Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Aug 5th 2010 5:30PM by Benjy Eisen
Baron Wolman, Retna
Following his stint with Rolling Stone, Wolman launched a fashion magazine called Rags, which showcased day-to-day street fashion instead of runway fashion. That emphasis was indicative of Wolman's preferred style as a photographer -- he rarely set a photo up, insisting instead on capturing moments as they occurred naturally. His portraits, therefore, were true renderings -- people caught in moments. Those moments just happened, sometimes, to be exceptional.
Wolman has gone on to release numerous photo books, including several of aerial photography, and in 1974 he spent an entire season documenting the Oakland Raiders football team for 'Oakland Raiders: The Good Guys.' He has spent the better part of the past decade in Santa Fe, N.M., and currently offers both his prints and books through his official website.
Johnny Cash, 1967: I was backstage with him and I was really puzzled by how little joy there was. He was very serious in the entire series of pictures that I took of him. The very fact that he said it was OK to be back there was an honor and a gift, but when I looked at the pictures afterwards ... We all knew, subsequently, all the troubles that were going on in his mind, whether it was drinking, drugs, whatever it happened to be. And when I look at this, I see that all reflected. Now, the thing is, I was worried, because this was before the concert. I looked at him and I wondered how was he going to go out and put on a good show of any kind. But he did -- he went out and he put on a great show.
This print I had up in an exhibit in 2007 in New York at the Morrison Hotel Gallery. I was at the opening and this woman came up to me and she said she really liked that picture of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. And I said, "Well, Johnny Cash, for sure. Where's June Carter Cash?" And she said, "Well take a look to the left of his face." And that's who it is, reflected in the mirror! The reason I know that's who it is, is because in the performance photos that followed, that's what she was wearing. But from 1967 when I took that photo, to 2007 when somebody pointed out that she was there, I had never seen her.
Jerry Garcia, July 1968: The Grateful Dead were San Francisco's band, there was no question about it. It was the band that everybody loved locally. As much as they cared about the Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver and the other bands, there was something about the Dead. You could see, over the years, the affection that that band created among their fans and their followers, right? So we were so surprised that it took Jann [Wenner, publisher of Rolling Stone] so long to do a major story about the Dead and put them on the cover.
Jerry Garcia, as you can see, is happy here. He was a happy guy, as he often was; he was more happy than not. And it was so interesting: When I made a print of this photo, I kept trying to figure out how he did that with his finger. And I kept trying to do it with my finger to emulate what he did -- I couldn't make it happen. It wasn't until about two years later that I heard the whole story about how he had lost his finger, that it was not there. And apparently this is the first time that he raised his hand like that and openly showed people. It became the logo for the Jerry Garcia website and his estate. I call this one "Jerry, Waving."
The Grateful Dead, October 1967: My first assignment for Rolling Stone as a photographer was to cover the Dead bust. The cops came and busted the ones that were home at the time. There was a lot of pot in the house, so they busted them for holding and dragged them down to jail. The Rolling Stone offices were right near the Hall of Justice, and so were all the bail bond offices. So I was there when they posted bail and they were coming out of the bail bonds office. And then they went back to their house and they held a big press conference that was attended by all the media.
They were sitting at the press conference with all these microphones, and they had this big bowl of whipped cream. And they warned the media. They said, "The first stupid question from any of you in the media that comes out of your mouth, whoever it is, you're going to get hit in the face with a spoonful of whipped cream."
I said, "Come on, guys, you've got to go out on the steps and I have to get some pictures of you." And they said, "Who are you?" Because Rolling Stone hadn't even published its first issue; we had no reputation. And it was all I could do to get them to settle down, they were so wild. They were crazy. They were pointing weapons at me and I didn't know any of them, personally, yet. And so I thought they were going to shoot me, because as you can see they had weapons. They flipped me the bird and I was like, "This is what I signed up to do?"
B.B. King, December 1967 : B.B. was so generous with his time. His hospitality was impeccable; he welcomed you into his world, without any question. And you can see -- he trusted. He trusted that I wasn't going to make him look like a fool. Nobody f---ing trusts anybody anymore. It really has come to that. The one thing about the black musicians, almost every one, is that once they accepted you, they brought you into the fold as if you were a member of the family.
This one was very early in my Rolling Stone career. B.B. hadn't yet become a superstar here. It was an innocent time and musicians were still innocent and they still welcomed any attention.
Creedence Clearwater Revival, January 1970: This concert took place in the Oakland Coliseum. Earlier that day, Creedence had come over to my studio for a Rolling Stone cover story and we shot the cover shot. And then they did this concert in the evening. It was great for a lot of reasons, but what I really like about this picture more than anything is that it really shows the visceral, emotional relationship between musician and audience. And the way John Fogerty has got his hand in the air like that, it's almost like he's a musical evangelist.
Donovan, September 1969: Vogue magazine had hired me to take some pictures of some celebrities in L.A., of which Donovan was one. And unbeknownst to me -- because I was naive at the time -- the celebrities were supposed to wear the clothes that were sent by Vogue for the photo, and then Vogue would identify the designer, the manufacturer, the stores that sold the clothes.
I get this package of clothes and I'm like, "What the f---? This is a tweed jacket, leather shoes, leather loafers, crap that you know Donovan never f---ing wore." He said, "Why are you so nervous, Baron?" and I said, "Well, I'm nervous because I don't think I can do the job." He said, "What are you talking about?" I said, "Here's what they want you to wear in the picture." And he said, "You've got to be kidding!" I said, "I'm not going to be able to fulfill the assignment adequately." And he said, "Hey, relax, pal. I'll wear what I wear, you'll take some pictures, we'll have a good time. Take some pictures and tell them to go f--- themselves."
So that's how this picture evolved. He's wearing what he always wore. I'll never forget how really comforting he was to me in my hour of need.
Frank Zappa, May 1968: I have a group of favorite pictures, of which this is definitely one of them. This was with rock journalist Jerry Hopkins. We went up to Frank Zappa's house. At the time, he was living toward the top of Laurel Canyon in an old log cabin house. It was situated on a hillside, and up behind the house were some caves. There was a big tree with a rope on it that the kids could swing on, and then a little bit higher up was this group of rusty, old road-grading equipment. This was all in his so-called backyard, high on the hill there.
I was somewhat apprehensive about photographing Frank because his reputation as a creative eccentric had preceded him and I didn't know what to expect. First of all, the guy was brilliant and I'm not that smart, so I felt at a disadvantage there. And secondly, I didn't know enough about music to talk to him intelligently about music, so I felt at a huge disadvantage there, also. So I was very, very nervous about this shoot. I didn't know which way it was going to go, and I didn't feel confident enough to give him any direction. As it turned out, we went back up there and started shooting, and I didn't need to give him any direction. He just started running around this stuff, posing all over this equipment.
If you look at photos of Frank on some of his album covers and stuff, this is really Frank. It's more Frank than it is me. I was just a witness. As was often the case, actually. I was just a witness to people being who they were.
Jimi Hendrix With Guitar, February 1968: I don't think you could have taken a bad picture of Jimi Hendrix. First of all, he dressed fantastically. Even when he wasn't playing. His clothes and everything were really, really cool. And he carried himself in a very interesting way, and he was a very interesting-looking guy. And then onstage ... Jerry Garcia would stand there and just play music, right? Hendrix would play behind his back, he'd get down there and f--- his guitar -- there was a lot of visual stuff going on and those made for fantastic photographs.
One thing I learned in taking pictures of musicians onstage was that, in any given song, when the choruses would repeat, they always played the same way in terms of how they presented themselves -- how they held the guitar, all that stuff. So if I saw something that I liked, I knew it would be coming back, so I'd wait for that moment and I would anticipate it. I tell people that I felt like I was playing my Nikon while he was playing his guitar; that I was another member of the band.
Jimi Hendrix Portrait, February 1968: This was in his hotel room down around Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. We were there just to get an initial interview for Rolling Stone. It was the first time I had ever seen him, and he just fell into these fantastic poses, one after another like that. Every moment, Jimi was photogenic. That's all there is to it. This was the kind of interview that happens before the concert and the thing that struck me about this is that when Hendrix was alone with you, when you were sitting around when there was no music going on, he spoke very quietly. You could hardly hear him sometimes. He was such an entirely different person than the one you saw onstage. And so this does reflect that.
Noel Redding of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, February 1968: He was there that same day as the shoot with Jimi; that was in the same spot, at their hotel down near Fisherman's Wharf. What can you say about this one? I don't know; I just love that photo.
George Harrison, September 1968: Notice that he's reading Bob Dylan's book, 'Don't Look Back.' That kind of ties it in. Here's what happened: I was in London and this was taken at Apple Corps' offices. I had a problem with celebrities, of insinuating myself into their world in order to get a picture. I always felt that wasn't fair because they already had enough anxiety without having somebody say, "Hey, let me take your picture" for this millionth time.
So I had to decide how to deal with George being there. He just came in and he sat down and he started reading. And he didn't know why I was there. I decided I wasn't going to introduce myself and I wasn't going to ask him to pose or anything like that. He fell into such a relaxed position on the couch there that I thought, "I'm just going to let him be himself." In retrospect, I wish I had said, "Hey, George, look here for a second." But this picture is so perfect; I couldn't have improved on it , really. Though it would've been nice for him to acknowledge the camera or maybe just look up.
Grace Slick, January 1968: There was a magazine called Eye magazine. They saw there was money in the counterculture and so they hired, or rather freelanced, a bunch of Rolling Stone contributors -- photographers, writers -- to provide content for them. And so they were doing this story on Grace and Janis Joplin. I was over in Ghiradelli Square; they used to have a store called Design Research and that's where we took a bunch of pictures. They had kind of like a little mirror -- I don't remember why that mirror was there, but the point of this is that she was wearing a Girl Scout shirt, like she often did. And, to me, this is Grace reflecting her attitude about a lot of things about society. Basically, "Go f--- yourself." It's the same attitude that she carried to the White House when she was gonna drop some acid in the punch. She basically always laughs at the strictures and some of the attitudes and some of the presumptuousness of formal society. She came from a pretty well-to-do family and just wasn't gonna accept that life. But here she was: "Scout's honor -- f--- you!"
James Taylor, June 1969: This was at the Newport Folk Festival. Would you say he's tripping? I don't know. It looks that way to me, but it was in advance of him going onstage, so maybe he was in a pre-performance mood.
When I show this photo now, when I give a little slide show, I say, "Here's 'Sweet Baby James' when he had hair!" The intensity of this picture is incredible; this was a cover shot for Rolling Stone, too. There was something in the eyes and I've always wondered: If you look into his eyes, that look does not make you think of who he is, right? When you see that man, you don't think of what James Taylor represents. Nevertheless, I like the picture.
Janis Joplin, November 1967: This was taken in her bedroom. And the poster in the back is a photograph that was taken by Bob Seidemann, the photographer, and it was made into a poster that was widely circulated. Janis always claimed that because of that poster -- because she was semi-nude in it -- that she was the first hippie pinup ever. Anyhow, on the wall facing her bed, she had the entire wall tapered with these posters. I didn't put them there; they were there. That's what she woke up to every day!
Janis had a dark side and a light side -- very, very distinct. And you'll see it in a lot of different photos. I preferred to photograph her light side because the way I saw it ,she was in her early 20s, she was still a little girl, I knew there was some little girl left -- there had to be some innocence there. And so most of my photos of Janis that I really like are joyous. But for this one, I had her try to look like she looked in that poster.
Duke Ellington, 1972: This was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in L.A. -- the same hotel where Bobby Kennedy was killed. It was the first time I had ever actually shot a big band and I was blown away. I went back into the dressing room to take some pictures, and Ellington was so hospitable: "Come on in, man. Sit down. Let's talk." And I got a bunch of nice photos from it.
He was regal. By this age -- and how old do you think he is here, 70s or something like that? -- he was established. He was confident. He didn't have any ax to grind or anything, he just was genuinely regal. Everything about him was regal. His attitude, his posing -- I'll never forget how warm he made me feel. Because I was just a young photographer.
There are so many interesting things going on: the dressing room mirror to the left, then the TV in the background, and then that weird cat or lion or tiger, whatever it is, in the background.
Mick Jagger, July 1969: This was at the Oakland Coliseum Arena, the concert before the free concert at Altamont. I was very excited because it was the first time I ever photographed the Rolling Stones. I like the outfit, too. Is Jagger a Libra? Whatever the astrological sign was on his T-shirt, that's what he is.
I was in New York when they gave the press conference to announce the free concert. Then there was this show, then there was Altamont. So that all happened within a few months of each other.
Phil Spector, 1969: What I remember in particular about this is that Jann and I flew down to L.A. to interview Spector and we couldn't go meet him ourselves, for the interview. The interview took place, in the end, in his home up in the hilly part of Beverly Hills. But the instructions were for us to take our rental car, park it in front of his office on Sunset Boulevard and wait for his driver. We did that at the appointed time. Shortly thereafter, his driver pulls up there, black limo, got out of the car -- big huge guy -- and told us to get into the limo. And we did.
We drove up to Spector's house. What struck me about Spector's house was that it was surrounded by cyclone fencing with barbed wire. We went into the house and the driver said, "Sit down, make yourself at home. Phil will be down in a minute." At which point the driver, as part of his show, took off his jacket to show us that he had a shoulder holster on; that he was packing heat. I don't know how Jann felt, but I was like, "F---, now what?" Then Spector came down, sucking on a candy cane, and it was a perfectly reasonable, normal interview.
Jeff Beck, December 1968: This was in his hotel room in San Francisco. He asked me, "Hey, do you know anybody that's got a hot rod for sale?" There was a car dealer on the corner of Van Ness and Market, downstairs from the venue that became the Fillmore West. I took him there and they had a hot rod in the showroom, and I got a picture of him writing a check -- he was going to buy it right then and he was writing a check for it. The end of that story is that for some reason the car never made it over to England. He said recently that he sure wished he had that car, but they couldn't bring it over for some reason.
He always took a 45 rpm player with him and he had a stack of 45s, and he would sit with his guitar and just practice all the time and play. And in this one shot of him in the room, there was a box with some part that he bought for this car, sitting next to the 45 rpm player. So, anyhow, he sat around and played for awhile and then he said he had to lay down. Before I left, I got that picture of him.
Pink Floyd, November 1967: This was taken at the Casa Madrona hotel in Sausalito, Calif. This was early, early on in their career. I don't know for a fact if it was the first time they were in the US, but I do know for a fact it was the first time they had been out in California.
There's another great picture from this: Syd Barrett liked to drop a lot of acid, right? One of the ways you take acid is you put it on a sugar cube and suck on it. We were sitting around having coffee and there was a bowl of sugar cubes on the table, and I don't know how it came to be, but I got a picture of him with a couple of sugar cubes. And then there was a fire escape there and they climbed up on the fire escape and posed for another really great shot.
The Plaster Casters of Chicago, January 1969: This was taken for the groupie issue of Rolling Stone. I'll never forget: They wanted to cast me. At the time, I thought, it didn't seem like a way to be immortalized. So I said, '"I don't know, let's go get something to eat." I tell people nowadays, "They wanted to cast me but I didn't want to put the musicians to shame."
The girl who is standing up with her tongue sticking out, she actually is Cynthia Plaster, as she calls herself now. She's in her 50s. She's still casting. Now, there's more to the story. The girl on the bottom, her name is Diane. When they went in there, Diane was called "the plater." And the plater's responsibility was to perform oral sex on the guy till he was ready; Cynthia, meanwhile, was getting the plaster ready to slam on the guy's d--- when it got hard. Nowadays, however, Cynthia does both jobs.
Rick Nelson and Family, 1969: This was shot at the Nelsons' home in Southern California. I remember they were really hospitable. The funny thing is that we couldn't keep the Nelson twins from screaming and crying. So they called over the daughter, hoping that she would make a difference, but they screamed even more. So I said, "What the f---? Let's take a picture of them screaming, because that's more fun." I loved the fact that the kids are screaming, because it isn't your typical family portrait. Tracy is currently an actress, and the sons went on to become musicians.
Sun Ra, December 1968: If you've seen any pictures of Sun Ra, you know he's a colorful cat. I had no idea who he was. And even when I got there and tried to listen to some of the music, I still had no idea what the hell was going on. A friend of mine got control of some of the masters and they're releasing CDs and albums of all that original Sun Ra Arkestra stuff and apparently some of the living members of the Arkestra are on tour again.
I didn't set this photo up; that's how he was. Seldom did I set up a photo. How people actually were was interesting enough to me. I got a bunch of pictures of him and he kept changing his costumes and he had sunglasses and s---. He understood the value of having his picture taken; he was on the cover of Rolling Stone, too, with one of the other photos from this series, I mean.
Taj Mahal, December 1968: This was taken in Topanga Canyon when Taj Mahal was living with the band in L.A. for awhile. Look at all the stuff that's in the picture. I mean, he was eating raw foods, drinking juice, there's a banjo in the background. That was the house they were living in. It almost looks like it was taken in Mississippi or something.
Tiny Tim, May 1968: If you knew Tiny, you also knew that Tiny was eccentric enough that he might not want to cooperate. He might not want to talk. He might not want to sit down for an interview. He might not even show up. And if he did, he might leave. So I said, 'Look, we've got to do something having to do with Tiny's personality that will endear him to us." And I don't know what got into me to make me think that a bouquet of daisies would do it, but that's what we brought him.
We sat down with him, and the first thing that I did was to give him the bouquet of daisies and say, "These are for you, Tiny." You can see, at this moment, he was ecstatic about those flowers; that's why he was making that face. It was about those flowers. We gave him the flowers and he was ours.
Woodstock, August 1969: There's a funny story behind this one: If you look carefully at the scaffolding, you'll see a guy on the lower rungs who is completely naked. You can see his penis and everything. So there's that guy. Now, after Woodstock, I got a call from Encyclopaedia Britannica in Chicago. They wanted some pictures of Woodstock to run with their entry on what happened during that year, 1969. And I sent them a bunch of prints, of which this was one. And this was the one they used. When they sent the print back and when I saw how it was used in the encyclopedia, I saw they had airbrushed a pair of underpants on that guy. And that's how they ran the picture -- with the underpants!