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How did those album covers get on the ceiling at 'Howiee's?'

When David Hawkins opened his restaurant and bar on Medford's Front Street in 1993, he decorated the ceiling with dozens of album covers and adorned the walls with rock group posters.

As patrons began visiting Howiee's on Front — Howiee has been Hawkins' nickname since childhood — they began offering their own album covers, posters and decorative items from music artists.

Now, 14 years later, the popular Medford nightclub boasts hundreds of the placards.

Many of the concert posters are from rock groups that appeared at the Medford Armory, Miles Field or the Jackson County Expo in the 1970s: America, Bob Dylan, Blue Oyster Cult, Black Oak Arkansas, Seals & Croft, Styx, Rush, The Marshall Tucker Band, Atlanta Rhythm Section, J. Geils Band, The Charlie Daniels Band, Uriah Heep and REO Speedwagon.

In the back, adjacent to a pool table, is a black and white poster of Neil Diamond that announces his appearance at Ashland High School on Oct. 24, 1968. Tickets are $3 for general admission and $4 for reserved.

"I had gathered a lot of this stuff myself, but most of it has come from my customers," says Hawkins.

Hawkins, 52, was born and raised in Ohio and spent 17 years in Los Angeles before settling in Medford in 1993. "I've bought a few of the items, but most people have just given them to me."

Hawkins is especially proud of a 4-foot wide Grateful Dead poster and a 6-foot long poster of Jim Morrison, frontman for The Doors — both are encased in glass — that a female acquaintance handed him a few years ago.

"Her dad was an old biker and she was cleaning out his garage," Hawkins says. "Rather than throw them away, she thought of us."

Hawkins also has tacked up several New York Times newspaper clippings trumpeting the 1969 Woodstock concert.

Two years ago, Hawkins expanded his establishment to include a no-smoking section. An entire wall of the new section hosts nothing except bricks. But don't worry, Hawkins has plenty of posters in storage, including ones pulled out of theatre windows advertising motion pictures.

"We're pretty busy around here and so it's a slow process decking out the open areas," says Hawkins, who also plans to lower the ceiling album covers and put lighting behind them. "But my framer is getting rich."

The ceiling of Howie's on Medford's Front Street has been covered with album covers for the past 18 years... owner says he plans to remodel soon! ROY MUSITELLI PHOTO/3-7-07