Melvin Crair was born August 17, 1923 in Brooklyn, NY. His father was Israel Crair, a skilled worker at the Sherwell Clothing Company, who was born in Russia in 1893 and immigrated in 1915. His mother, Esther Crair, was born in NYC in 1900. They were married on November 1, 1918. They had two children. His older sister Dina was born in 1919. They lived at 2870 West 29th Street in Brooklyn.
He grew up as a friend and neighbor of Stanley Borack and Herb Rogoff. They all attended elementary school together, as well as the LaGuardia High School of Music & Art. After graduation in June of 1941 he worked as a general industry clerk.
During WWII he was drafted into the Army and reported for enlistment on February 20, 1943, at which time he was recorded to be five-foot six and to weigh 151 pounds and to be single.
After the war he attended the Art Students League of New York on the G.I. Bill.
His first published illustrations were painted covers for some of the last pulp magazines from the 1950s, such as Exciting Western, Giant Western, Texas Western, Thrilling Western, West, and Western Short Stories.
In 1953 he married his wife, Shirley J. Crair, who was born in NYC on November 19, 1926. They lived at 1439 East 84th Street in Brooklyn, where they raised two children, Stacy and Lisa.
He became an important cover artist in the paperback book industry. He worked for Pyramid, Berkeley, Pocketbooks, Signet, Bantam, and Dell Paperbacks.
He also worked as an illustrator for slick magazines, such as Popular Science and Newsweek magazine.
In the 1960s and 1970s he painted covers and interior black and white story illustrations for men's adventure magazines, such as Man's Magazine, Men, and Blue Book Magazine. He painted portraits of Lyndon B. Johnson, John Glenn, Mark Twain, and Charles Lindbergh for biographical articles in several of these magazines.
He also painted Hollywood movie posters for MGM.
He contunied to paint covers for paperback books for the remainder of his life. He never retired.
Mel Crair died on August 16, 2007, one day before his eighty-fourth birthday.
© David Saunders 2009