I was born in Benkleman, Nebraska in the Morehouse Hospital that is now actually a very interesting museum. I grew up on a small farm nine miles south of McDonald, Kansas. My great grandfather Daniel Rice McDonald donated the land to start the town which bears his name. When I was nine and ten years old, I drove a tractor plowing weeds on four quarters of land and also drove a two ton truck helping my dad harvest wheat on my parent’s farm located nine miles south of McDonald, Kansas.
In 1956 my folks moved us to Hawthorne, California for a year then moved to Torrance, California. Over the summer just before my senior year in high school, I became extremely interested in photography. My senior year I was the staff photographer for the school newspaper. My journalism class teacher taught me a lot of the skills that I needed to become a great photographer. I used a Graflex Crown Grafic camera shooting 4X5 inch sheet film and learned to develop film and make prints in the school darkroom. Shooting sports action at high school football and basketball games prepared me for a career shooting rock musicians.
One night after I had graduated from high school, I went down to a teen night club called the Revelaire Club with some friends. The club was run by Reb Foster a KRLA DJ. They featured a house band called Eddie and the Showmen and had performances with popular artists and musicians of the early 1960s. Sonny and Cher and Jackie DeShannon, Dick Dale, Terry Stafford and the Turtles were some of the many who appeared there.
That night when we went there they had a photographer who was taking photos. I noticed that he seemed to be missing all the best shots. I talked to the manager and made a proposition to them. I asked them to let me come down another night and take some photos, and I would make prints and post them on the wall at the club. If they liked the photos they would let me come into to the club anytime I wanted to do photography.
I borrowed a friend’s Twin Lens Rolleiflex camera and a Graflex Stroboflash unit and came back and took some amazing photos with a quality that they had not seen before.
Reb Foster loved my photography then he and another KRLA DJ Bob Eubanks joined together to hire the Beatles to perform at the Hollywood Bowl on August 23rd, 1964. Reb Foster asked me to photograph them for him and provided me with a press pass which I still have. There was a press conference at Bob Eubanks Cinnamon Cinder night club that night before the performance at the Hollywood Bowl. I got some really great shots at both the press conference and the Hollywood Bowl and made Reb Foster some 16X20 inch black and white prints and mounted them all and gave them to him.
This was the start of an amazing time in my life to be able to photograph some of the biggest names in the music business in the early 1960s. KRLA the old AM radio station was the number one station in the LA area at the time. Reb Foster had shown them my prints and they loved them. They just were starting LA’s first Rock and Roll newspaper called the KRLA Beat and gave me a job as the staff photographer.
One of my first jobs was to go to LA International Airport and meet up with the Rolling Stones. I met them there and then went to their hotel room back in Hollywood at the Roosevelt Hotel. I got to photograph Brian Jones inside the KRLA DJ room along with Joey Paige who is a friend of mine still today.
I took photos of the Rolling Stones at the TAMI show in Santa Monica, and at a concert put on by Bob Eubanks at the Long Beach Arena. While waiting backstage for the Rolling Stones to go I asked Brian Jones how to play their song “The Last Time” and to my surprise he handed me his white teardrop shaped VOX guitar and showed me how to play the chords.
I went on to photograph many legendary musicians of the early 1960s for the KRLA Beat. Sadly that exciting career came to an end when I joined the USAF on May 3, 1965. My high school classmates were all getting their draft notices during the Viet Nam war. So I decided to have choice not chance. I served my country for 3 1/2 years. I went to basic training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas. I also spent one year undergoing technical training in Radar Maintenance at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi. From there I spent the next 2 1/2 years on a small Radar site in the Mojave desert near Boron, California.
After my discharge from the Air Force I took a job at TRW Systems as a Senior Electronics Technician where I worked on cutting edge technology on spacecraft hardware. In 1975 my job at TRW took me to live and work in Alice Springs in the Northern Territory of Australia. After returning back to live in the LA Area is was a huge culture shock! We had a much slower more relaxed way of life in Australia. Coming back to the traffic and congestion there soon made me want that slower paced way of life again. A year after returning from Australia I took a job at the Very Large Array Radio Telescope near Socorro, New Mexico As the Senior Systems Technician. The landscape and climate around Socorro, New Mexico is about the closest to the Outback of Australia you will find in the USA.
While living in Socorro, New Mexico, I continued my desire to learn how to develop color film and prints. I built a darkroom in my garage to do that. I borrowed money from a bank and bought a small tabletop film procesing machine made by Colenta that could process both film and prints up to 8×10 inches in color. It had complete precise temperature control and individual tanks for each of the chemicals in the process. The chemicals were let into and out of the processing tank as programmed and did a really great job.
The local college (New Mexico School of Mining and Technology) soon found out that I could process their color slide film and have it ready for them by the next day. This was the beginning of a great business venture. I soon received an order for 100 8×10 prints from them. This completely overwhelmed the capability of this machine. The Colenta salesman told me about someone who was selling a Hope 16 Inch wide roll color print processor along with an enlarger as well as they were having a show special on a Mini-printer. So I borrowed $10,000 from the local bank and purchased both of them. I was now setup to both develop color negative film and make prints in my garage.
Soon the college was droping off 4 – 6 rolls of film for me to process and print nearly everyday, whats more they wanted four prints of every shot on each roll of film. At this point I was making about the same money from my darkroom work as I was from working at the radio observatory. One day they asked me how I was a doing enlargements. I said I could do them just as easily as the prints I was already doing from them. To my surprise they handed me an order with 600 negatives that they wanted eight 8×10 prints each. I took some vacation from my job and worked 16 hour days for nearly three weeks to finish their order. When it was all said an done, I had just earned in three weeks what I did in half a year working at the radio observatory. I took that money and bought a bigger film processing machine and rented a commercial store location in the old Val Verde Hotel downtown. I became a Kodak photofinishing dealer, I also opened a portrait studio in the same location and started doing picture framing. I did very well in this business earning enough to pay the rent, make our house payment, and put food on the table for my wife and three children. I worked long hours doing what I loved to do. After two years, my ex-wife didn’t like the income uncertainty and wanted me to get a regular job. So we closed the business and I found a job in Maryland developing high tech Acousto-optic devices, then I worked as an onsite contractor at the US Naval Research Lab for 17 years, then another small company for three years.
After living on the east coast in the Washington DC area for 24 years my wife and I got tired of the traffic congestion and high humidity. I was also having health problems related to my feet and had troubles standing on a concrete floor at my job. We decided to make a change and moved to Evans, Colorado. We bought a house with an unfinished basement. I finished off the basement doing all the framing electrical and sheetrock work myself. We started up a photography business in the basement did picture framing and were successful at that until the price of gasoline hit $4.00 a gallon. It was like a big switch was thrown and people just stopped coming. Also at the same time the housing crisis hit due to the idiot in congress thinking everyone should be able to buy a house whether they could afford it or not. We wound up having to file for bankruptcy about 10 years ago because we no longer had enough income to pay our debt obligations, we were never late paying anything but would be soon if we didn’t act.
So now twelve years later we have decided at the age of 75 to try this again doing the photography I have always loved to do. This time we are venturing into shooting videos and talking about my experiences in the early 60s photographing rock musicians. Since living and working in Alice Springs in the Northern Territory for 16 months in 1975-76 I have had a burning desire to be able to move back there and do photography there. Some of the most amazing unique scenery in the world if found there. They do not have extremely cold winters there, the summers are hot but the humidity is very low. I hope to make enough from the sale of my photos here to make that a reality.