I wanted to let you know about my involvement in a Mint Museum event this Wednesday, April 30th. Myself and several local photographers have been asked by the Mint to contribute to a night celebrating their Bearing Witness show. All of us involved were asked to shoot something that complimented the work of the New York Photo League, which Bearing Witness delves into. I shot four pieces for the show, and wrote an introduction. Unfortunately, I will be out of town on Wednesday night, but please come by the Mint Museum Randolph Road location, and check out these works, which will be the first time that my work will be featured in either Mint location. Thanks.
I couldn't let the passing of George Shuffler go unmentioned. George was the third man in the Stanley Brothers for 17 years, singing and playing guitar. His crosspicking style of guitar is now the standard for many bluegrass guitarists. Shuffler utilized the style to fill in the gaps when budget concerns forced the Stanley Brothers to travel and record as a trio. Without Shuffler, the Stanley Brothers would have sounded very different, and not for the better.
George was a very nice, and quiet man. I had the honor or meeting George and and brother (who had also played in various bluegrass groups) in 2006, when they came to Ralph Stanley's Hills Of Home Festival. The event marked 40 years since the passing of Carter Stanley. When Shuffler and Ralph Stanley took to the stage to perform a few songs together, the audience knew that it was something special. The two men sang around one microphone, still leaving a little bit of space for Carter.
When I put together the book on North Carolina Musicians, I was aware that you have to include the big names. Scruggs, Watson, Taylor, and such. But I also knew that it had to include George Shuffler, with a picture of George and Ralph from that show. Without it, the book would have been incomplete, just like the Stanley Brothers, and bluegrass music would have been incomplete without George.
I saw Mickey Rooney at Wingate University at 2006. The college is centered in a small town just east of Charlotte, North Carolina. He was the biggest celebrity to hit the town in years. I showed up about fifteen minutes after the program had started. By then, all of the ticket takers had gone inside, so I walked in and found a seat in the dark. That also made it easier to hide the camera that I had tucked inside one of my coat pockets.
The show featured Rooney and his then-wife performing songs, and his recollections of working on various movies. It was a good show, and I started sneaking photos near the end of the show. I got a couple of good photos as the show ended, and the Charlotte Observer ended up running one of my pics.
I also took photos of Rooney talking to fans after the show. I stayed further back, not wanting to draw attention to myself. Should I have bought an autograph? Said hello? I don't know. I didn't have to much to say that Rooney hadn't heard elsewhere, and there were a lot of people that night that were eager to meet the man whose film and TV career had spanned their entire lives. Mickey Rooney was one of the last from the golden era of Hollywood, and a reminder of what the movies, and movie stars, once met to us all. To Mickey, it was another chance to put on a show, say hello, and head on to the next gig.
Safe travels, Mickey.
April 20, 2014
This post is also on the NC 1960s book site, but is something I wanted to let you know about, as well.
One of the most influential Garage Rock bands was the Standells. Their biggest hit, "Dirty Water" has now been embraced my multiple generations as their own, and their catalog is a staple of Nuggets and 1960s music fans worldwide.
The Standells have recently reformed, released a new album (entitled "Bump") and are making a rare stop in North Carolina next week. The band, which features founding members Russ Tamblyn and John Fleckenstein, will kick off their tour at Tremont Music Hall in Charlotte on Sunday, April 27th. The band will then headline at Local 506 in Chapel Hill the following night, April 28th. Opening for the Standells will be Thee Dirtybeats, featuring Tobacco A Go Go's legendary swami of Carolina coolness, Ken Friedman. Thee Dirtybeats will also close out our release party for our book's 2nd edition at Neighborhod Theatre in Charlotte on June 21st. (You hadn't heard that yet? Well, you just heard it here first.)
So, let's review. Standells. North Carolina. April 27th at Tremont Music Hall in Charlotte, and Local 506 in Chapel Hill on April 28th. Come one, come all, and I'll see you at both, if not both shows.
April 19, 2014
I knew about Arthur Smith long before I ever met him. After nearly forty years in the business, Arthur's name and handprints were all over Charlotte when I moved to town in 1983. Beyond being the man behind "Guitar Boogie" and "Dueling Banjos", Arthur was a successful pitchman, TV and film producer, record producer, and point man for numerous projects. For years, Arthur also voiced the popular "Horace & Doris" puppets for a local car dealership. For nearly all of his life, Arthur's work was nearly everywhere you turned.
I first photographed Arthur in 2001. I was sent out by the Charlotte Observer to get photos of him on the set of his long-running Carolina Calling TV show. The problem was that no one from the show ever said we could take photos. I found out what studio they were in, and walked in during takes of the show. As I walked in, Arthur was sitting at the host desk with another local legend, Maurice Williams (of "Stay" and Little Darlin'" fame). I quietly took photos of them chatting. A few minutes into the conversation, somebody said something, and the two burst into laughter. I got photos of the their beaming faces, and I was off before anyone else noticed that I was there. Years later, I was in Maurice's office, and I saw my photo from the Observer article taped to his wall. "Oh you took that!" Maurice exclaimed. "That was a good one!"
Over the next few years, I began to run into Arthur on more occasions. Award shows, music events. I got to know Arthur's family, who were always very nice to me. I always made sure that I took photos of Arthur and his family together. They meant a lot to him, as he did to them. In 2004, WTVI studios in Charlotte hosted what proved to be the final tapings of Carolina Calling. The station brought in others to crew the show, but I didn't let that stop me. I showed up on the last two days of the taping, under the vague title of "contributing photographer to the station", I photographed the shows. I'm really glad I did. As the last day drew to a close, I had a feeling that Arthur's time in front of the camera was winding down. The show aired on WTVI for several more years, but Arthur never taped another episode.
A reminder for me of Arthur's influence was working on the There Was A Time book. In the 1960s, Arthur Smith Studios was the go-to place for musicians from across the country. While James Brown recorded "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" there in 1965, numerous garage rock and psychedelic rock bands recorded there. Along with recording these bands, Arthur also quietly oversaw Pyramid Records, which gave many of these bands to have their work captured on record. Without that studio, and Arthur, a whole legion of records that my book profiled might never have been recorded, or released. Even where you didn't expect him, Arthur Smith and his work was there. And will always be.