Bob Shell: Photographing Music Stars

Photo of blues singer Cathy Jean topless for Tony Ward Studio magazine
Cathy Jean. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2022

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2022

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Photographing Music Stars

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Back in the early 1970s, I was a photographer for PBS for a couple of years. One of my jobs was photographing musicians before, during, and after concerts. Music stars were a lot more accessible back then, less protective of their images, and I had very open access to most of them. 

The producer and I would meet the performers at their hotel several hours before the concert for candid conversation and photos, then we’d ride with them to the concert venue. I’d have a stage pass to be on stage during the concert and catch them in action. Then, after the concert we’d go back to the hotel with them and hang out, or go to the after party, if there was one. Those parties weren’t lavish events back in those days, just some tired musicians and a bunch of roadies, groupies, and assorted hangers on, drinking, smoking (tobacco and pot), and some catered munchies. There were no orgies, or if there were, we weren’t invited. I suspected that the musicians were just too tired to really do much partying, and mostly just sat around in a haze of smoke relaxing.

Here are some of the musicians I have photos of in my archive:

Ozzy Osbourne: I photographed Ozzy when he was fronting Black Sabbath on their first U. S. tour. He and bassist Geezer Butler were both very nice, friendly, talkative. Not stuck up at all. Tony Iommi was less friendly, but not really standoffish, just maybe more reserved. They were in their transition to the band’s new name and dark image, after being a hippie ‘Earth Band” originally. Sorry, but I can’t remember the band’s original name. The concert was good, mostly songs from their first album that had just been released.

On stage, I had to rely on the stage lighting, since flash was not allowed. The musicians found it too distracting, and it would have destroyed the mood. Back then the fastest films we had were Kodak Ektachrome 400 and GAF (Ansco) 500 in color films. For black and white I used Kodak 2475 recording film, which, if I remember correctly, I rated at EI 1,000. We had none of these super high ISO speeds offered by modern digital cameras. 

That meant shooting wide open with my 50mm and 135mm lenses, with slow shutter speeds. Lots of ‘creative blur’ in those shots, which we pretended was intentional artistic effect. Drummers were worst since their arms were never still. I don’t think I ever got a picture of a drummer in which his arms weren’t blurred.

Rod Stewart: I thought he was an insufferable prick. Difficult to photograph due to top heavy ego. At the time he was fronting Faces, originally called Small Faces, and the lead guitarist was Ron Wood, called Woody by his bandmates back then. He was very nice and laid back, and I got some good photos of him. I could tell, even then, that he was looking for bigger and better things, and he found them when he joined Jagger and Richards.

Black Oak Arkansas: A much underrated group today that never got the acclaim they deserved. Jim Mangrum, ‘Jim Dandy,’ was one of the most dynamic performers I’ve ever watched on stage, with an energy level that infected the audience immediately when he walked onstage. Offstage, he was relaxed and friendly, and very intelligent. I asked him why they’d named the band Black Oak Arkansas, and in his lazy Southern drawl he told me that was the name of a town they’d once been run out of.

Traffic: A short-lived ‘supergroup’ put together by Steve Winood and Jim Cappaldi, with a little Nigerian drummer named Rebop Kwakuu Bhah. 

Now all the names in this blog post are from memory, so they may not all be spelled correctly, and I hope you will forgive me any spelling errors.

Iron Butterfly: The original light/heavy group. We didn’t get to hang with them, so all I got were the concert shots. Their song “In-a-Gadda-da-Vida” was supposed to be “In The Garden Of Eden,” but singer Doug Engle was so stoned during the recording sessions that he couldn’t say it. I’m not 100% sure, but I think guitarists Mike Reinhart (“Rhino”) and Pinera (don’t recall his first name) had replaced the original guitarist by that time. “Rhino” later did some work with the Allman Brothers. Ron Bushy was also with the Butterfly at the time. In-a-Gadda-da-Vida was famous for being up to half an hour long in concert, with an interminable drum solo. I have their “Live in Copenhagen” album where Engle forgets the words and sings the same line twice. That version is only 27 minutes long!

Redbone: The only Native American rock group I’m aware of. Leader Lolly Vegas played his guitar through a Leslie speaker, which had a revolving sound cone for a very unusual sound. They also did some Indian chants. Lolly is probably best known for writing “Niki Hokey” which Neal Diamond made popular. Lots of Redbone is available from music services today and is worth giving a listen, although the lyrics are often incomprehensible. Try “Maggie,”if you want to sample their unique sound. They were excellent in concert.

Fairport Convention: Their album “Nine” had just come out when they were on a U. S. tour. We hung out with them in their hotel suite most of the afternoon of the concert, smoking some excellent weed. Violin (Actually a viola, I believe) player Dave Swarbrick and singer Davy Pegg were two of the nicest people I’ve met anywhere. Their version of the old truck driver song “Six Days on the Road” is one of my favorites and I listen to it often. Peggy’s vocal really owns the song, although I think he got the words of the first line wrong. He sang, “Well I pulled out of Frisco down on the eastern seaboard.”. Maybe, as an Englishman, he didn’t know that Frisco is on the west coast. But I still love the song. I also like his “George Jackson.”. As a prisoner, that song speaks to me.

There were many others I photographed, but I’m out of room for this post. More another time.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell, click here:https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/bob-shell-hes-different-lock-him-up/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com. Here’s the link:  

Xavier Ingram vs. Camden City Police Department

courthouse in Camden NJ for the Xavier Ingram trial
Michael H. Cohen United States Courthouse

PRESS RELEASE

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Xavier Ingram vs. Camden City Police Department

Zav Ingram was a 20 year old young man in the summer of 2014. He lived in an area of Camden that still resembles parts of war torn Afghanistan.  If you stand at the corner of 7th and Chestnut Streets and draw a 5 block radius you will not see a playground, basketball court, pal center, community center, park bench, blade of grass, flower, bush or tree. There was nothing there that hot summer evening and Zav and his friends did what they always did: they hung out in the courtyard.

Only on this summer day three Camden County Policemen dressed for battle marched into the court and caused the kids to scatter. Zav knew he had an outstanding warrant on a dmv charge and so he calmly walked toward the corner Bodega to wait for a friend and avoid the cops. But the cops followed him. When he came out of the Bodega he was rushed by them and he panicked. So he ran. But not a long way. He ran down the street and ended up slipping onto the ground where he raised his arms in surrender. After all – it was just a motor vehicle violation. 

But the cops were not satisfied. They kicked and punched him and stomped on his back and neck. When he screamed that he hurt and couldn’t feel his legs they hoisted him up to pat him down and look for the non-existent drugs and the non-existent gun and they dropped him on his face in the middle of the street. He was paralyzed and couldn’t hold his own body weight. Eventually, after leaning him against one of the cops knees for the “pat down” he was lowered to the ground and the ambulance arrived.

Zav would never walk again. Or move his arms. Or move his feet. Or hug his grandmother or his girlfriend. He has been in this awful state of demise living in nursing care facilities for 8 years while the officers of the law who caused this tragedy got merit badges for doing a great job and lied on police reports to cover their own butts. They claim he fell and caused his own injury. He broke his own neck and his own back because he was such a klutz; all 6’ 160 lbs of sinew and youthful muscle. 

It took 8 years to get this case to trial. 8 years during which people protested about George Floyd, Amad Arbury, Breanna Taylor and every other cop killing. Maybe if he had died he’d get the recognition he needed.  Instead he is living a hell on earth as his body deteriorates and the police claim it was his own damn fault.

That trial started today. It will go on for 4 weeks in Courtroom D4 of the Federal Court House in Camden. Hopefully the jury will recognize the dirty tricks, lies, improper police procedure, improper training, and atmosphere of duplicity that surrounds these three officers, the head of the department and the entire system that has covered this up while he rots in bed unable to do anything on his own. 

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Editor’s Note: After several weeks of trial, the jury is hung, click here for the latest update: https://www.courierpostonline.com/story/news/2022/03/29/xavier-ingram-camden-county-police-paralysis-lawsuit-deadlock/7210840001/

Joy Arnold: From Russia With Love, Part 2

Text by Joy Arnold, Copyright 2022

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Photography: Tony Ward  – Creative Director: KVaughn – Hair Stylist: Michael Connor. Copyright 2022

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From Russia With Love: Part 2

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Present: Miss Joy’s Tale

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As I sit back at my desk and look out my third story window to reflect, a few things come to mind when I think about the present.  I’m living the dream I had of residing in Philadelphia and having a happy independent life.  In my room sits over 20 houseplants, a petite black and white kitty named Trolley who wears a bright pink tribal print collar (aka my Princess Poops) and there are enough bike parts and sex toys to open up strange bicycle themed sex shop.  Every morning I wake up cozy and warm with the sun beaming on my face and start my day with a shower, shit, breakfast and computer work.  I’ve been entirely self-employed since August, am on the beautifully arduous journey of self discovery and am a passionate cyclist with 4 bicycles in my stable.

        The best thing about being self-employed is that I set my own schedule and truly get to focus on what’s most important to me.  Right now what’s most important to me is the relationship I have with myself, body, mind and soul.  During my 2.5 years of living in Philly I’ve learned to sit with a lot of uncomfortable feelings and work through them with the help of my support system and sheer determination. Through hours of research, embracing spirituality and food as a way to connect with my Southern Ural roots, I’m finding peace not knowing who my direct family members are – it’s also a slow moving goal searching for my birth parents. Therapy sessions help me to reframe how I handle unforeseen challenges in a calm way without attaching the terms “bad” or “good” to the emotions I feel.  As I continue to set strong boundaries and high standards for myself, I feel empowered to take on all the activities and projects that call to me. 

Aside from working as a dominatrix in the Philadelphia area, I’m creating a small line of impact play toys made of recycled bicycle parts such as old inner tubes, handlebar grips, and raw leather.  My first line consisting of 4 tools ranges from innocent to incredibly mean and is inspired by my trip to San Diego last year when I attempted to bike across the USA.  It features shades of terracotta and sand, brass rivets and uses components commonly found on Lowrider bicycles that first gained popularity in California in the 60’s.  The next pieces I’m making are inspired by Ural Batyr, the epic poem of the Bashkir people and where the Ural Mountains gained their name from.  They will feature carved and burned leather along with symbols from Russian Paganism and Tengrism. 

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About The Author: Joy Arnold aka Miss Joy is a Philadelphia based Dominatrix that services clients at her center city studio. She is an avid cyclist and is working on a series of adult toys designed from spare bicycle parts.  This is her first contribution in collaboration with Tony Ward Studio.

To access Part 3 of Miss Joy’s tales, click here: https://tonywarderotica.com/joy-arnold-from-russia-with-love-part-3/