Ihave loved music since a child. My older brother played in folk and rock bands when I was only eight years old, the same year I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show. It changed my life forever. I'd listen to my 45 of Please, Please Me/And From Me To You, for hours. Technically that record and the album, Meet the Beatles, were my brother's. But he was helpless against an infatuated 8-year-old. He couldn't keep me from sneaking around the corner of the living room to watch his band rehearsals, either!
My parents decided to have me take organ lessons in hope that I would forget that Rock and Roll music. Instead, after the first year my instructor quit, citing that my use of "om-pa-pa-om-pa" on the bass peddles "were not appropriate" when playing classical pieces such as Brahms or Beethoven. Hence the end of my short organ career.
As a 13-year-old teenager, I was fortunate enough to live within an hour's drive of The Swing Auditorium, in San Bernardino, California. My mom used to drop me off to see the bands on the weekends. I got to see groups like Three Dog Night, Steppen Wolf, The Who, and my hero, Jimi Hendrix.
By the time I was just out of High School, I was obsessed with music, all kinds, especially Motown, and Rock and Roll. Remembering the organ lessons, I figured that becoming a musician was probably not a good bet, so I decided I was going to become a sound engineer. I studied electronics, acoustics, and took a sound engineering course which had an antique 32 channel Neve mixing board, designed more for broadcast mixing than live sound engineering. Shortly after passing the course, and with help from a couple guys I knew in a band, I wound up working for McCune Sound in Anaheim, CA.
Earlier that year, I had moved to Hollywood, (Laurel Canyon, famous for all its musician residents.) to be closer to "the scene". I got close all right; Jackson Browne lived down the street, Stephen Bishop a block over, and Governor Jerry Brown and then girlfriend Linda Rondstadt, up the street. During this time, I also discovered The Rainbow Bar and Grill on Sunset Blvd., a hangout for everyone from Led Zeppelin, Queen, Thin Lizzy, Rod Stewart, to Blondie and their road crews. Since I had started working with the sound company, I made friends with some of the sound and lighting guys, and would talk "shop". There were often parties after the Rainbow with the bands and their crews. I was invited along to hang out, but since I wasn't really one of "the boys', and certainly not a groupie, I mostly ended up meeting a bunch interesting people and observing some wild behavior. It was great fun! (Boy do I have some stories, none of which I care to elaborate here.)
One evening I went to see some friends of mine, in The Brian Auger Band, play a show in Santa Monica. They were very excited having just been signed to a new record label, and on tour from their native England. Just as we were getting ready to leave, a messenger appeared with a large box containing a case of premium champagne-compliments of RCA Records. Everyone but the guitarist and I had left the dressing room, so we felt obligated to "sample" a bottle before we passed it on to the rest of the band. After the bottle was gone, we took the remaining "bubbly" over to the hotel where everyone was staying. Sometime around 2 in the morning, the bassist decided a game of Football, (that's Soccer to us Yanks) in the HALLWAY of the hotel was in order. Not long thereafter, a rather exasperated hotel manager, pleaded with us to take the ball, (which had bounced on every door down that hallway at least once) and play outside on the driveway. To make a very long story short, once outside on the concrete, my feet got going backwards faster than the rest of me and I basically fell on my butt, but not before putting my hand down to break my fall. What I broke, was my wrist, actually the main bone of my arm where it attached to my wrist. My life was about to change dramatically.
McCune Sound, though sympathetic, could not use an one-armed sound engineer trainee. I hadn't been with the company but a few weeks, and they had no obligation to keep me. I was very upset and scared, unaware that fate was going to take over for the best.
Ihad been taking a couple photography classes at LA Valley College and occasionally borrowed one of their 35mm cameras for an assignment. I had the camera one weekend, shortly after the infamous Soccer Incident, when I got a call from Bobby Reid, a friend of mine who worked for Queen. (Bobby's older brother, John, had been managing the band for years) He had an All Access Pass, that he was not going to be using, and wanted to know if I was interested in going? I sped off to the Hyatt Hotel on Sunset in record time to collect the pass, and off I went to San Diego, with my loaner camera. (I had since discovered that the cast on my arm made a great tripod!). What I saw on the stage that night, I will never forget. It wasn't just a rock show- this was a spectacle! The brilliant flashing blue and red lights, and the "King" of Queen, Freddie Mercury prancing up and back waving the microphone stand like a specter. It was truly one of the best shows that I have ever seen
The next day, thinking that I might have gotten something special for my scrapbook, I raced to the photo lab with my film. What I got back was the beginning of the next 20 something years of my life. These photos turned out to be some of my best work ever. I showed them to Bobby Reid, who instructed me to take them to Elektra records, then, still located in Hollywood. When I got there I realized he didn't tell me WHO to see, so I just walked in off the street and approached the receptionist. Her first words were "With whom do you have an appointment to see?" I nervously just blurted out, "I don't know, but I've got these Queen photos, and my friend said I should bring them here.' The receptionist rolled her eyes. She called back to the publicity department, apologizing for disturbing them, (thinking I was a moron) and told them what I had said. Suddenly, she raised her eyebrows in disbelief, and slowly repeated, "send her back?" OoooKay?!' I gave her that look of, "Of course I knew they wanted to see me", and strutted through the electronic gate that opened before me. Once inside, Sally Rayl, a young English woman with a warm smile and eyes that sparkled, greeted me. She didn't say very much, but after looking at my slides, started pulling boxes of slides from her file drawer, and began tossing slides across the desk at me saying, "Look at this, Look at this!" I looked, and saw some nice Queen photos. The slides were coming at me more quickly now. All the sudden she just stopped, looked at me and said, "I don't know HOW you got those shots. I don't WANT to know, but we have a contract with a company of photographers that are touring the world with this band. NO ONE, not even United Press International, is allowed media credentials for this tour. Furthermore, your photos? (I wanted to run for the door) Your photos? she repeated, make these photos from the last tour look like SHIT! We paid a lot for those shots!" Flashing a smile, she quietly explained that she could not buy the photos from me, but to go see the Photo Editor of Teen Magazine. She placed a call to the magazine and said that Raina Seciliano expected me. Before I left, Sally told me, that anytime I wanted to shoot any of Elektra's Artists, to give her a call, she'd make sure I was given passes. I made both a great business contact and friend that day.
Arriving at the Peterson Publishing building, I was once again in front of a receptionist, but after giving my name, this one smiled and directed me to Raina. After a brief meeting, I sold my first two photos for $100. All I could think of was spending a 12-hour day loading and unloading a truck full of sound gear, and making less money. This was less work, more money, plus it was FUN!
The strange forces of fate and coincidence continued. Raina's husband turned out to be the director of Publicity at Epic Records. Pat Seciliano was just as kind and supportive of me as his wife and Sally had been, and in the months that followed, I took photos for him. Epic was part of the CBS record group, so with Pat's introductions I moved on to CBS and Jet Records. and Atlantic, and so on. The rest was history, as they say.
It was pure fate. For whatever reason, music photography was my destiny, which is just great by me. As long as I have music and the excitement of a live concert, life is good. When I have a bad day, I just think to myself, I could have wound up an organ player!
Since my auspicious beginning I have done tour photography across the US and Mexico, and worked in England during 1979 and 1980. My clients include Record Labels, Management Companies, Publicity Firms, Publications, and Instrument Manufacturing Companies.
Through the years I have had the opportunity of taking photos of some of the greatest musicians in the world. To be honest, some were not always a joy to work with, but for the few who weren't; there are ten others who were wonderful. Some have even become my friends, proving that even the most famous people could still be nice, caring, human beings, with just an extraordinary amount of talent. To all of them I dedicate this Web site, and thank them for the music they have brought into every day of my life.
Hope you enjoy the photos!
Any comments or questions feel free to contact me at. firstname.lastname@example.org