Don’t Stop the Dance – Rickey Wright, 1960 – 2009

What’s more difficult than writing an obituary for one of your most admired musicians? Perhaps doing so for one of your own. News reverberated two weeks back about the sudden illness and almost as hastened passing of Rickey Wright, Seattle writer and blogger (as can be seen on the right-hand column of this esteemed site). Rickey passed away February 19th from complications after suffering a … Continue reading Don’t Stop the Dance – Rickey Wright, 1960 – 2009

Blakesberg’s Babies – The Jay Blakesberg Interview

Jay Blakesberg is not one of the original classic rock photographers. He was too young for that wave, but perhaps that is what contributes to his distinction; casting him as a sort of Cam Crowe of photography. Starting out as an unabashed Deadhead in Northern California, he departed only in that his musical tastes were more eclectic.
As a teen there was his typical basement den involved in a typical ’70s daydream, with hippies milling about, and as for the club and theater music scene he took advantage of everything that vital part of America had to offer in those pivotal times. It wasn’t soon after that his hobby of taking concert snaps grew into a career with more personal alliances, taking stills of artists like John Lee Hooker and Taj Mahal to Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits.
This past December, Blakesberg celebrated 30 years of photography by releasing a book (his third from Rock House Books) of his chosen photos and memories, Traveling on a High Frequency: Jay Blakesberg – Photographs 1978–2008. His photographs have appeared in all the usual periodical suspects; Rolling Stone, Guitar Player and Harp Magazines and have also been printed onto canvas with poster artist Richard Biffle painting them onto the canvases. The biggest seller? Jerry Garcia.

AR: What got you interested in photography? Who were some of your favorite photographers?

JB: I started bringing a camera to concerts in late 1977. I used my dad’s camera. I would develop the film in my mom’s basement where I had a small darkroom. At the time, I was aware of Jim Marshall, a San Francisco photographer from the ’60s. He did a lot of jazz in NY, but by the early ’60 was back in San Francisco. He did shots of all the SF bands and at Woodstock and Monterey Pop. Herbie Greene was another photographer. These were the shots I was seeing in some magazines and books.

AR: It’s clear that you loved music, but interesting that you chose something visual over literary.

JB: I think I have always been drawn to the visual. It was an easier way for me to communicate and make sense of what was around me. I saw Trouser Press and Creem, but I wasn’t a regular subscriber. If you’re a writer, you need to find a more tangible place to for that kind of work. Photos could be just for me and my friends. They did not have to be published to be shared.

AR: Did you recognize your strengths right away or were they a little more hard won?

JB: No, I did not. I think if you’re that young, you don’t immediately recognize things like that. It’s not really part of the thought process at 16 or 17. If you like what you do, that’s enough to go on. I mean, a lot of what I did looked okay, and I guess that was inspiring enough to keep trying.

AR: Did you start out with only concerts or some stills?

JB: Mostly shows at first. I grew up in New Jersey so it was mostly indoor shows, but there were some outdoor free concerts at some local colleges. There was no access to bands for posed shots, so it was just live concerts.

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