Two more

In the middle 1980’s I met a guy named Lonnie Mack. He was a guitar player and songwriter who, I later found out, was a big influence on guys like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Duane Allman and Jeff Beck. He was living a pretty quiet life in central Indiana, occasionally going out to play some shows. He did a tour opening for George Thorogood. Then Alligator Records signed him, and I did a photo shoot for his album package.Then Epic Records signed him, and I was asked to photograph his album cover. He was playing somewhere in Indiana, so I went to photograph him there. After the show he invited a bunch of us back to his house, and we decided that it was easier to just stay there than find a motel. So we all slept on couches and extra beds. The next morning I got up to find Lonnie getting ready to go fishing, so I joined him for a while down on the dock.

Lonnie Mack on 6/28/87 in Cincinnatti, Ohio (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

He was an amazing guy, and a true gentleman. He was one of those guys who never made it over the hump. Just kept on playing, and making music for his fans. This week, while going through my Getty sales report, I saw a large amount of Lonnie Mack images licensed. I Googled him to find out that he had passed away at the end of April.

Lonnie Mack on 5/3/85 in Chicago, Il. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

In April of 1982, a publicist from Polygram asked me if I wanted to do a shoot with a new band they had called Girlschool. I agreed and the next day the band arrived at my house! In the ensuing hours, I became friends with four very nice women. I went to see them that night, and they rocked the house! Loud and fast (very loud), they exploded onstage and the audience went crazy! I followed them for a few years, shooting a few shows, doing a few photo sessions, and then they kind of ran out of gas. Their records kept on being rereleased, and they seemed to still be touring.

CHICAGO, IL APRIL 15: Girl School at the studio on April 15, 1982 in Chicago, Illinois (Photo by Paul Natkin/Wire Image)

Last week someone posted one of my photos of guitarist Kelly Johnson on Facebook with a notice that she had passed away in 2007!

It is amazing how the level of fame of a person determines how much press coverage they get. Kelly received almost no coverage, and Lonnie the same. A friend told me that he had an obituary in the New York Times, but none in Chicago.

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Prince and James Brown

I am reading a new book by James McBride called:

Kill ‘em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul

 It is interesting to see a biography of an African American musician researched and written by an African American musician!! Also one that lived a mile from James Brown’s mansion when he was a little kid. Just getting into it, I saw a lot of parallels with all the recent news about Prince and his estate.

It seems strange that someone who was such a great businessman would pass away without a will, leaving his music, which he fought so hard for during his lifetime, up for grabs by greedy relatives (and even a kid who says that he is Prince’s son). If a paternity test proves it, under Minneapolis law, the son wins. So all that money and all that great music changes hands to people that might not know how to curate it.

This brings to mind a passage from the forward of the James Brown book:

James Brown, The Godfather of Soul, America’s Greatest Soul Singer, left most of his wealth, conservatively estimated at $100 million, to educate poor children in South Carolina and Georgia. Te years after his death on December 25th, 2006, not a dime of it had reached a single kid. Untold millions have been frittered away by lawyers and politicians who have been loosed on one another by various factions of his destroyed family.

I hope the same thing doesn’t happen with Prince’s estate.


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Neil Leifer

There is a great article in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated. It is excerpted from “Relentless: The Stories Behind the Photographs” by the legendary sports photographer Neil Leifer, arguably the best that ever held a camera in the sports world..

A lot of the stories are funny stories about elaborate practical jokes he played on other photographers and writers, but there are a few that can easily translate to the music world.

He was asked to go to Moscow in 1961 to photograph a USA-USSR track and field meet. When he got there he presented a letter to the guard, signed a sheet of paper next to his name, and was presented with an armband as a credential. He was told to return it when the meet was done, as they used the same armband for every event. As he collected all of his credentials, he tucked it into his camera bag and came home. (He was 19 at the time and saw no problem with that). In 1963, he again flew to Moscow to cover that years meet. When he handed the same guard his letter, he was given a one work answer- Nyet. The guard then pulled out the paperwork from two years earlier, and showed where he had not returned his credential!! Only because he was working for Sports Illustrated was he allowed a new credential, which he returned when the meet was finished.

This makes me think of the way photographers are treated these days at most big concerts. You are not even given a credential. You are herded to the area that you are to shoot from, and then herded out of the building when your allotted time is up. God forbid you shoot a photo after the first three songs! I have always collected credentials- especially from the really big shows. That will never happen again in our world.

He also talks about how he gained access when he started out at age 16. Ay Yankee Stadium, they had a ramp where they rolled wheelchair bound army veterans out on to the field, and lined them up along the outfield wall, So Neil volunteered to help the veterans, camera under his coat. Once they were all settled, most of the volunteers disappeare3d into the stands to find a seat and watch the game. Not Neil. He stayed on the field and avoided security, although at times he would fetch coffee for the guards and they would look the other way while he worked.

I remember that when I started I made a point of befriending as many security guys as I could. (I am still friends with a lot of them today). They are much more important to know than any band manager, as they control access!

So I am proud that my career took some “sort of” similar paths as a legend in the business!! (and I still have a great collection of passes from cool shows.)

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As the political season heats up (or gets more depressing- take your pick), I look back on traveling through the south last year and seeing how the good folks in Montgomery, Alabama kept poor people from voting by demanding a drivers license that a lot of poor people didn’t have.

This week, the US supreme court refused to block the Texas law that asked for a photo ID at the polls. As the article continued:

The Law is the strictest in the nation, permitting only certain types of photo ID at the polls. Gun licenses are permitted, college ID is not. It was enacted to cut down on in-person voter fraud, but only 2 people were convicted of voter fraud in Texas in the last 10 years.

A federal district judge rules that it was passed in the Texas State Legislature in 2011 with a “Discriminatory purpose and could disenfranchise about 600,000 voters, most of whom were black or Hispanic. Three days later a three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals blocked that judges ruling from taking affect, and the Supreme court ruling allows the as of today the law stands.

Oh well, guess if you are a minority in Texas, you don’t have to choose between all the morons that are running this year! Maybe that’s a good thing!!!

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Merle and Prince

Earlier this week I was laying on my couch, watching a cooking show on television, and reading the Rolling Stone cover story on the passing of Merle Haggard. The news cut into the show to tell the world that Prince had just died. What a week.

Merle was a superstar, a brilliant songwriter with a great voice and a commanding stage presence. He was one of a kind. One of the nicest guys I have ever met in this business.



Then there was Prince! I photographed him several times early in his career. It was always astounding to watch him on stage. He was a singer, a songwriter, a guitarist, a performer and a showman. He was one of the best I have ever seen at all of those things.

In 1982, he came to Chicago to perform at the Auditorium Theater. I was offered a photo pass, and having heard some rumors that Prince was not a big fan of being photographed, I hesitated, but decided to give it a try. When I got there, there was a note for me to come backstage to see his manager. When I got there I introduced myself, and he handed me an all access pass and said “Shoot whatever you want- just nothing from the stage.” OK then! I proceeded to have one of the best nights of photography in my career.

Prince- Aud


A couple of years later, I was asked if I wanted to fly to Minneapolis to photograph Prince’s birthday party. I figured there would be about a hundred photographers there, but maybe I could make back my airfare and hotel. I got to Minneapolis, went to First Avenue, and found that I was the only photographer allowed into the club that night. I still have no idea why this stuff was happening, but I wasn’t complaining!! I stood right in front of him and photographed for about 90 minutes. Those pictures became the most valuable ones I have ever shot!



Later that year, I went Detroit for the kickoff of the Purple Rain Tour, and shot 6 shows at Cobo Arena. I then came back home and shot the next 6 shows at the Rosemont Horizon.

1984 tour


I only photographed him a couple of more times, but will never forget his incredible performances!! To this day I have no idea why I was the photographer picked to capture that part of his career! But, it was sure a fun time!!!

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Las Vegas

Just spent a day and a half at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas earlier in the week, working on a job for a sound company. Pretty depressing place to spend ANY time in!

I had to walk through the casino every time I went from my room to the site of the job. There I saw people who seemed to be holding out their last hope – playing against odds that they could not beat. Many people sitting in their wheelchairs, with oxygen tanks connected to their noses, smoking cigarettes with long ashes at the end of them, continually feeding the slot machines and pushing a button, hoping that a winner would appear on the screen. People sitting at tables looking grimly at their cards as they went over 21, and adding more chips to the pile in the center of the table.

Out on the street, which was blocked off for entertainment, Elvis was everywhere!

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People were taking pictures of tons of Elvis impersonators. Showgirls were wandering the streets, collecting money for people to have their picture taken with them.

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I took a detour the second day to go to the Mob Museum. It was good to know that a Chicagoan-the top Mob Lawyer, Marshall Korshak was the one that suggested that the Mob build a gambling city so that they could launder their ill-gotten gains through gambling!

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It was also good to know that even Elvis has to check his messages occasionally!!

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Steve Miller

Steve Miller

Steve Miller gave a great press conference after being i9nducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this weekend!

He suggested that: “The whole process is unpleasant,” suggesting that it be “changed from the top to the bottom.”

He made reference to respecting the artists: “When they told me I was inducted they said, ‘You have two tickets — one for your wife and one for yourself. Want another one? It’s $10,000. Sorry, that’s the way it goes,’ ” he said, adding, “What about my band? What about their wives?”

A publicist tried to shut him up he responded: “No, we’re not going to wrap this up — I’m going to wrap you up,” he said. “You go sit down over there and learn something.

I have only had a few experiences with the R&R Hall, and they have always been pretty negative. At the grand opening ceremonies, we (photographers that had content in the hall) were asked to go to a side door where our names would be on the list. So a friend of mine and I went around to the side, where we found a pair of pretty incredulous guys standing there, because their names were NOT on the list as promised and nobody knew who they were. (They were Iggy Pop and Lou Reed). So we brought them in as our +1’s!!!

Then, in 1985. I went to the induction ceremonies and was treated like total dogshit by the publicity department. I was given a seat in the balcony at the back of the room, and told that if I wanted to use the bathroom, I would need someone to escort me there (while leaving my cameras at my seat). Good luck with that! We were told that if we wanted something to drink, our press representative would have to get it for us. So I suggested that she bring a case of bottled water up to us (doesn’t help with the bathroom problem, though). She thought that was a great idea, and left to never return! So, luckily, we were sitting next to the O’Jays table and they felt sorry for us and ordered extra drinks for us during the event!

All in all, a bad experience that I will hopefully never repeat!

Thanks to Steve Miller for speaking out

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Saw another great film this week- Supermensch. Produced and dirtected by Mike Myers, it is the story of Shep Gordan, longtime manager of Alice Cooper. He was hanging in LA, trying to buy some pot, and someone told him to got o a certain motel. When he got there he found some longhaired guys hanging around the pool (he also found some pot to buy). Over time he talked the guys into letting him manage them, even though he knew nothing about managing. Worked out pretty good- he was soon making big money for them (and himself). He then started managing the incredibly unhip Anne Murray, who he also made a big star. Through his life, he also met (and advised) The Dalhi Lama, Michael Douglas, Sly Stallone, and started the craze of celebrity chefs and the Food Network!! Although I have photographed Alice many times, I have never met him, though I would like to after seeing this film.

My favorite quote from Shep is his philosophy on management, in three parts

  1. Get the Money
  2. Don’t Forget to Get the Money
  3. Always Remember Not to Forget to Get the Money
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Time to find some snow!!

My picture of Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhoads has been in some pretty weird places since it was taken, but this one might be the coolest! When the UPS guy showed up, I knew exactly what was inside the long skinny box he was holding. When I opened it a big smile hit my face.



Too bad I don’t know how to snowboard. Oh well, it looks cool in my office.

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I was watching CBS News Sunday Morning last week and a short news piece came on that hit a nerve. The story:

There are more deaths from selfies than from shark attacks!       YIKES!!!

There were a few great quotes within the story:

We are obsessed with proving that we had experiences rather than appreciating them when they occur.

 We are losing the art of telling a story.

 Selfies are killing our experiences.

 We are outsourcing our memories to a cloud.

 Guns don’t kill people, selfies do.

This brought me back to something that happened this past January. During one of Buddy Guy’s shows at his club. As he does every night he was walking through the crowd with his guitar and microphone. About every third person was flashing their flash in his face, rather than revel in the fact that a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was about a foot from them! Buddy came to a table where a really cute woman was sitting, with an empty chair next to her. Buddy, never wanting to pass up an up close opportunity, sat down in the empty chair and started a great guitar solo. So, what did the woman do, when confronted with a superstar playing two feet from her and looking directly into her eyes?

Step number one: She turned her back on him!!!

Step number two: She got her phone out and took a selfie!!

So, looks like CBS News was correct. The experience was captured, she could put the photo up on her Facebook page, and she turned her back on a great personal experience!!


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