Allen's Blog

Posts tagged ‘music’:

Chuck Berry Performing Live in New York, 1972

A letter to Chuck Berry from Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan

Sad news this weekend, as we all learned that the great Chuck Berry had passed on at the age of 90. His contribution to modern music is such that the entire first page of a Google search for “father of rock and roll” features his name. Or, if you prefer a form of recognition less ephemeral, he was one of the few performers immortalized on the “Golden Record” placed aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft, now streaking through interstellar space at nearly 11 miles per second. “Go, Johnny, go”, indeed.

Chuck Berry live at Hofstra University (1972)

I was lucky enough to photograph Mr. Berry in concert (and fortunate enough to have the images close at hand, considering their age.) The time was November 1972, and the place was Hofstra University, on New York’s Long Island. It was a cool, slightly drizzly night outside, but you wouldn’t know it inside the auditorium, between the warmly-gelled stage lights and the energetic Berry, performing his signature “duck-walk” as he grinned and wailed away on his Gibson. The show was being filmed for ABC’s “In Concert” series, a new venture for the network, directed and executive produced by the legendary Don Kirshner.

Chuck Berry live at Hofstra University (1972)

Imagine my delight on finding that highlights from the show are available right here on YouTube. If you watch very carefully (pixels being so much larger and blurrier back then than they are now), you might be able to pick me out standing next to the TV cameras. (I’d much rather you gave your full attention to the music, though.)

And you’ll note that, were you an audiophile who wanted to hear the program in stereo, you were directed to tune your “hi-fi” to the ABC-affiliated FM radio station, which was simulcasting the show across the country. We were all a long way from carrying hi-def televisions in our pockets all day (which also happened to make phone calls and catch Pokémon), but the energy of those live performances was as good as ever – maybe even better.

In the Studio with Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, T-Bone Walker, and Legendary Jazz Musicians

I’ve never thought of myself as a ‘music photographer,’ but there is some evidence to the contrary. The latest reminder came early last week while watching NBC Nightly News and seeing an affectionate obit for Jerry Leiber, half of the legendary music-writing team of Leiber and Stoller. More articles appeared later in the week in print.  Much of the popular music I had listened and (poorly) danced to in high school and college came from their collaboration. Leiber wrote the lyrics and Stoller the music for the Coasters, the Drifters, and lots of groups as well as for Elvis Presley. Much later on, their music was turned into a hit Broadway musical, Smokey Joe’s Café, which opened in 1995.

Dizzy Gillespie

Our paths crossed just once, in New York in 1973, when I was assigned to shoot the studio production photos for an album by the great blues guitarist, T-Bone Walker. Leiber and Stoller produced the album, titled Very Rare, and the guest artists included Dizzy Gillespie, Gerry Mulligan, Zoot Sims, and Herbie Mann, among others.

Leiber & Stoller working at the mixing console

Over the years, my own musical tastes had changed, moving much more toward jazz, so it was a real thrill (no exaggeration) to be in the studio at the same time with the composers who had written the first tunes I knew by heart and, almost 20 years later, the artists whose music I had come to appreciate just as much. So it seemed a good idea to dig into the archives and put up a bunch of images to remember those days…

Gerry Mulligan

Herbie Mann

Zoot Sims

Jerry Leiber leaning on the mixing console