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Submitted by m3jimphoto on Thu, 02/23/2012 - 9:31pm

Miles Davis: Don’t Hit Me in the Mouth, I Gotta Play Tonight

“I’m always thinking about creating.  My future starts when I wake up every morning ... Every day I find something creative to do with my life.” — Miles Davis

Continuing with our focus on Jim’s work with Miles Davis, we now bring you the heavy hitters, leading off with one of my all-time favorite of Jim's photos: Miles in the Ring or as Jim sometimes referred to it: Don’t Hit Me in the Mouth, I Gotta Play Tonight, which was apparently what Miles would tell his sparring partners at Newman's Gym before they tussled. Why do I love this shot so much?

1. The setting, Newman’s Gym, in 1971 and the fact that Miles would let Jim, or ANY photographer, shadow him during his workouts, which he viewed as sort of a sacred part of his regimen.  And a boxing gym in the Tenderloin?  For me, whose grandpa boxed Golden Gloves, I’m not sure there’s anything cooler.

2. The way Jim captures the combative side of Miles ... somehow it’s not so surprising that Miles was a devotee of the sweet science.  Boxing, especially back in the day, was a combo of deft, swift and lethal talents, something that Miles' playing and Jim's approach to capturing his subjects had in common.

3. After Jim and I split up and I was in NYC I had a fairly serious (for 23) beau, Matt Goldenberg; I was serious enough about him to tell Jim, who still carried a major torch in my general direction (he was nothing if not tenacious).  Matt was a big jazz aficionado and fan of Jim’s work and secretly coveted a shot of Miles in the Ring … and Jim gave him one.  Even though Matt and I didn’t last, I like to think that shot still graces his wall, a small testament to the fact that Jim could be a very classy guy … as long as you had his trust.

Isle of Wight Festival

I also love the color shots of Miles at the ground-breaking Isle of Wight music festival in 1970, especially the shot of Miles grinning (pictures of a genuinely happy Miles are so rare!) Here's more from Wikipedia on the festival's historic status: The 1970 event was by far the largest and most famous of these early festivals; indeed it was said at the time to be one of the largest human gatherings in the world, with estimates of over 600,000, surpassing the attendance at Woodstock. Included in the line-up of over fifty performers were The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, The Doors, Ten Years After, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Joni Mitchell, The Moody Blues, Melanie, Donovan, Free, Chicago, Richie Havens, John Sebastian, Leonard Cohen, Jethro Tull, Taste and Tiny Tim. The unexpectedly high attendance levels led, in 1971, to Parliament passing the "Isle of Wight Act" preventing gatherings of more than 5,000 people on the island without a special license.

The 1970 festival was filmed by a 35mm film crew under the direction of future Academy Award-winning director Murray Lerner, who at that point had just directed a documentary on the Newport Folk Festival. Lerner distilled material from the festival into the film A Message to Love: The Isle of Wight Rock Festival released theatrically in 1996 and subsequently on DVD.  Check out this great video of Miles and his amazing band playing "Call it Anything" live at the festival.

The Full Story of How Jim Got to Miles

And, for those of you keeping score, I had time to dig just a bit deeper on the “interwebs” and found the story of Jim finally getting through to Miles and earning his trust in Jim’s own words on the NPR jazz blog:

“I first photographed Miles Davis in 1959, but not too well. I remember after a show in Berkeley, California, a little later around 1960, I went up to him backstage and asked why he had a green trumpet. He shot back at me, ‘M—————r, do I ask you why you have a black camera?!’ Frightened the s—- outta me for the next five years! After I moved to NY in 1962, I did a couple of covers for Miles, live records on Columbia. I went down the first time he played for Bill Graham at Winterland in San Francisco. I had made him a picture of my John Coltrane photo that I had taken in John’s garden. Backstage was crazy.

“He was surrounded by all the media, press, local TV stations and newspapers ... it was a real big deal. I saw him and said, ‘Hey Miles’ he sort of grunted and acknowledged my presence. I gave him the print and said, ‘This is for you.’ ‘What is it? I’m busy.’ ‘It’s just something for you.’ ‘I'm busy,’ he says again. I walked away and he opens the package. People are all over him, asking questions, bothering him and trying to get to him, he tells them all to shut the f—- up and leave him alone. “He’s looking at the print. He loved Coltrane. ‘Hey Marshall, did you take this of John? You knew him like that? Why don’t you take pictures of me like this?’ And I said, ‘Why don’t you let me?’ After that I could do whatever I wanted with him. He had his moods but we were cool. It was trust. If John trusted me, then so did Miles and with trust I got great shots of him.”

Submitted by m3jimphoto on Thu, 02/09/2012 - 9:09pm

Miles Davis: Why Don’t You Ever Take Pictures Like That of Me?

In honor of Black History month, we thought we’d focus February’s blogs on another of Jim’s musical heroes: jazz musician, trumpeter, bandleader, and composer extraordinaire Miles Davis, widely considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.

When I first met Jim, I knew almost nothing about jazz; I was deplorably ignorant, really.  So Jim, as always, went about murdering that ignorance in the most effective of ways by showing me the images and than playing music of his favorites.

I especially remember when he introduced me to Miles Davis’ recordings from 1959 and 1960, “Kind of Blue” and “Sketches of Spain.” I remember one of Jim's favorite things was to slip a tape into his bedroom system, crack open a nice bottle of white and just lay back and listen while the soft SF afternoon light streamed through the windows.  It was the true personification of cool and hot all at the same time. Perfect.

Hearing Miles for the first time for me was like someone blew the cobwebs out of my ears … and less than a decade later I was a music journalist in NYC interviewing Dizzy Gillespie and the like for “Windplayer Magazine.”  Just another aspect of my career for which I owe more than I can say to the ole man.

From the Miles Davis Wikipedia page: “Producer Quincy Jones, one of Davis’ longtime friends, wrote: “(Kind of Blue) will always be my music, man.  I play Kind of Blue every day — it’s my orange juice.  It still sounds like it was made yesterday.”  Pianist Chick Corea, one of Miles’ acolytes, was also struck by its majesty, later stating, “It’s one thing to just play a tune, or play a program of music, but it’s another thing to practically create a new language of music, which is what Kind of Blue did.

“One significant aspect of Kind of Blue is that the entire record, not just one track, was revolutionary.  Gary Burton noted this occurrence, stating: “It wasn’t just one tune that was a breakthrough, it was the whole record.”

And, if you were hanging out with Jim and Miles Davis came up … he was likely to share the following memories, at least he did with me.  Jim admitted that he was in awe of Miles, I think with me he used the phrase star struck.  And Miles, a notoriously cantankerous individual, was far less approachable than the mellow, diffident John Coltrane, who took an instant liking to Jim.  You can see it in the way Jim’s work with Miles progresses, starting with live shots and quick grabs backstage, Miles seemingly oblivious to Jim’s presence.

This is how I remember hearing one of Jim’s favorite Miles stories, told ruefully even decades after it happened:  He was walking by Miles backstage probably in San Francisco or Monterey in the early '60s, they had a nodding acquaintance at the time.  And Jim gets the bright idea to make conversation in an attempt to get to know Miles better. I paraphrase: “Hey, Miles, why do you play a green trumpet?”  to which the take-no-prisoners Miles retorts, “Mothafucka, why are you askin’ me about the color of my trumpet?  I don’t ask you why you are using a black camera!” I remember the way Jim flinched when he first told me that story, like Miles had just told him off the night before even though it was two decades ago; he looked a bit like a dog that got kicked.  And that’s the way it could have ended, but thankfully for all of us, Jim just had to give connecting with Miles one more try, this time leading with his one true strength, his work.

At another event, maybe the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1963, Miles is hanging out off stage surrounded by friends, bandmates, handlers and the like.  After the earlier altercation, Jim is petrified to go up to Miles.  Instead, he has brought along one of his favorite portraits, a print of John Coltrane taken when he was at Ralph Gleason’s house in Berkeley. Jim tells the guy that when he gets a moment could he please give the Coltrane print to Miles with Jim's highest regards and then stands back to wait.  When Miles sees the print he flips out, goes over to Jim to thank him, tells him that Coltrane is one of his favorite musicians (Jim's says "Yeah, I know.")  Miles looks Jim dead in the eye with those crazy laser beams as only Miles could and asks, “Why don’t you ever take pictures like that of me?”  To which Jim replies, “Why don’t you let me?”

Next blog: The fruits of Jim’s labor when Miles Davis finally “lets him.”  Stay tuned.

Submitted by m3jimphoto on Thu, 01/26/2012 - 8:35pm

Etta James & Johnny Otis: Linked Then, Now and Always

They died within two days of each other -- Ioannis Alexandros Veliotes aka “Johnny Otis” and Jamesetta Hawkins aka “Etta James” – and it got me to thinking about how music connects even the most disparate of souls and smooths over some of the roughest of roads. So we dug around the JMP archives and the web to find some choice files to get your blood rollin’ and your hands jivin’ in honor of two musical giants linked in life, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame one year apart (Etta in ’93, Johnny in ’94) and now inextricably connected in whatever comes hereafter. Here’s a sweet blog, “Etta James and Johnny Otis: The End of a Great R&B Song” , by New York Magazine’s Mark Jacobsen that does a fine job of describing their bond:

“It is a rough day for the rhythm, a bad day for the blues when the 73-year-old Etta James and 90(!)-year-old Johnny Otis die within 48 hours of each other.  Still, like the internal logic that imbues all good songs, it figures, since Otis, avatar of "Willie and the Hand Jive," discovered the then-14 year-old Jamesetta Hawkins in a San Francisco hotel room more than 60 years ago.  A man with an eye for a hot mama ready to rip it up, it didn't take Otis but a minute to put Etta on the road with his “Hand Jive” revue, singing kind of dirty songs like ‘Roll With Me, Henry,’ which was changed to ‘Dance With Me, Henry’ to get it on the radio. “Maybe it was that taste for the netherworld clubland that kept Etta James from crossing over to the mass market despite possessing a set of pipes to power a whole Rust Belt city. (Otis always went his own way, played a million one-night stands, and often recorded under the name Snatch and the Poontangs.)

"She wasn't churchy like Aretha, she wasn't silky like Sarah Vaughn, she wasn't skinny like Diana Ross, but of all the great female R&B singers to come of age after the rise of rock and roll, Etta James was the most street. She shot dope, got arrested for writing bad checks and forging scripts, claimed to be pool player Minnesota Fats' illegitimate daughter, and blew up to 400 pounds. Plus, she scared the shit out of you. There were few forces on earth to put the fear of God into a young boy surreptitiously listening to a transistor radio after bedtime than Etta James roaring, ‘Tell Mama ... all about it!’ ”

And from a thoughtful Jazztimes piece on what they both meant to the LA music community by Ed Hamilton: “Etta James said about her mentor Johnny Otis, 'I dig how Johnny Otis reinvented himself as a Blackman -- his soul was blacker than the blackest black in Compton.  People took his Greek shading as Creole, but Johnny took it even further, he viewed the world especially the musical world through black eyes.'  Otis gave up his Greek heritage as Veliotes to adopt the culture of blacks ... "Otis said about his discovery, 'I knew instantly when I heard Etta sing in a bathroom audition that she would be a star.”  He saluted Etta's artistry as the apex of achievement in singing.” Speaking of salutes and artistry, more than any words I could crank out, the following videos do a much better job of conveying how wonderful and full of life these two great artists truly were.  And a special thanks to the tireless Dan Sullivan and Amelia Davis for all the research help! Etta James and her classic “At Last” ... eat your heart out Beyonce. Johnny Otis and "friends" perform "Willie and the Hand Jive" in 1958.

Submitted by m3jimphoto on Thu, 01/12/2012 - 8:25pm

Social Lubricant

It’s no big secret that Jim liked his women, his wine and his whiskey.  Anyone who spent any time with him knows the effort it took to keep him from practically pouring the booze down your throat, especially if he wanted something from you or if he sensed you wanted something from him.  And, let’s face it, Jim saw the world in rather stark black-and-white terms, so who wanted what from whom and why was pretty much the the name of the game with him.  If you didn't like it, well, he was more than happy to tell you where you could stick your opinion. With his typical obsessiveness, Jim really didn’t have an “off button” about drinking.  But, unlike his coke addiction which made him mean, paranoid and dangerous, Jim was mostly much happier with a drink in him.  Also, back in the day when he and I were together, he really didn’t get sloppy drunk.  It was only later that he turned into the sloppy, sappy, grabby drunk of legend.  It was never a big deal to me to fend him off (part of our lifelong bond really) but I always felt the worst for any recovering alcoholics who unsuspectingly met Jim in a restaurant, at his apartment, or a party.  He would ask them “What’s your poison? Scotch or bourbon?”

And, god help them when they’d tell Jim they didn’t drink …  Jim’s stock answer?  “What the fuck is wrong with you?”  I would watch him watch them stutter and flush trying to figure out a way to answer this crazy man and not piss him off.  Sometimes they would take a shot and pretend to sip it.  Sometimes they’d leave.  Sometimes they’d realize he was just fucking with them, and then maybe they, too, would have a friend for life.  But that was just Jim.

Irish Margaritas

Where booze was concerned, Jim had a distinctly on or off view of things.  You were either cool with it or a a drag, and he didn’t seem to be able to wrap his mind around little things such as you maybe a couple of years under age.  I was 19 when we met downtown at the Cadillac Bar for our initial approval session before he agreed to let me interview him. The first thing he did was ask me if I wanted a drink and, when I demurred, he just cocked his head in that way he had, sized me up and went ahead and ordered me one anyway: a margarita (dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day).  I think we might also have had food, but in those days when I got agitated I couldn’t eat.  And, believe me, Jim agitated me, big time. After we “took up together,” as he would say, some of Jim’s favorite times involved taking me to Mulhern’s in the Marina (nice glass or two of Napa Valley “Cab Sav”) and then back to the now-famous 16th street apartment he had just moved into a few months before so that we could cozy up in the bedroom and watch “Hill Street Blues” with a nice glass of single malt, usually back then it was 18-year-old Glenlivet or Macallan … which I could NOT abide. I think I may be allergic or something to scotches and bourbons, they just don’t sit right with me.  Jim, again, could not fathom this, found it hysterical.  I recall he would pour two fairly substantial shots of single malt (he might not have been able to eat well, but he ALWAYS had great single malt around) and he would grab me and pretend to try to pour it down my throat, cackling like a hyena.  Then, to add insult to injury, he would “sing” this little ditty he had come up with in this horrible faux-Scottish brogue: “Brown whiskey, brown whiskey, yon, Michie and me…” you get the idea.  If the booze didn't make me nauseous enough that certainly did.  Although I never did succumb to brown whiskey's charms, Jim and I discovered I had a taste for Cognacs and Armagnacs; thus, he was appeased.

Amelia told me the other day that she has discovered a reality show that she knows Jim would have really gotten into; in fact, the whole time she's watching it she imagines what Jim would be saying, wonders if he knew any of these guys, etc.  The show combines his love of outlaws and whiskey and moral codes.  We like to think it could have competed with Jim's obsession with police procedurals such as “Law and Order,” which seemed to be on the damn TVs in his apartment (with volume on 11!) every single time I came to hang out. The show in question?  “Moonshiners,” of course

Tell Us Your Stories

In our ongoing quest to keep Jim’s memory alive and his legacy moving forward, we’d love to learn more from you all about Jim, as always.  And, specifically, we’d like to hear any stories you may recall about sharing Jim’s favorite social lubricant:  What was the first drink you ever had with Jim?  What about the time you and he “had one too many?”

Submitted by m3jimphoto on Thu, 12/29/2011 - 8:18pm

Infinite Delight

It’s a most mysterious process, this work of keeping Jim’s legacy alive.  In some ways it doesn’t even feel much like work to the team behind Jim Marshall Photography LLC, for we get to look at brilliant, heroic photos, discover unseen gems on hidden slides and never-seen proof sheets, and, most fun of all, reminisce about the man and the myth. We know how lucky we are and want to take a moment as 2011 strides to a close to express our gratitude to everyone (whether friend, family, fan, even former foe) who is coming along on the journey with us. In reviewing the 39 blogs I’ve posted this year, it strikes me how busy we’ve all been, especially Amelia Davis, Bonita Passerelli, Jay Blakesberg, Michelle Dunn Marsh, Dave Brolan, Helene Crawshaw, and Michael Whalen. Truth be told, for yours truly at least, it’s been a bit of a blur ... in the best possible way. Fortunately, this year’s blogs are like a highlight reel featuring our efforts to sort through the fascinating fragments of Jim’s life and assemble a suitably respectful, inspiring lane of memories, book projects, exhibitions and events that we believe would make Jim proud. In reviewing the blog lineup, I chose a handful that I feel best capture our burgeoning vision of Jim’s life and work. Blog highlights (in the order in which they were posted): “A Pocketful of Love: June Carter + Johnny Cash” “Jim the Assyrian” “Dylan With Tire” “A Coat So Warm” “The Day the Earth Stood Still” More Monterey Pop: Shake, Rattle and BURN!! “Woodstock 1969: Get Ourselves Back to the Garden” “The Jack & Jim Gallery” “Somebody to Love” “Shel Silverstein: A Cockeyed Visionary” I was rummaging around for some words (lyrics, poems, aphorisms) that might capture how Jim approached the new year and I hit upon these two quotes, one caustically amused and the other dripping in hope, that I feel do a decent job of capturing the two sides of Jim around the holidays: “Every New Year is the direct descendant, isn’t it, of a long line of proven criminals?” - Ogden Nash “In the time of your life, live ... so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it.” - William Saroyan, The Time of Your Life, 1939 And, on that note ... As this most momentous and mysterious of years winds down, we want to thank you again for all your support and best wishes and wish you all, in turn, the most rewarding and magical of New Year’s.   And, now, please join us in raising a glass of red or Jack or your favorite single malt in Jim’s honor: Here’s to you, old man, we miss you more than words can say!

Submitted by m3jimphoto on Thu, 12/15/2011 - 9:06pm

The “Proof” is in the Shooting

We couldn’t help but notice the other day that Magnum, the renowned photo agency founded by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Cornell Capa and other photojournalists in Paris after the end of WWII, has released a coffee table book featuring a collection of proof sheets from its famous archives. I know Jim was a big fan of much of the work that Magnum photographers created, and he counted many of them as great inspirations, even friends. Yet I can’t help but wonder what Jim’s reaction might have been when he saw this book of famous proof sheets coming out more than seven years after “Proof,” Jim’s own pioneering book of marked up proofs and hero shots. Perhaps, if he was feeling magnanimous that day, Jim might have just shrugged or uttered some version of the cliché, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” only with a few F bombs thrown in for good measure to betray his irritation. But don’t take it from me.  Ex-SF Chronicle rock music journalist, broadcaster, raconteur and self-described “smart ass,” Joel Selvin, who collaborated with Jim on “Monterey Pop” and wrote the introduction for, “Proof,” has this to say:

Pulling Back the Curtain

“Marshall didn’t show a lot of people his proof sheets.  He tended to print the same photos over and over and rarely consulted them again himself.  I ran across Marshall in a bank parking lot in 1990, when he accosted me – that’s the word – with the idea of doing a book with him about Monterey Pop. ‘It’s found money,’ he said. “After we landed a deal with Chronicle Books, Marshall was less interested.  He handed over the proof sheets and told me to do the photo edit.  We needed 90 photos.  I found 120 on the first pass. “The proof sheets were unbelievable.  Every frame was composed.  Every shot worked. I’d been around the newspaper business all my life and I had seen a lot of proof sheets. But nothing like Marshall’s. “Over the years, I would look over Marshall’s proof sheets when I was doing photo research and find amazing shots he never even printed.  There was an utterly angelic picture of Pigpen of the Grateful Dead, leaning on the stage at the Human Be-In, listening to one of the other bands that I used in my book, ‘Summer Of Love,’ and that Dennis McNally subsequently licensed for his Grateful Dead biography, ‘Long Strange Trip.’

Marshall looked at the shot when I showed it to him on the proof sheet and said, ‘Yeah, that is a good shot.’  He’d never seen it before and probably hadn’t looked at the proofs since he filed them away. “ ‘Proof’ was a 2004 volume we did for Chronicle Books that juxtaposed a contact sheet with what Marshall called ‘the hero shot.’  The book was my idea and Marshall was so pleased, he insisted I pose for the dust jacket photo with him.  I love that book – it has a very special place in my work.  In the introduction I wrote: ‘Richard Avedon would never do this.’ “All this comes to mind because I saw the New York Times reviewer fall all over herself praising the new book of contact sheets from Magnum Photo.  Avedon isn’t represented among the 70 photographers in the book, but that was the basic idea – pulling back the curtain on the Wizard of Oz. “Marshall would have gotten a big laugh out of that.”

Jim Marshall Shoots People

And, while I’m sure Joel is correct when he says that it was his idea to do the book with Chronicle Books, I think deep down Jim always knew a book of his proof sheets would happen.  Why?  Because the first time I ever met him at the Cadillac Bar in March of 1984 he had one of those ever-present Kodak film paper boxes with him, chock full of proof sheets featuring all of his hero shots. He said he just wanted to make sure my ignorant 19-year-old self knew “who she was dealing with.”  I recall he told me he had a lot of bridges to mend in the industry, and that his reputation was “dead in this town” because of all the gun bullshit and animosity he had stirred up.  He said he needed to get some good publicity and he needed to start working again. His solution?  He was going to take the hero shots on all those proof sheets and make a promotional poster titled “Jim Marshall Shoots People” (and then he paused to watch my rather horrified reaction) before breaking into that infamous cackle of his … but then I thought about it and looked more closely at the proofs in that dinged up old film paper box to see that each sheet was literally jammed with amazing images.  I remember blurting out that it looked to me like he had a book in there.

And I then he put down his drink, stopped staring at my chest and really looked at me for the first time, wanting to believe what I said, but so full of doubt and anger and regret that he just couldn't let himself.  Instead, he just shook his head, laughed a bitter little laugh, and changed the subject back to whether I would ever date an old fart like him. So a big hat’s off to Joel Selvin, for hearing past the laugh and pushing through Jim’s resistance to pull back the curtain so that the full “Proof” of his determined talent, and the trust it created, could see the light of day.

Submitted by m3jimphoto on Fri, 12/02/2011 - 1:47am

Shel Silverstein: A Cockeyed Visionary

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child.  Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.  Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me ... Anything can happen, child.  Anything can be.” ― Shel Silverstein

In the most recent blog that featured rare shots from Jim’s Thanksgiving spent with Johnny Cash’s family and friends in 1969, I wanted to explore Jim’s incredible work documenting Shel Silverstein, the renaissance man who wrote “A Boy Named Sue” for Cash. Shel was there at the wonderful Hendersonville thanks giving and guitar pulling along with the rest of the brilliant Cash clan, Kris Kristofferson and Bobby Bare.

As you all probably realize, Silverstein’s multi-facted heyday was before my prime, so I only knew a bit of his work as an author/illustrator of children’s books such as the classics “The Giving Tree” and “The Missing Piece Meets the Big O.” You can learn more about the breadth and scope of this work (Shel's books have been translated into more than 30 languages and sold more than 20 million copies) at his official site for kids.  Hence, it is with no small amount of delight that I learn just how wide-ranging Silverstein’s genius was across an array of fields: poetry, singer-songwriting, cartooning and screenwriting. Otto Penzler, in his crime anthology Murder for Revenge (1998), which included a Silverstein short story, commented on his versatility: “The phrase ‘Renaissance man’ tends to get overused these days, but apply it to Shel Silverstein and it practically begins to seem inadequate.  Not only has he produced with seeming ease country music hits and popular songs, but he’s been equally successful at turning his hand to poetry, short stories, plays, and children’s books. “Moreover, his whimsically hip fables, beloved by readers of all ages, have made him a stalwart of bestseller lists.  A Light in the Attic, most remarkably, showed the kind of staying power on the New York Times chart — two years, to be precise.  His unmistakable illustrative style is another crucial element to his appeal.  Just as no writer sounds like Shel, no other artist’s vision is as delightfully, sophisticatingly cockeyed.”

Silverstein told  Publishers Weekly: “I would hope that people, no matter what age, would find something to identify with in my books, pick up one and experience a personal sense of discovery. That's great. I think that if you're a creative person, you should just go about your business, do your work and not care about how it's received. “I never read reviews because if you believe the good ones you have to believe the bad ones, too.  Not that I don't care about success.  I do, but only because it lets me do what I want.  I was always prepared for success but that means that I have to be prepared for failure, too.  I have an ego, I have ideas, I want to be articulate, to communicate but in my own way. “People who say they create only for themselves and don't care if they are published ...  I hate to hear talk like that.  If it's good, it's too good not to share.  That's the way I feel about my work.  So I'll keep on communicating, but only my way.  Lots of things I won't do.  I won't go on television because who am I talking to?  Johnny Carson?  The camera?  Twenty million people I can't see?  Uh-uh.  And I won't give any more interviews.”

I remember back in the day when Jim and I were together he would utter the words “art photo” and “artiste” with the utmost disdain, using this awful sort of high-pitched faux pretentious voice.  I guess all things arty-farty (another Jim-ism) just rubbed his photojournalist soul the wrong way.  Or maybe he just appointed himself an official  member of the Pretension Police.  You never could tell with him, especially as he got older. Nonetheless, when Jim let himself get in touch with his creative spirit while he was shooting the results could be magical. In these never-before-seen shots culled from the JMPLLC archive, it looks like Shel brought it out in Jim, lucky for all of us.  And I realize now that Jim in his crude-ass brusque dark-light crazy way was channeling some of the best of Shel all along.

“If there is a book you want to read but isn’t written yet, write it.” ― Shel Silverstein, Roger Was a Razor Fish, and Other Poems  

Submitted by m3jimphoto on Thu, 11/17/2011 - 9:03pm

Thanksgiving 1969 with the Cash Family

Anybody who ever met Jim in his later years knows that he had a real love-hate relationship with this time of year.  Any holiday or birthday, especially Thanksgiving or Christmas, just seemed to depress him, and that depression would then send him into one of his manic spirals, full of misanthropy and chaos. Sadly, he started to use the holidays as an excuse to “get weird” and tune into the darker side of his nature, but that wasn’t always the case. Nowhere is the lighter, hope-filled side of Jim more evident than in his work documenting the Cash family, who embraced him, allowed him into their lives and their Hendersonville, Tenn. home just like he was one of the family.

And, the intimate, powerful portraits that emerged – many taken during the Carter Family Thanksgiving of 1969 – are the legacy of that trust. As always when diving into Jim’s proofs, you never know what or who you’ll find and the connections and collaborations can be truly intriguing.  For example, in these Thanksgiving ’69 shots you see singer-songwriting renaissance men, Shel Silverstein and Kris Kristofferson, along with Johnny’s beloved parents Ray & Carrie Cash, his adored wife June Carter Cash, and the rest of the extended Carter clan.

A Boy Named Shel

I must confess, prior to researching these shots, I only knew about Silverstein from his amazing career as an illustrator, primarily of children’s books (more on him in our next blog), so I was delighted to discover that he wrote a number of songs for Cash, including the humorous and oddly touching major hit, “A Boy Named Sue,” which Cash first performed live during his famous San Quentin concert. Check out this video which captures the moment and notice how Johnny’s still figuring out how to put the song over.  Amazing. From the A Boy Named Sue’s Wikipedia page (yes the song has it’s own page):

“In his autobiography, Cash wrote that he had just received “A Boy Named Sue” and only read over it a couple of times.  It was included in that concert to try it out—he did not know the words and on the filmed recording he can be seen regularly referring to a piece of paper.  Cash was surprised at how well the song went over with the audience.  The rough, spontaneous performance with sparse accompaniment was included in the ‘Johnny Cash At San Quentin’ album, ultimately becoming one of Cash’s biggest hits. “According to Shel Silverstein’s biographer Mitch Myers, it was June Carter Cash who encouraged her husband to perform the song.  Silverstein introduced it to them at what they called a ‘Guitar Pull,’ where musicians would pass a guitar around and play their songs.”

And Jim, with those big orphan eyes and an even bigger heart, was there to record it all in 1969.  I’m quite sure he was counting his lucky stars to be allowed such unfettered access; to be trusted enough to see the moments and know in his heart when to press the shutter and when to turn away.  I’m not sure it’s a skill that can be taught, to tell you the truth. That’s why, somehow, I think we are the truly lucky ones to get to see, in some instances for the first time here in this blog, the lovely results of that trust and access ... all these long years later.

Submitted by m3jimphoto on Thu, 11/03/2011 - 8:26pm

More Rare Live + Still Dead

In our last Grateful Dead blog we focused on work from Jim’s early Dead output in the ’60s.  This week we thought it would be interesting to bring you some rare live and publicity shots from the mid-’70s.  The first batch is from The Dead's October 1975 surprise free concert (with the Jefferson Starship) in Golden Gate Park’s Lindley Meadow. The concert was announced that morning on the radio and travelled like wildfire over the Dead grapevine, but it seemed the crowd was formed as much from people who just happened to be there or heard the music and dropped everything to come over and groove. From comments on the Dead.net archives page it seems the band was a little ragged and the combo of the Dead and the new-ish Jefferson Starship a little jarring to the gentle folk gathered in the park, and yet a good time was still seemingly had by most.  Spontaneous success was still the hallmark of a great Dead experience.

Here’s the Dead’s set list that day:

Help on the Way Slipknot! Music Never Stopped They Love Each Other Beat it on Down the Line Franklin’s Tower Big River It Must Have Been the Roses Truckin’ The Eleven Drums Stronger Than Dirt Not Fade Away Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad One More Saturday Night The other shots we’re presenting here were taken for publicity needs, maybe for BAM Magazine, probably no later than 1978.  According to JMPLLC archivist, Jay Blakesberg, the group shot at the head of a stairway was done in 1976 when Keith and Donna Godchaux were in the band. “It was a typical prankster shoot,” notes Jay.  “Jim must have felt that he was corralling kittens again. Out of three rolls of black and white, when you look on the proofsheets, there might be maybe 10 shots where they are all focused in on the camera and not screwing around.  All the others you just watch as one or the other of them would crack up and it would spread through the group.”

The Night I Finally Get It

Growing up in the Bay Area in the ‘70s it seemed The Grateful Dead – followed avidly by its devotees and their paraphernalia – was everywhere, but I wasn’t much of a fan, certainly not a “head.”  So it wasn’t until I had moved to NYC and Jim called me one day in the fall of 1987 to ask if I wanted tickets to “Jerry on Broadway: Acoustic & Electric” at the Lunt-Fontanne courtesy of his connections at Bill Graham presents.  I remember being confused, like the words “Jerry Garcia” and “Broadway” couldn’t possibly go together.   But, I was also intrigued and touched that Jim was still so generous even though we had been split up for a couple of years already.  Yet, I know in his mind he thought there was always a chance we might get back together if he just kept at it.  It was touching in a compulsive/stalker-esque kind of way.

So, I grabbed at the opportunity and he had the Jerry on Broadway tickets sent my way.  I brought a friend and remember heading downstairs to the ladies room before the show, hacking my way through a dense green cloud of Thai stick, becoming happier by the moment.  We waltzed in the aisles that night.  Garcia and his colleagues went on to do 18 performances that set records, and I finally began to understand a bit about what this man’s music meant to people; and, again, I have Jim to thank for it.  I miss that part of his spirit big time.

“Help on the Way”
Words by Robert Hunter; music by Jerry Garcia

Paradise waits
on the crest of a wave
her angels in flame
She has no pain
Like a child, she is pure
She is not to blame

Poised for flight
Wings spread bright
Spring from night into the sun
Don’t stop to run
She can fly like a lie
She cannot be outdone

Tell me the cost I can pay
Let me go
Tell me love is not lost
Sell everything
Without love, day to day,
insanity is king

I will pay
day by day anyway
Lock, bolt and key
Crippled but free
I was blind
all the time
I was learning to see

Help on the way
I know only this
I’ve got you today
Don’t fly away
‘cause I love what I love
and I want it that way

I will stay one more day
Like I say Honey, it’s you
Making it too
Without love in the dream
It will never come true

Submitted by m3jimphoto on Fri, 10/21/2011 - 4:43pm

Grateful Dead: The Long Strange Trip Begins

You can’t talk about Jim’s massive and influential coverage of seminal San Francisco bands without focusing on his work with the Grateful Dead.

And you don’t have to be a Deadhead, Fellow Traveler, Merry Pranskter, aging hippie, boomer or any other member of the gigantic global tribe that avidly follows the band -- and its myriad offshoots today -- to appreciate the magnitude of The Dead’s importance, then and now.

Since I, once again, came very late to the party and (full disclosure) respect but don’t exactly “get” all things Dead, I have relied on the stalwart photo research of JMPLLC archivist and Dead photographer extraordinaire in his own right Jay Blakesberg. Kudos also must go to my wonderful partner and longtime Dead fan, Dan Sullivan, for his research, insights and caption support.

According to Jay, who shot his first Grateful Dead Show at the Meadowlands in 1978 and has poured over hundreds, if not thousands, of Jim’s Grateful Dead images in the JMP archive, “The first photos of Jim’s I saw as a teenager were of the Grateful Dead playing live on Haight St. on the inside of the Live/Dead album.  So all these years later when I got a chance to look at his proofs from that concert, for example,  it was interesting to note how few shots of the band there really were among all the frames.

“I know from shooting the band so much over the years myself that you maybe had five minutes of their full attention before they would start goofing off just to torture you.  They really just didn’t care about their image much, it seemed, and so you had to be really quick and patient.  I can only imagine what it must have been like for Jim, like herding kittens or something.

“And I also think that maybe Jim was looking at the events the Dead played from a historical perspective, there were so many great shots of the crowd from the top of a Victorian.  Jim was capturing the scope of the moment even though he probably wasn’t there on assignment or getting paid.

“Did he know it was going to be viewed 30-40 years later as this incredible moment in history?  Probably not, it’s just the way he shot and he probably thought to himself,  “I’ve got enough shots of the band, I just got them yesterday.  Maybe it was sort of a ‘been there, done that’ feeling and he was more intrigued with the scene around them.”

Speaking of the scene around them in the early days, the band was nothing if not a lightning rod for authority and its more tyrannical side … as it was for all those who opposed that authority.  One of the more perfect early examples is the Dead’s 1967 drug bust at the band’s house and headquarters at 710 Ashbury St.

Here’s drummer Mickey Hart’s recollections as told to Spin magazine in a Q&A from 2009:

“Q: I recently re-read an article about the infamous drug bust at the Grateful Dead house in 1967.  What’s it like to look back on those days in San Francisco?

“A: We were kids doing what kids do -- and we were set up!  Not that there wasn’t a lot of dope in the house, but the inspector actually planted the stuff that they arrested us for.  They could have gone into our cabinet and found a whole bunch of it.  We were set up, but it made us famous.  Getting busted was the best thing that ever happened to us.  We made headlines.  It certainly didn’t stop our way of life -- in a way, it validated it.  We thought that these people really violated our sanctity.  We didn’t take it sitting down.  So I look back on it and go, ‘Wow, that was really fun.’ "

And here’s a link to a a rather low-fi video of the press conference where Grateful Dead manager Danny Rifkin (that’s the Dead's manager Rock Scully to his right) makes a rather eloquent case for the band and against fear tactics.  It’s amazing this argument is still raging nearly 45 years later.

Lately It Occurs to Me

Truckin’

Truckin’ got my chips cashed in. Keep truckin’, like the do-dah man
Together, more or less in line, just keep truckin’ on.

Arrows of neon and flashing marquees out on Main Street.
Chicago, New York, Detroit and it’s all on the same street.
Your typical city involved in a typical daydream
Hang it up and see what tomorrow brings.

Dallas, got a soft machine; Houston, too close to New Orleans;
New York’s got the ways and means; but just won’t let you be.

Most of the cats that you meet on the streets speak of true love,
Most of the time they’re sittin’ and cryin’ at home.
One of these days they know they gotta get goin’
Out of the door and down on the streets all alone.

Truckin’, like the do-dah man.
Once told me “You got to play your hand”

Sometimes your cards ain’t worth a damn, if you don’t lay’em down,

Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me;
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me
What a long, strange trip it’s been.

What in the world ever became of sweet Jane?
She lost her sparkle, you know she isn’t the same
Livin’ on reds, vitamin C, and cocaine, All a friend can say is
“Ain’t it a shame?”

Truckin’, up to Buffalo. Been thinkin’, you got to mellow slow
Takes time, you pick a place to go, and just keep truckin’ on.

Sittin’ and starin’ out of the hotel window.
Got a tip they’re gonna kick the door in again
I’d like to get some sleep before I travel,
But if you got a warrant, I guess you’re gonna come in.

Busted, down on Bourbon Street,
Set up, like a bowling pin.

Knocked down, it get’s to wearin’ thin.
They just won’t let you be.

You’re sick of hanging around and you’d like to travel;
Get tired of traveling and you want to settle down.
I guess they can’t revoke your soul for tryin’,
Get out of the door and light out and look all around.

Sometimes the light’s all shinin’ on me;
Other times I can barely see.
Lately it occurs to me, What a long strange trip it’s been.

Truckin’, I’m a goin’ home,
Whoa whoa baby, back where I belong,

Back home, sit down and patch my bones, and get back truckin’ home.

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