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  • Writer's pictureMark Lawhorne

"Under The Covers" Exploring the Life and Career of Legendary Album Cover Designer Ernie Cefalu

Updated: Jan 5, 2023

After interviewing our Episode 28 guest Ernie Cefalu and learning more about his life and career in the advertising world, we decided to undertake a mini series project. Part 1 explores his childhood and young adult influences that led him down the road to becoming one of the most prolific album cover designers in music history. Ernie started down the traditional road in advertising, but his career turned into anything but ordinary, as he became a friend to some of the most famous musicians in the industry.

Like Ernie, we at Mn'B are diverting from our traditional path and exploring "Beyond" the music. We are excited to bring you this story and hope you enjoy learning about Ernie and how some of the most iconic logos and album covers came to life.

Ernie Cefalu, from San Jose, California, began as a promising art student at a very young age. It was apparent to his parents and teachers that he needed to cultivate this talent and so they kept him on a path where he could excel as an artist.

In elementary school Sister Mary Lucy met with his parents and insisted that they find a way to encourage his pursuit of the arts and allow his natural talents to flourish.

As Ernie tells it, Sister Mary Lucy had a profound impact on his life and was a life long supporter!

He attended a small Fine Arts College in Oakland and had his mind set on working on Madison Avenue in New York. At the time (1960s) NY was the mecca of the adverting world and that was Ernie's dream. In order to create a portfolio that looked professional and represented real work, he entered a contest where the City of San Pablo was looking for a new logo and branding. Two thousand artists submitted their ideas and Ernie was selected as the winner.

It was was his first paying job, he collected $500 and it was his first professional piece to be added to his portfolio. In a very short period of time he found himself in NY interviewing for jobs. For the first time in his life Ernie was finding it difficult and the filed of other candidates very competitive. He was beginning to get discouraged and was ready to move back home, nut for the sage words of his then girlfriend Bonnie.

Bonnie told him if he was ready to quit so easily then she would not be waiting for him back home. She wanted a life with someone who not not run so easily from adversity. He was in love and didn't want to lose her, so he persevered. Ultimately landing his a role in an advertising agency on Madison Avenue.

As they say, timing is everything and for Ernie that was especially true. He firmly believes that as talented as he is as an artist timing played an equally important part in his success. He would soon see how timing and his new role would set the next chapter of his career firmly in place and in the history books.

Make sure you tune into podcast Part 1 of "Under the Covers" with Ernie Cefalu at or watch the video below. In Part 2 we will learn more about Ernie's life and career and find out just how much 'timing' played a part in his drawing his was into rock n' roll history.

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