I just finished reading “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” the autobiography of Sam Cutler, the tour manager in the sixties for the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead. I also spent the last three weeks scanning Rolling Stones photos, so I was reminiscing about my time with the Stones.
My career goal was always to work with the Rolling Stones. I figured if that happened, I would have achieved the pinnacle of my profession. I photographed them a few times in concert (in 1978 and 1981), but that didn’t really count. In 1988, Keith Richards put out a solo album, and my neighbor, Don McLeese, who was the music critic for the Chicago Sun Times was offered an interview with Keith in New York City. Of course, the Sun Times was too cheap to send a photographer. So Don asked me if I wanted to come along. I would have to pay for my own flight, and he offered me a prime spot on the floor of his hotel room. Couldn’t pass that up!! I figured that I could sell enough photos to the Sun Times to pay for the flight, and I would get to photograph my idol. So, off we went.
At the appropriate time, we gathered our stuff and walked over to Keith’s managers office. We were ushered in and told to wait in the lobby. I was too nervous to sit down, so I was leaning against a door when the door in front of us opened and out stepped the coolest guy in the history of rock and roll. He looked me in the eye, and the first words he spoke to me were “If you don’t move, I’ll piss all over your shoes!” I realized that I was leaning on the bathroom door!!
While he was doing his business, I set up my equipment and when he returned he sat down for an amazing 10 minute shoot. (I could have shot for 4 hours, but he didn’t have the time.) He moved over to start the interview while I was packing away my stuff. During the interview, I heard him tell Don that he was going to tour in a few months with the band he had made the album with, the X-Pensive Winos. I filed that away for future use.
When I got home the next day I immediately raced to the darkroom and developed the film. I found a couple of great portraits, Keith smiling with his hands up around his face, showing his skull ring and a cigarette between his fingers. I printed some stuff up and made enough to pay all my NYC expenses- the Sun Times used a lot of photos!
It wasn’t till about a year later that someone looked at the proofs and saw a photo that I had missed- in one photo he had given me the universal sign of respect at the bottom of the frame!
About a week later, I put a few prints in an envelope with a simple note to Keith’s manager:
“I remember hearing during the interview that you are going on the road this fall. If you need a tour photographer, give me a call.”
Sealed the envelope and dropped it in the mailbox! I never expected a response, but it couldn’t hurt to try!
More next week.