Lisa Fischer

In this business, I have met some amazing people- talented to a high degree, and some of them actually great people. Very seldom both of them in the same package.

Last night I spent the evening with one of the latter.

Lisa Fischer at Thalia Hall on April 18th, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.In 1989, I went out on my first Rolling Stones tour. The second day, Lisa Fisher, the  Stones backup singer, came up to me backstage and introduced herself to me, and we soon became great friends. She is one of the greatest singers that I have ever heard. During a long career, she has sung with Luther Vandross, the Stones, Sting, and even Nine Inch Nails. Along the way she won a Grammy in 1992 for Best Soul-R&B song (she shared it with Patti Labelle). Every tour I go on with them, one of the highlights is reconnecting with Lisa.

Lisa Fischer at Thalia Hall on April 18th, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.Last night, she was in town playing a show with her band. I arranged for passes and went down to the show. When she walked out on stage and started singing, the audience erupted into spontaneous applause that continued for the entire show. Her singing is a combination of jazz influences and rock and roll dynamics. She covered a bunch of Stones songs, but remade them in her style. She even covered Led Zeppelin.

Lisa Fischer at Thalia Hall on April 18th, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.After the show, I waited outside the backstage door with about 20 other people. When she came out, she came over, hugged me and we talked for about 5 minutes, I said my goodbyes, and left knowing that I had just seen and heard a monster talent and one of the nicest people in the music business.

Lisa Fischer at Thalia Hall on April 18th, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.

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More talk about cameras in phones

Walking down the street downtown yesterday, I watched a woman trying to take a picture with her iPhone. She was concentrating so hard she walked right into a light pole! Very entertaining.

I guess everything on earth has to be documented these days. This week’s Time Magazine has a cover story on the murder of an unarmed man by a police officer in North Charleston, SC. The officer would have gone on his merry way, nobody ever knowing what happened, except for the fact that someone was on the other side of the fence, shooting video of all of the event with his cell phone..

Commentary from Errol Morris, Academy Award documentarian and director of The Thin Blue Line:

“Photography doesn’t offer proof of anything. It merely supplies additional evidence, which otherwise might not be available. The evidence here is crucial, as it is in conflict with the officer’s own story. We wouldn’t know much without the video. And we wouldn’t have the video save for the courageous observers with a cell phone who possibly risked their lives in filming the incident.”

Late last night I was watching the local news about tornadoes that touched down and wiped out two towns in northwest Illinois. Most of the coverage was from cell phone video shot by people that stood in the path of the storms to capture images. One amazing piece of video was taken by a college student out the passenger side window of the car he was in after his father picked him up from school and was driving him home. As they traveled parallel to a category 4, half mile wide tornado, they reached a fork in the road. One route would have taken then away from the storm, the other route directly toward it. Guess which one they took!!!

A short time later, they thought better of it and turned onto a one way street (the wrong way) to escape. Pretty amazing that the father put his son in danger- just to get a video to give to a television station!

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Muddy Waters

Yesterday would have been Muddy Waters 100th Birthday. Or 102nd, depending on who you talk to! He was one of the reasons that I got into the music business. I was always a blues fan, and wanted to be around that type of energy when I was younger (still do). Shortly after starting my photography career (as a sports photographer) I met Muddy’s manager (I talked about his passing a few weeks ago) and he invited me out to a show. He brought me backstage to meet Muddy, who was very gracious. I started photographing him whenever he played in Chicago. He was the first “Superstar” that I had a working relationship with, which lasted until his passing in 1983. He was always really welcoming, and was a great subject. He had a kind of Buddha like appearance, and a great smile. They don’t make them like that any more!!Muddy

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Another great show

Last week I wrote about two really good bands made up of 20 something musicians. This week I am going to write about two performers who are 63 and  78 years old.

When I was a teenager, my mother made me listen to only folk music. The first time she took me to a concert, it was to see Judy Collins and Tom Paxton. While listening to a radio show called the Midnight Special in 1966, I heard a singer singing about something that didn’t exist much in America- an interracial relationship. Her name was Janis Ian, who was 15 at the time the record came out.

Tom and Janis__0004I met her a few years ago, and read her autobiography. It turned out that the station I was listening to her on was one of only three that played her record. She went out on tour and got booed off the stage whenever she played the song, called “Society’s Child.”

So, about a month ago, Janis emailed me and asked me to photograph a show she was doing in Chicago with Tom Paxton. Last Sunday I met them at sound check, did a quick session with the two of them, and shot one of the greatest shows I have heard in a long time. There was no show biz- just a vase of flowers on a table at the back of the stage (with a spotlight on it), and two legendary performers singing most their hits, along with some new songs. Society’s Child was especially poignant.

Tom and Janis__0153Tom and Janis__0157Just goes to show that you don’t need lots of lights and staging to captivate an audience- just great songs and amazing performers.

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Two Shows

My friends at Shure introduced me to two new bands this month. Both of them give me some hope for the future of music. They are booth young, with energetic front people, very good musicians with some very catchy songs.

Mister Wives, a young band from Brooklyn, are fronted by a young woman named Mandy Lee, put on an extremely high energy show, with a lot of movement and audience interaction. The show was sold out, and the audience knew the words to most of their songs, They have a massive social media presence, and it shows with fans lining up all afternoon to get a spot at the front of the stage.

MisterWives at Lincoln Hall on March 3, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois.

Magic Man is a five piece band from Boston. Lead singer Alex Caplow is a monster performer, who gladly slaps hands with audience members , some of whom have waited outside since early afternoon. The band is very proud of the c=fact that the “Fourth wall” has been broken down when they go outside during the day to  hang with people in line. Once again, the audience knew the words to every song, and sang along on every one. Keyboardist Justine Bowe and guitarist Sam Lee are great players, and the songs are definitely hit material.

Magic Man__0101Before the show I was talking to a couple that had traveled 100 miles to see the band. I felt guilty only driving 2 miles!!

All in all, some great new music


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Update on the Sun Times

It’s official. No reason to buy the paper any more!

They came up with their redesign this week, which they are very proud of- articles written about how cool they are.

So, after letting ¼ of their editorial staff go last week, they have replaced the content  that those people created with content that they license directly from USA Today. They even include the USA Today logos on the pages!

So the worst paper in Chicago is now being created by the worst paper in the United States! So finally, I don’t have to save my quarters any more and don’t have to walk to the corner to buy a paper any more!! Hooray!!!

By the way, Michael Sneed, the worst newspaper writer in the history of the printed word is still writing her insipid drivel most days in the paper. Thank god she still has a job!!!

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This week Neil Steinberg of the Chicago Sun Times gave us the greatest definition of a newspaper I have ever read:

“The Chicago Sun Times is a newspaper,” I continued, improvising. “It’s like a website, but folded and thrown at people’s houses.”

The Sun Times is going down the toilet quickly! They just let go ¼ of their editorial staff last week, including the photographers that they hired back after the debacle of firing their whole photo staff last year. It does make it easier to read the paper these days, though. There are only about 20 pages of semi-useful stuff, after you take away the want ads and the obits, so it can be read in about 5 minutes. It has kind of turned into a large format comic book, except on lousy paper. Every morning, I walk to the corner and put $1.00 in the box and bring the paper home, for reasons I can’t explain. Maybe just a bad habit, I suppose?

Meanwhile, Newsweek, which gave up printed copies about 2 years ago, but returned to the printed page about 6 months ago, seems to be publishing an issue every four days or so! Seems that one appears in my mailbox almost every other day!! The photography is great, and the writing is getting better, but it is still not up to the level of where it was even 5 years ago. Oh well, guess we can hope!!

At least Time still rules the market, with a great issue every week

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Scott Cameron

When I started in the music business, I had to gain the trust of the “Gatekeepers,” the people behind the artists. I had to prove to them that I would take good pictures of their clients, and submit them to legitimate magazines. The first person that trusted me was a guy by the name of Scott Cameron. He was a little guy from the south suburbs, who managed giants. When I first met him, he was managing Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon, people that I never thought I would be able to get access to. But, lo and behold, he took a liking to me, and started calling me whenever his guys were playing in the area. He always treated me with total respect, and gave me all the access I needed. Through the years, as his clients passed away, he became the executor of Muddy’s estate, and retained many of my photos on his website. When someone called about using one of them, he would direct them to me, telling the potential client that only I had the right to make that decision. He was truly the most honest man I have ever met in the music business.

His business transitioned to selling soda pop!! “Get your kicks with Route 66 Beer

He also had this philosophy, which many people did not know:

“From day one it has always been my philosophy that if a record company or music publisher has one-dollar due to a writer, artist or their family, it belongs to that writer, artist or family, not in the company’s accounts.” – Scott Cameron

So he spent a lot of his time researching and collecting back royalties and publishing funds for the heirs of artists that sometimes didn’t know they were owed that money. From his website:

According to Scott A. Cameron, President & CEO, “We became aware of the rights of the artist when we discovered that Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon were not receiving royalties anywhere near the amounts they should have been due to the hundreds of songs they had written and recordings they had made.  Our research at the Library of Congress Copyright Offices discovered both been induced to sign agreements that divested them of their rights and the rights of their families for the life of their copyrights and any renewals.”

“In 1976, on behalf of Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon we engaged attorneys, provided them with information and assistance in bringing legal actions against a certain music publisher.  While the cases eventually settled, the rights to their individual songwriting catalogs were returned to them in full.  The catalogs are now benefitting their families for many years to come.  A few years later we guided attorneys successfully through similar legal actions on behalf of the family of Jimmy Reed.”

“We are constantly researching ‘lost’ royalties and the family members who may be due these funds as heirs to the writer or artist.  Many potential heirs may be distantly related, however, that does not diminish their right to claim royalties and rights that would be due the writer or artist if he or she were still alive today.” noted Matthew S. Cameron, V.P. Client Relations. “While every recovery may not be a major one, our philosophy is that if there is one dollar due to our clients, they should have it and not the music publisher or recording company.”

To lear more about this amazing guy, click here.

Scott passed away last week, and he will be greatly missed by the music community, and anyone who believes in the rights of artists ANYWHERE!!

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John Belushi

In  June of 1980, a friend of mine asked me to come hang around for a day in a suite at a fancy hotel in downtown Chicago with a couple of comedians who had started doing a musical skit called the Blues Brothers on Saturday Night Live the year before.

Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi promoting the movie "Blues Brothers" on June16, 1980 in Chicago,Il. It got real popular, and a movie was filmed in Chicago expanding on the skit. And MAN it was funny!! So I spent a day with John Belushi and Dan Ayckroyd, laughing and taking a bunch of pictures. Shortly after that they played at Chicagofest and I got my infamous picture of the guys with Mayor Jane Byrne.

Mayor Jane Byrne with Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi as the Blues Brothers at Chicagofest on August 3, 1979 in Chicago,Il.  A few days later, they were honored by the Mayor in her office, and I became the guy with the camera who was always there.

Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi meet Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne to recieve the key to the city after releasing the movie "Blues Brothers" on June 17, !980 in Chicago,Il.Later that year they went on tour and I shot a couple of dates, funny shows with great musicians backing them (Most of the SNL band).

About a year later, John was hired to star in a movie called Continental Divide, a film that took place in rugged mountain country. He knew he would have to train to make it through that film, so he called my friend Fred Degerberg, who owned (and still does) a gym in Chicago. Fred agreed to open his place for John, who arrived in town with Bill “Superfoot” Wallace.

John Belushi working out with Bill "Superfoot" Wallace to get in shape for the movie "Continental Divide" on June 25, 1980 in Chicago,Il. Bill was the Professional Karate Association world full-contact karate champion at the time. He was also the Professional Karate Association (PKA) Middleweight Champion kickboxer. The training started and John asked me to stop by and photograph. I will never forget the comic genius trying to kick his leg over his head like Bill. He failed, but never stopped trying!

John Belushi working out to get in shapr for the movie "Continental Divide" on November 23, 1980 in Chicago,Il.I never ran into John again. On March 5, 1982, Bill Wallace found John Belushi dead of a cocaine and heroin overdose, in his room in Bungalow 3, at the Chateau Marmont Hotel in Los Angeles. I just watched him on the SNL 40th Anniversary Show last weekend. What a shame his life was cut short.

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I heard a great song on the radio this week and it reminded me of a cool shoot. Back in the beginning of my career, I started contributing photos to CREEM Magazine. It was a very cool time in the business, and CREEM would accept photos of any musical artist, as long as they could make a good caption to go with it. So every month I would have 2 or 3 images in the magazine, and I was starting to gain the trust of the art director. I kept on hoping for an assignment, and finally one day it came! Charlie, the art director, asked me to do a shoot with an English band called Rockpile for the cover. They were a great band, with two legendary musicians- Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds.

So, I headed down to their hotel with all the equipment I could carry, knowing that this was a career making shoot. When I got to the designated room, I unrolled a piece of red background paper and taped it to the wall. The band walked in, and they couldn’t have been nicer (this was their first American magazine cover) and proceeded to do whatever I asked them to do. This wasn’t much, as putting four guys in a rectangle with room for copy isn’t easy, but I walked out of there with some great photos and a month later I had my first magazine cover!

Creem- RockpileThere were many more covers since that day, but, as they say, you always remember the first time, and every time I hear a Rockpile song on the radio, I remember my first major assignment!

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