Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ted Nugent turns 60

Today Ted Nugent turns 60. WhodaTHUNKit?
I went to this show unprepared for the level of noise, the loudest show I think I ever saw. When he came on, it was from a rope swinging in high from offstage and wearing only a loin cloth.  He was a wildman and put on a great show. 
Never would have guessed then that he was such a right leaning gun nut.

Happy Birthday Ted. I know he's a proud member of the NRA. Is he now also a member of the AARP?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cab Callaway

Cab Callaway-American Original! 

A few years ago, I was cruising along the sidewalks of North Beach in Miami when I walked by a curb-parked convertible Caddy with some guys in it. At first, I thought they kinda looked a bit like mafia muscle. Then I noticed the one older guy in the back, grinning with a full set of shiny whites and instantly recognized him, Cab Callaway, one of America's premier Big Band leaders, Jazz performers and Scat singers (he supposedly learned scat singing from Louis Armstrong). Since he was there, smiling and relaxed (and his fellow passengers didn't appear armed) I thought he wouldn't mind a shot or two. I just leaned in and shot. He seemed to be having a  ball too.

Callaway first came to prominence in the 1930's with greats like Dizzy Gillespie in his band. That band was a semi-official co-host of the Cotton Club with Duke Ellington's band.

I guess I knew his famous face from too many viewings of the 1980 movie The Blues Brothers. In that movie he performs Minnie the Moocher, his most well known song, one he performed for the Betty Boop cartoons. Callaway made many appearances later in his life including Sesame Street, Wrestlemania, Janet Jackson videos and other movies and stage productions. Winner of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, he passed away 14 years ago last week.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Leon Redbone 1980

Seeing Leon Redbone in 1980 was a trip...both in strangeness and that it was a trip to the distant past in American music. Redbone is a man of mystery who shrouds his identity behind false information. Few, if any, know who he really is. Anyone who's paid attention knows he's a master of real 'root's' music, from Tin Pan Alley to 20's jazz and minstrel shows. With his deep voice and unique style, his music is immediately identifiable.

The best moment of the show for me was when my friend and writer Denny Angelle interviewed him back stage. Let me let Denny tell you the story from his blog It's a super music blog.

Denny's Story...
One guy from the 1970s who seems to be unfairly forgotten is Leon Redbone. One could make a strong case that a large part of his current anonymity is his own fault - after all, when he was “hot” Leon made it very hard to know anything about him. We saw Leon in Beaumont, Texas, in the late 1970s … he skulked backstage and we went in a few minutes later to do an interview.

Although he was cordial and polite, Leon didn’t have much to say - at least anything we could understand. He muttered incomprehensible answers to our questions, talking about Romanian comic books and arcane musical styles. He did mention that one of his influences was Emmitt Miller, a minstrel show performer of the 1920s who often performed his songs in blackface. Onstage, Redbone was great: he is an expert guitar player, and at one point he performed an intricate piece with a handkerchief draped over the frets of his guitar. Always a polite young man (we think he was young), he tipped his hat to the audience and sought out friendly faces with a flashlight. He sings, he plays, and he does trumpet sounds with his mouth - and he’s done about 15 albums this way.

Redbone skulked onto the scene in 1975 with On The Track, a pretty good album from Warner Bros. with artwork featuring that company’s smart-ass singing and dancing frog (there was no WB television network back then, just that one cartoon with the frog). Over the years Redbone has appeared on TV shows and commercials, puts out albums sporadically and continues to perform in small venues. He’s as mysterious now as he was back then, and I guess that is the way he likes it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Stevie Ray Vaughan 1983

Not many of my friends were that familiar with Stevie Ray Vaughan when I photographed him playing in 1983. He was still known more as a white blues guitarist from Texas, not as the great fluid sparkling electric superstar he'd become before he died. But when I went to shoot him, my music wordsmith and concert partner-in-crime-friend Kelley Bass knew very well who he was. We were both jazzed, even if it was a show at the old barn-like Hall of Industry at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds in Little Rock.

I'd seen Stevie Ray's brother Jimmy Lee Vaughan (see my earlier post) play many times in Austin with his band the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Through that exposure I learned of Stevie Ray before the world at large. But it was 1983 and the peak of MTV's influence on the charts and the tastes of music fans. So, great as his fan's knew him to be, he was relegated to opening for The Call. Their album "modern romans' was on the charts and heavy rotation at MTV with the song "When The Walls Came Down".

Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble were about to launch large, partly because of the about-to-be-released David Bowie album "Let's Dance". Stevie Ray did much of the searing guitar work on that release to great critical aclaim.

Meanwhile, in the Hall Of Industry, an old metal butler building with crummy sound, about 150 people gathered for the show. Thinking back, I can't decide if the crowd was there more for Stevie Ray or The Call. Stage Lighting was nearly non-existant. The stage itself rose only about 18 inches off the festival seating floor. With no chairs, everyone there just crowded up against the lip of the stage. I imagine most of the crowd wasn't more than ten or fifteen feet from SRV. Anyone who didn't know who he was quickly realized they were seeing something special.Stevie Ray and the band just walked out, picked up their instruments and started. SRV was wearing a pair of jeans, black sleeveless T-Shirt, boots and a great black hat with a band of silver medallions. He blazed, playing behind his head, behind his back, with his teeth, even on his back. He was working so hard he must have lost 10 pounds by the end of the set. Most of us could reach out and just touch him... or could have if our dropped jaws hadn't been in the way.

I was shooting with kodak Tri-X 400 ISO black and white film with a Nikon F2 and FM2. I would guess my lenses were a 24mm 2.8 and a 85mm 1.8. I was so close that the wide lenses were almost the only lens I could use yet there wasn't a way to back up.

We saw something that night that those before us probably knew but was a revelation that night in Little Rock. I was impressed that The Call even came out, let alone gave such a great performance as well. Lead Singer Michael Been was a class act..and brave to follow SRV. I did have another chance to photograph Stevie Ray shortly before his death when he played a double bill with Joe Cocker. But that's another story.

Also, there is a great Musicologist who has just published a complete Stevie Ray Vaughan chronicle. His name is Craig Hopkins and he's put a herculean effort, working with SRV's family, into documenting SRV's life and work. If you're a fan, you need that book. Order it from

Monday, July 7, 2008

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown

AFter reading this, if you would, please continue reading the second posting from my great friend Denny. He is a super writer and has often played 'Master' to my 'Grasshopper' when it comes to musical knowledge and savvy.

Many times shooting concerts, I wasn't necessarily a fan of.. or even knowledgeable about the artist on stage. "Gatemouth" Brown is a perfect example of that. The first time I photographed him was in a small dark club in Southeast Texas, not far from his home. Before the show, I thought he was 'just another' of the local cajun musicians that all seemed, to my ear, to be similar and, fun as they were, a dime a dozen. When he hit the stage and started to play, I knew I was seeing someone special. Before Nirvana, before the Pixies, he perfected the 'soft-loud' dynamic that seemed so prevalent in the 1990's rock scene. But he didn't play Rock, he played an amazing amalgam of styles, synthesizing Blues, Cajun, Country, Jazz and R&B into his own unique sound.

He once told the NY Times that he played "American Music, Texas style", refusing to call it Blues, and was scornful of musicians who let themselves be "too easily understood by settling into a single sound". He thought "Delta Blues" too negative and hearing him play live was a truly uplifting experience. He dressed for performances in a Western Shirt and Cowboy hat, playing electric guitar, fiddle, mandolin, harmonica and even drums. His first public notice came when he filled in for Texas Electric Blues great T-Bone Walker in post-war Houston. T-Bone, one of the few guitarist Gatemouth admitted liking had developed an ulcer. Brown walked on stage, picked up Walker's guitar and supposedly earned 600 bucks in 15 minutes and a record contract with Peacock Records.

Many of his early records were as close to Rock and Roll as anything being played at the time. But the influence of jazz and swing artist like Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Louis Jordan kept him from being pigeon-holed, maybe, it seems, costing him the wider-spread commercial success he might have had in a single genre of music. His own influence is spread far and wide including Lonnie Brooks, Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland, Johnny "guitar" Watson and even Frank Zappa who said Brown was his favorite guitarist of all time.

When I saw him, he played fiddle as much as guitar and the barely audible delicate notes that would creep out of his bow and fiddle would have you leaning forward to hear only to have you blasted back into your seat by the power behind the next notes. I would not have wanted to be a sound engineer on his recordings.

Some years later in Little Rock I had a chance to photograph him in another club. I found out where he was staying that day and called him in his room. I had a shot I liked of him playing fiddle, head back and fiddle held high.The shot was in black and white (see above) and probably shot on Tri-X at 400 ISO and shot with a Nikon F2 60th of a second at 2.8 on a 180mm nikor 2.8 lens. I mounted two large prints, one for him and one for me and dropped by his motel room. The motel was cheap and dingy. It was a sunny bright noontime when I arrived but in his room it was darker than the clubs he played. He was sitting on the edge of an unmade bed in a T-shirt and boxers, rolling a fat joint while a little girl slept in the second double bed. I sat in the only chair and showed him the prints. He signed one for me and liked the one I brought him. I very rarely asked for autographs. But when I did, it was only if I could have them sign one of my prints for me and I always left one for them, what I hoped was a fair exchange.

That night in the club he was joyous as always from stage, playing for the audience and probably as much for himself, for the joy it seemed to bring him. He died of cancer at 81 in 2005, not long after losing his Slidell, Louisiana home to Hurricane Katrina. If you never had a chance to hear him live, it's a true shame. Buy some of his music like 1979's album "Makin' Music" with Roy Clark, his 1982 Grammy Winner "Alright Again!" or his last release while alive, "Timeless" from 2004 and you can still experience a true 'American original'.

And Now Denny's Post

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown was one of the stars of the first Houston Juneteenth Festival in 1977. He impressed the audience there because he played blues on the guitar then picked up a fiddle and played country as pure as could be. Just like it was kind of weird to see white boys playing the blues (Fabulous Thunderbirds, Stevie Ray) even in 1977 it was equally strange to see a black guy playing stone country. Nevertheless, Gatemouth was a big blues star in Houston - he recorded for the Peacock label in the 1950s and put out some great blues sides. We saw Gatemouth at the Palace in Beaumont, a big ol' two-story wooden structure that you knew was going to burn down someday as part of an insurance settlement. Gatemouth always wore a big cowboy hat and western shirt and was proud to recall growing up in Orange, Texas, and learning to play fiddle from his father.
Gatemouth cut an album with Roy Clark of "Hee Haw" in 1979, he won a Grammy Award in 1982, and he played almost until the day he died. He died in Orange, the same town he grew up in, after evacuating his home for Hurricane Katrina in 2005. One of the last things he recorded was a song on the Los Super Seven tribute to border radio Heard It On The X. Gatemouth cut the blues standard "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean," and he went out the same way he walked the earth every day - with a lot of class.

Check out Denny's great blog in the links at upper right or at

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Jimmy Vaughan, Kim Wilson and the Fabulous Thunderbirds

This one is written by my good friend Denny Angelle. Denny and I covered music together for a number of years in South Texas, Denny with his wit and magic words and me with my camera. Hanging out with Denny is like a PHD classroom on music, so extensive is knowledge and love for it. He is also the author of a great Music blog. Please check it out in my links, it's one of the very best.

The Home Of The Blues

At the Port Arthur News in the late 1970s-1980s, we had plenty to keep us busy. But for some reason we also had a lot of time to goof off. Our editor sensed this, and he gave us a truly dismal assignment – drive to Austin and interview people who are from the Golden Triangle (Beaumont/Port Arthur) area of Southeast Texas.

It was 1980, and the first couple of expatriates were predictably boring. But one guy who ran a restaurant said, “You oughta talk to Clifford … he’s from Port Arthur.” Wha? Clifford Antone, the guy who ran the hot blues club in Austin. And the restauranteur offered to make a phone call to set it all up.

So, late in the afternoon, we found ourselves squinting in the darkness of Antone’s club and talking to a squat gentleman with unruly hair and a soft almost-Cajun accent. “Our original club, on Sixth Street, was a great success until we lost our lease,” he told us. “The owners wanted to tear down the building.”

Antone came from the Amuny family of Port Arthur, a family that owned a liquor store and other businesses in the area. Clifford grew up listening to the blues and rock on local station KOLE-AM and dreamed of one day becoming a musician himself. “That didn’t happen,” he snorted.

Antone’s in 1980 was in the northern reaches of Austin, in a suburban strip center. There were posters on the wall and foam fire retardant sprayed onto the ceiling. The funk factor in this joint was about a minus-5. But people came in, streamed in, and the band picked up their instruments.

The house band at the time was the Fabulous Thunderbirds – Jimmie Vaughan, Kim Wilson, Keith Ferguson and Mike Buck. The bluesiest bunch of white cats you have ever seen. They were road-managed by our good buddy Billy Cross (also from Port Arthur) and they had some attitude. Kim Wilson, the lead singer and harmonica player, would jive you and if you didn’t laugh, well, too damn bad. A few years later he read one of my writeups on the group and gave me some shit about saying he played the “harp.” “Who do you think I am,” he needled, “Harpo Marx?”

But they could lay down some blues – and Art was snapping away. He shot one of the best photos of any guitarist I’ve ever seen, the shot of Jimmie Vaughan, his bare toes sticking out of a cast, playing the guitar behind his head. Of course we couldn’t run the picture in a family newspaper (check the sticker on the back of his guitar) but for me it will always be a classic.

Clifford Antone died in 2006, a victim of the excesses he embraced throughout his life. But he left a giant shadow in Austin and the world – he helped begin the career of the T-Birds and Stevie Ray Vaughan, among many others, and the club that bore his name is still rockin’ and jumpin’ every night in Austin (now in a much hipper location). Art’s photos of Clifford may be lost in the files of a small Southeast Texas newspaper, but that shot of Jimmie Vaughan is the keeper – a look back at a golden age of Texas music and a moment that lit the fuse on a music that was about to be heard throughout the world.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Genesis of a Groupie-Sweet Sweet Connie

In 1973 Grand Funk Railroad officially dropped the 'Railroad' from their name and became Grand Funk. Their November album release that year "We're An American Band" was produced by Todd Rundgren and signaled a new. more commercial direction for the band. It's autobiographical title song was sung by drummer Don Brewer. Released before the album, that song became an instant, gold number one hit with it's matter-of-fact detailing of life on the road for Grand Funk.

The song's classic opening of "Out on the road for 40 days...last night in Little Rock put me in a haze. Sweet Sweet Connie doing her act. She had the whole show and that's a natural fact" made everyone who wasn't in a band wish they were just for the groupies.

If you ever wondered, Sweet Sweet Connie is real and lives in Little Rock, name checked in the song. During the 1980's while photographing concerts in Little Rock, I got to know Connie since I saw her at almost every show I went to. In the 10 and more years since the song and she'd lost a bit of her 'youthful' look. Her skin wasn't aging well and she was starting to look a bit worn and hard from the life. Still, bands then occasionally sent a jet to pick her up for a distant show. I liked Connie and would have a hard time saying anything negative about her. Yet, her lifestyle was so far from conventional, it was hard not to think negative about her sometimes. Connie was petite, dark, enthusiastic and had a quick smile.

After she became comfortable with me being at the same shows all the time, she started to open up some to me. Show after show, she promised to bring me her photo albums to show off. Finally, back stage at a Eddie Money show, she brought them. Small, square and thick with polaroids, they were a visual biography of her life as a groupie. She thumbed through them, sharing with me without shame. In fact she was proud of them and the life they portrayed and the stars she'd had. Many photos were simple group shots of her, arm and arm with the rock stars she so worshiped. Many were also of her in the act of providing her mouth and body for the stars, some with faces, many just a bit 'tighter'. At one point as we flipped through she said, "oh, I know one you HAVE to see. It's the biggest 'male part' (not the word she used) in Rock and Roll" Seeing is believing too. I mean, I haven't compared or anything but...who knew, Huey Lewis has a...uh...LARGE one. Connie knows!

Connie made her living as a substitute elementary teacher which allowed her to have time off when she needed it. She carefully kept the two worlds apart. But she also enjoyed 'partying', often to excess. Over the years she pressed me to shoot some 'photos' of her. I really didn't want to and avoided it politely. While shooting Edgar Winter and Leon Russell in concert at the Little Rock Convention Center one night, she finally got her way. I was standing directly below Edgar Winter photographing him as he played Frankenstein on his keyboard. Connie was drunk and draped on me, yanking on my clothes, trying to get me to agree to photograph her. In order to get to shoot, I agreed that if she'd let me shoot one more song, I'd meet her back stage. After i finished up, I headed "backstage". In a convention center that meant a long concrete block hallway with florescent tubes for lighting. As soon as I put on my flash in that dark hallway, she started by pulling down her top or pulling up her skirt. Since this was long before digital, I was shooting slide film, not a good formula for 'artful' shots. But there was nothing 'artful' about it. As I was shooting her, heel in the air above her head, a door opened down the hall. A gangly looking high school kid came down the hall with a cart full of food for the dressing rooms. He got about twenty feet from us, stood still and wide-eyed for a moment, swallowed his adams apple and ran back where he came from, leaving the cart of food. Fortunately, that broke up the shoot.

It's been 35 years since she became immortalized in song and I hope wherever she is, she's doing well and is happy. I am a true music fan and I know at heart, nobody was a bigger fan than Connie.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Bo Diddley - He Was a Man

Bo Diddley never got his due from the public but his influence among musicians is well acknowledged. Just ask Keith Richards about Bo. Bo Diddley's unique style was a starting point for many who followed to create their own sounds. Hendrix was extremely influenced by the sounds and tones Bo got out of his homemade guitar and that opened Hendrix up to a world of ideas of his own. His best known hits came in the 1950's and 1960's, including "I'm A Man", "Mona", and "You Can't Judge A Book By It's Cover". Go listen to U2's 'Desire' or the Stones 'Not Fade Away' and you'll hear Bo Diddley. Just about everyone in early Rock cribbed from Bo.

His death today at his home in Florida left me thinking about the time I shot him. He was like the guy that is cool because he doesn't try to be cool. I shot him in a small, dark, back alley club playing for mostly drunk frat boys in Oxford, Mississippi. He traveled with his manager, a small wiry jewish 'kid', in an old smoking beater Volvo wagon. Because he never really made any money, each place he played, he just used a pick-up band which often left him on stage teaching as much as playing. After playing that club date, he stayed overnight in a local motel. The next morning, I got to meet him for breakfast in a local cafe. Quiet and humble, he had little to say but lots to eat. He had at least three large oval platters of eggs, sausage, pancakes, biscuits and gravy and potatoes and a glass of milk. After breakfast he and his manager walked out, got in that smoking volvo, with his famed guitar in the back, and drove away to the next gig down the road. I hope he's playing a better gig tonight.

Thanks Bo.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Kiss Close

It was 1979 and I had just moved to SE Texas to work at a small newspaper. "My" entertainment writer, Denny Angelle, was glad to have a photographer who loved music and was willing to shoot concerts. Denny has been a good friend and broadened my musical mind many times since then.(see his great music blog at He asked one morning if I wanted to head over to nearby Lafayette, Louisiana to shoot Kiss at the college then known as USL. I said sure. I really didn't know Kiss then and didn't know what to expect. I wish I had been more prepared. If so, I would have spent half the night in the crowd shooting them. What an archive that would be now.

I remember the concert in the reverbrating barn known as the 'Cajun-Dome' as being dark and loud, mostly dark. I don't remember what equipment I was shooting with or much else except the moment of this photo of Gene Simmons. Amazing to me he's still performing almost 30 year later. (I saw in todays paper where Kiss was performing in Germany. There was a photo of the current lineup with Condoleeza Rice! Weird.)

I was hunkered down in the 'pit' between the crowd and the stage early in the show when Simmons wandered down to my corner and leaned over me in his macabre, maniacal face, stared straight into my lens and began flashinghis famed, long-as-a-snake tongue. And showed it off some more...and some more... I suddenly realized what was he was doing. He'd spotted the lone camera allowed in and was 'giving' me 'THE' shot of the show, stealing coverage from the others in the band. Also, he was waiting on me to let him know I had the shot. I put thumb to forefinger in the universal OK sign and off he went back across the stage. He returned two more times and repeated the shot, each time with me giving him the OK when I felt I had it. It was a glimpse of the mind of a performer, of what he's thinking of, where his mind is going while on stage. I don't remember if this one is the first or second or third time he came over but I'm sure that each time I was more prepared to shoot it. And it left me forever more aware when shooting concerts. I know 'technically' I was probably shooting on Tri-X 400 speed B&W film pushed to at least 1600 ISO since it was SO dark. It was an especially tough shot since, when he leaned over, he was backlit by the stage lights above him. I imagine I was shooting with a short fixed telephoto on a Nikon F2. And after nearly 30 years, it's still a favorite photo and moment.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Neil Diamond 1987

Over the years I've been admittedly a music snob when it comes to certain artists,ometimes justified...Christopher Cross, Air Supply, you know... One person I never appreciated was Neil Diamond. But in his case time proved my attitude unjustified. It is amazing for someone who wasn't a fan, I can sing so many of his hits. The "Jewish Elvis" as he was once known has proven a time-tested great singer and songwriter. Solitary Man, I'm a Believer, Cherry Cherry...lots of great song writing there; over 40 top-40 hits. He should get his due and be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame sometime in the next few years.

But when I went to photograph him in concert in May 1987, 21 years ago, I wasn't a fan and I wasn't when I left either. In fact, I liked him even less because of how 'restrictive' his imposed photography limitations were. Unlike most shows where I showed up, shot three songs from the pit and left, his was different. I was 'required' to meet my 'handler' at the box office at the end of the first song. The show was ' in-the-round'. My "handler" then escorted me halfway down the isle (equidistant from the front and back and a long way from the stage) where I was required to kneel on one knee at the end of a row. I was 'allowed' to shoot 'one song only' from that spot while the 'handler' stood over me. I guess they had to be at the ready in case I bolted for the stage or something. When my one song ended (I wish I could remember what that song was) I was escorted back out the front door of the arena. Walking out, it was amazing to see the faces of all his fans, mostly women, looking with total adoration back to the stage.

He's got a new album out and still performs to legions of loving fans even though at 67 his voice is a weak imitation of the power he once had. Still, his true power is his song writing, his ability to create songs that people want, in fact can't help, sing. And it seems he's a genuinely nice guy. And also, though long before we met, I later learned that my wife was in the crowd that night too. See Neil Diamond and other muscians in concert at my website

Thursday, May 1, 2008

David Lee Roth-Man of Many Moods 1988

I wasn't a big fan of "Diamond Dave" David Lee Roth before this show in 1988 but I left a true admirer. Anyone who works that hard for his audience, makes it that much fun and makes such a joyful noise it aces in my book. He'd split a couple years before from Van Halen and their great run of top hits.

Roth's flamboyant antics contrasted with Eddie Van Halen's technical wizardry on guitar. Roth put his own stamp on their mid-80's hits like "Panama", "Jump" and "Hot for Teacher". You can't hear those song without hearing DLR's voice stamped in your brain. His later solo hit cover's like "California Girls" and "just a Gigolo" returned him to huge commercial success.

On this tour Dave's recording and touring supergroup of Steve Vai (see photo) on guitar, Billy Sheehan on bass and Gregg Bissonette on drums was super-tight and didn't miss a beat without Eddie and crew. Roth's energy on stage commanded the audience as he ripped through hit after hit. But he often made room for Vai to step forefront in the same way he had for Eddie.
He worked his ass off on stage and few artist I ever shot in concert gave me more 'looks', more different images in the short three songs I got to shoot. He wasn't the worlds greatest rock singer but he was a marvel of an entertainer. You have to appreciate someone who is having so much fun doing what they love.

IN January 2006 Roth replaced Howard Stern's show on CBS but that didn't last but four months. In Spring of 2007 he and Van Halen bandmates were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and last fall they were finally able to rejoin and tour together for the first time since 1985. The tour has been a huge success. I think it was the #3 grossing tour of the year.
These and all my concert photographs are available to buy from my website

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Bon Jovi at the first Farm Aid Concert 1985

When my good friend and fellow photographer John Cary (see his photo blog at and asked if I was interested in shooting this concert called Farm Aid back in 1985, I was more than thrilled and a bit anxious too. He was a bureau photographer for United Press in Illinois and the concert was going to be in Champagne Illinois. He knew I loved shooting concerts and could handle stage shooting when he was busy with other work on site. My only concern was to not let him down.

Since most major concerts only allowed me the first three songs from a perfomance, it was going to be a kick to stay on stage and shoot act after act when they only got an average of three songs. A nice reversal of roles. I took the train up to Illinois and met John a couple days early. We covered opening events with the Governor, press events and even had a chance to have a beer in a bar with Hoyt Axton. Cool by me. We shot stage construction, whatever any subscriber to the wire service might use.

Day of the show unfortunately was overcast with occasional rain. I actually think some of the stuff I shot that day was helped by it. For all the things I didn't get to shoot during that day, what I did shoot easily makes it one of the most significant and satisfying days of my career. I was elbow to elbow with some of the best photographers in the country like Lucien Perkins of the Washington Post.

I did get a lot of photos on the wire that day that were played around the world. It was an important day in a lot of ways besides the beginning of a great concert series that works to benefit the smaller family farmers. It was the day that saw the genesis of the Traveling Wilbury's, one of my fav all time 'supergroups'.

But the most popular shots from the day were those of Jon Bon Jovi and his mates. He was riding the crest of his popularity, every teen girls dream. My two favorite shots of him are here. The first and most popular is him shot with a 200mm in profile, wind from the weather blowing in his face and sweeping his hair back. The second was from on stage as he went down to a lower lip of the stage right in the face of the crowd with his arms upraised, his blue cape swept back and those bright red shoes. I just love how that shot really wraps up the sense-of-place that makes all great photos for me. And he is still a favorite of many fans, still producing some great music. Still good looking, just ask most any woman.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Roy Buchanan-a Sweet surprise 1987

Going in, I really didn't know who he was. My musical friend and co-conspirator in concerts then, Kelley Bass, knew more than I did. We dropped by the club mid-afternoon where Roy Buchanan was going to play that night. He was so soft-spoken, gentle and nice. I asked if he'd mind posing for a portrait and he was more than willing. He was patient and I tried to quickly set something up, light it with a couple old Vivitar 283 flash units. He smiled so openly and friendly.
That night I went back to shoot the show. The club, the SOB (shrimp-oyster-bar) was about 40 tables pushing up to the lip of the small stage. HE BLEW MY MIND! He out Jimi'd Hendrix, out Stevie'd MR Vaughan. I guess that was because I realized that he'd been doing it long before they picked up their instruments. He played lead on Dale Hawkin's (i'll add him in a later post) hit "My Babe" in 1957. Later he joined a Canadian singer Ronnie Hawkins eventually being replaced by Robbie Robertson in the group that went on to become The Band.

His guitar work stretched what people thought possible. Mostly playing a 1953 Telecaster, utilizing a technique I don't completely understand called Pinch Harmonics, a trebly sound emerged similar to a Fender Amp turned to 11. He counted John Lennon, Eric Clapton and Merle Haggard as fans and supposedly was offered a position with the Stones. PBS did a documentary on him titled The Best Unknown Guitarist In The World. I can't argue. I shot him touring behind his 12th album Hot Wires.

Even though he headlined Carnegie Hall a number of times, widespread fame eluded him. Sadly, he was arrested about a year after this show for public intoxication where he was found hung some hours later in his cell.

have things changed much? AC DC

I suppose things have changed some since I shot concerts but I bet one thing hasn't...road managers. You're at their mercy. If they had a problem with a photographer the night before, or for that matter, are just in a bad mood, it can ruin your shoot. They see you as someone in the way, as someone getting something for nothing, just a work hassle for them.

I always arranged credentials with the record companies on arena shows. You can't count on 'friends' or the venue to get you in. But even with an 'official' credential from the record company, the road manager is the big man on site.

I shot AC DC twice, the first time in color on 400 speed ektachrome in the early 80's. When I had an opportunity to shoot them again a couple years later I decided that I'd like to shoot some black and white. I checking in at Will-Call, picked up my credential, got in an hour early, made friends with all the T-shirt security before the lights went down so they would know I belonged and wouldn't hassle me during the short three first songs I got to shoot. I also always made friends with the front row of fans behind the barricade. That way they weren't jealous but helpful, knowing I was a fan and wouldn't be in their way much. If not, they often pounded me with thrust body parts.

So this second AC DC shoot, I did all my usual routine. The lights went down, the crowd screamed in the dark, the amps and monitors at my face hummed with anticipation. Flashlights appeared on stage leading bandmembers to their spots. Slowly the lights came up on the center of the stage. A steaming rocket, ready to launch came up out of the floor like a atomic warhead. As it reached its height, a door at the top popped down and Angus Young stepped forward hitting his signature licks and the crowd really went crazy. As I shot my first three or four frames, someone grabbed my collar and yanked me backwards. I spun around only to find a 'huge' guy in my face screaming at me "NO PHOTOS, GET THE HELL OUT!" GO GO GO!" in his Australian accent. I tried in the dark to point to my credential plastered front and center on my shirt. I tried arguing but with 140 decibels in my ear I couldn't even hear myself complain as he dragged me over to the side of the stage and literally chunked me away from the stage.

Such is life. The color shot here is from the first time I shot them, the other is my last frame from this show, the moment he gripped my shirtcollar.

B B King

As the old saying goes, the third time is the charm. I shot this of B B King on my third time to shoot him in performance. The first two shoots went ok but I never felt like I got anything that hadn't been shot by everyone else. Nice shot of his expressive face, of Lucille. But I always hoped for something a bit more unique and special, trying to create THE iconic image of the artist. Few shoots every work out that way but it's always an aim.

On this third time to shoot him, I was in a convention center. I had shot the usual and, not seeing anything else, had given up. I was leaving the show through a side door stage-left when I turned back as I went out and saw, just for a moment, the main spotlight rim-light BB and his famed guitar Lucille. I immediately moved into position with the hope that the light and moment would come back and it did. I managed about 15 frames on Tri-X 400 speed black and white film before he moved to a different area of the stage. Most likely I was shooting with a Nikon FM2 with either a 180mm 2.8 or a 80-200mm 2.8.

B B has become a personal favorite to shoot. I've sense had a chance to shoot him in his club on Beale St. in Memphis. I was able to spend a day with him. When I went to that shoot and show, I made two archival 11X14 prints of this photograph. I never believed in asking for autographs usually but on this one, I gave him one print and he signed the other for me. It's a cherished framed print. At that shoot, I wanted to get a shot of him out front with 'lucille' with his neon BB KING sign over his head. By the time we made it happen, it was raining. He said he didn't care at all and said "come on!" I asked about getting Lucille wet. He grinned and said "no problem. I've got another in the back". He has to be one of the nicest gentlemen in the music industry. I'll post other shots and memories of him later.

first blog post, first error too

first post, first mistake. Dancing in the Dark photo shot in 1984, not 1974.

Springsteen "Dancing in the Dark" 1984

My first post, my first blog. I worked days as a photojournalist in the 1970's and 1980's, while pursuing concert photography at night whenever and wherever I could get in to shoot. I changed to full time travel photography at the end of the 1980's and haven't shot concerts since. Recently I started scanning all my old boxed negatives that haven't see the light in years, some more than 30 years old. Labor of Love I tell you. Not all film was in good shape and I've learned a photoshop thing or two about film restoration. But some 2 years later, I find that I have a load of good stuff too. I started a website last see if I can't sell some images. On my blog here, i hope to share memories or techniques for what I shot. 

First up is this image I've always loved of Bruce Springsteen. This was shot on the Born in the USA tour in 1974 in Memphis, Tennessee. If you've never shot a concert, you might not be aware of the restrictions placed on a shooter. First, most shows limit you to the first three songs, about 10 minutes usually. Also there is no flash. So you have to be ready for anything, shoot fast and work the stage light. This one, unmanipulated, captured the Boss without any background. The only light was the spot and the rest of the background had no light, leaving him 'floating' in the frame. I like to think it was during a performance of the song Dancing in the Dark.

I'm going to try to post a photo every week or two and give a little background in some way to each one.