations by powerful master encoders. Now we are pointed to the epitaph of the grave, where is written "Where I am, there also my servant shall be."

Now what past masters are known for their love of code? Great googly moogly, son of Jabberwocky! Ask the black and white knights; the master has passed but the apprentice still lives. Another brick in the Temple of Solomon. Another waymarker down the left-hand path.

What prize lies at the end of the yellowbrick road? What monolith awaits? A portal through the dawn of the two pillars, or a single bullet through the back of the head? Your guess is as good as mind.

KEITH NICHOLS on August 26, 2015:

Joe Ephgrave was a real person ,and a close personal friend of mine,and have written a lot about him in 2 books that l have written on my life as a fairground showman,his wife is still with us ,and the whole family and frinds were really upset to read that he did not exist or was a real person.

Rebecca ephgrave on April 08, 2015:

Ohh one more thing, it's great to see you found the record of birth. He is the top one. None of us knew he was originally from norfolk?this could be in reference to him dying in Great Yarmouth? My nan met him in hanworth (nearish to Slough) when she was just 16 they married very quickly (he was around 7-8yrs her senior). As far as she knew he was from Slough area when they met but he was a 'travelling' showman, this is a nomadic group usually with a base for just a couple of months of the year, the rest of the time was spent travelling with the fair. I believe the travelling family were called the 'Beeches' or some ear spelling.

Rebecca ephgrave on April 08, 2015:

Now to answer your questions:

1.Is the artwork really in a fairground style? It's the style of a fair ground artist,this was a commissioned piece so there would have been a brief. If you speak to the travelling community or do some research into fairground art you will see the diversity from group to group. If you watch Chitty Chitty Bang Bang you will see my granddad (Joe ephgrave) stood next to some gallipers he painted in the fairground scene.

Why was nothing more ever heard from the artist? Probably because he want really seen as the important part of the sale, ask the papers why they didn't contact him. Ps Paul dosent own it... It's in America.

Your comment - mediocre work? That my dear is your opinion, but it remains an icon. I don't really understand this point of your question.

Was the artist's name Joe? - as I already mentioned you really should do better research, you will see that I wrote his name was really Frederick but Joe was his fairground Nick name.

On two websites,I found a lady whose last name is Ephgrave who says that Joe was her grandfather. - congratulations your found me again... Still trying to inform people who refuse to listen that Joe was real.

Fairground artists tend to work freehand and not from 'blueprints'. - how many fairground artists do you know from this era? Just wondering where your expertise come from? Blue prints/ designs/ sketches, you pick, point being there were several versions. Stop picking things apart just to fit your silly story.

Maybe this is just me being materialistic but Joe's artwork was supposedly on an album that was a top seller and has been since it was made. Why hadn't he - or his family - ever tried to capitalise on that. - for a start Joe is no longer of this world he passed away several years ago of a brain tumour. if you know a good lawyer who can get me some of the money I'd be happy to investigate. Like wise if anyone out there who is willing to learn the truth you are welcome to message me, I'm easy to find on the Internet, I have my own paper art company. I don't want money to tell you the truth, I just want it to be accepted and for a fitting tribute to his career rather than the rubbish about the name being made up.

Rebecca ephgrave on April 08, 2015:

Do your reseach! I am joe ephgraves granddaughter.

He existed. He painted the drum skin and several other versions.

Sorry guys, conspiracy debunked, I am living proof.

Dale Nichols on January 07, 2015:

What a load bull!!!! My dad knew Joe very well! He even made and painted a wooden Steam Lorry for me as a child. The reason he got the name Joe is because his workmates either at Pinewood Studio or when doing work for the well known Showmans artist hall and fowle. he got splashes of paint all over his overalls and they teased and gave him the nickname "Joe the man with the amazing technicolour coat" for which "Joe" stuck. Dad has plenty of info and pictures of Joe in his book. (which can be obtained here)

Why was nothing else heard from the artist? Because he was doing a lot of work for the Great Yarmouth Pleasure beach Painting the Gallopers. Regards not cashing in... At the time Joe was quite satisfied with the then payment. (around £200 in 1967 which was quite a lot back then).

Many people don't know that he got paid twice for it. The reason being that his cheque was so long coming, that when a second one came for the same amount he didn't bother querying it because his money owed was sitting so long in their bank making money for them, when it should have been in his pocket. Therefore he kept quiet.

My dad sat with Joes wife right upto the time he died.

Joe had plenty of work including some of the scenery for the Carry On films. He was also an extra in Chitty chitty bang bang being asked after he painted the Gallopers for the film.

Hope this cleared everything up. :)

Keith Nichols on January 02, 2015:

Joe was a very good friend of mine for many years.He inheritd the nickname Joe while working at Pinewood Studios or while carrying out work for Hall & fowle (Famous showmans artists).

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on March 03, 2014:

@Elsie Hagley: If you ever look into the Paul is dead conspiracy, the name will crop up. Thanks for dropping by!

Elsie Hagley from New Zealand on March 03, 2014:

Interesting, but sorry no I haven't heard of Joe Ephgrave, until I read this article. When I see that name again I may remember what you have said here. Thanks.

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on March 02, 2014:

@Merrci: I think that we'll probably know the truth eventually. Very interesting though! I'm certainly not convinced by the conspiracy theory - especially the really vague 'clues' - but there is so much on the internet about it that it certainly makes me think!

Merry Citarella from Oregon's Southern Coast on March 02, 2014:

I remember the controversy, but Paul sure looks like Paul. Maybe in 50 years there will be a huge revelation! Fun lens with interesting facts. Thanks for sharing.

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