There are some moments in life that you don’t realize are significant until you look back. In 1972 when I moved to Tampa I started shooting concerts. Not just any concerts, but some of the greats…Zeppelin, Ray Charles, Santana and many more. 70s music was unique and part of a time period like no other. The rock shows drew the anti-war folks, hippie types and plain old music lovers. The big concerts were at the old Tampa Stadium, while others were at Curtis Hixon Hall, The Bayfront Center, and Ft. Homer Hesterly Armory.
At the time I was a photo intern for the Tampa Tribune and was later hired as a staff photographer. It was my first journalism job and concerts weren’t what the others wanted to shoot. The papers often didn’t include concert photos in their coverage, as the shows were too late in the evening to make deadline. So passes often went unused. I grabbed the chance.
From day one I was a documentary photographer. Events that drew a huge group of music lovers, sports events, protests, etc. intrigued me because I could study the human culture through my camera lens. Back then there were few restrictions. It wasn’t hard to get backstage and have freedom to roam around. So I moved from within the audience to the pit in front of the stage and then on the sides and backstage. I got shots that most couldn’t get in today’s age of security. Today, the three and out rule is the norm. Three songs and photographers are out. But then, the whole scene played out in front of me and I photographed it as it happened.
Every show was awesome, but some stick out in my memory. Led Zeppelin stands out. It was an electric show and everyone there knew they were seeing something special. Backstage was also always interesting. I met and played chess with Johnny and Edgar Winter, spent time with Bo Diddley during a photo shoot. Chatted with Ray Charles, George Thorogood and Jackson Browne.
One particular date I won’t forget – Aug. 27, 1973. Cheech and Chong had a show at Curtis Hixon Hall, Dr. John was also on the bill. I was not at the concert but around midnight I got a call from Rolling Stone Magazine to see if I would take a photo for them at the Tampa Police Station. The photos were all totally posed and one was published in Rolling Stone. I’m still not sure how they got me on the phone that evening.
Today as I look back at these photos – which, by the way, I had to convert from film to digital – I don’t think they’re my best shots. I was a pretty green photographer at that time, learning, experimenting, and still growing. But they capture a moment in time that I wouldn’t have missed for the world. A time in my life, a time in musical history, a time in Tampa’s history, that is so significant, so memorable. When I look back, I see a platform where I started my creative path to where I have come since. You can never go back, but I will always have great memories of those times and the music.