Big Mama Thornton

Here’s another great (albeit it pre-restoration) shot from the upcoming book of Brian Smith’s blue photographs: Big Mama Thornton, who he photographed backstage in Manchester on a Blues package tour in 1965.  We’ve been able to scan this from the original negative. I assumed the others were lost but no; “I only took the one photo, film was expensive as a young lad!” You can read more about the book on the site, and the photo also appears on the book designer’s own site with a sideways look at the outfit!

Big Mama Thornton, Manchester, 1965. Photo Brian Smith

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Chess Masters

Nice to see some of Brian Smith’s photographs used properly and with permission on a new Blues CD. The disc in question is a compilation put together by Wilko Johnson from the Chess label archives, and is designed to present his fans with the sort of material which inspired him as a young guitarist. Titled The First Time I Met The Blues, it is out now on Chess – SPECXX2114.  Looking at the cover (below), I can see at least three of Brian’s photographs in there!  If you’re not up to speed, the material is from our upcoming book “Boom Boom Boom Boom : The Photographs of Brian Smith. American Rhythm & Blues in England 1962-1966“.  And there isn’t a time I type all that when I don’t wonder a] how we ended up with such a long title and b] how on earth I can fit it all on the spine…

Talking of “Boom Boom” I managed to screw up the newsletter subscription form for this title, so prior to the date of this posting, if you thought you had subscribed, the software did not capture your details.  I have corrected this and retested it, so if you go the the main page about the book, and hit the new button, it will all function properly. That way we can keep you fully up to date on the project and any special editions, etc.

I am meeting up with Brian in a few days to sort out the last of the hi-res scans for the book and caption them up properly.

Wilko Johnson Presents CD, Brain Smith cover photos

Vintage Rock

Vintage Rock magazine is one of those fascinating niche music monthlies which make choosing at Smiths so hard these days. They cover the 50s and 60s in detail, with plenty of emphasis on the UK scene back then and so when they heard about Brian Smith’s Blues photo book were keen to interview him and show some of his photographs.  The magazine is out now, Issue 25 (April / June) and well worth a look, although it tends to be stocked only by the bigger magazine outlets (though you can buy it direct from the publishers.)  Thanks to Rik and Jack at Vintage Rock for permission to reproduce a couple of pages from the article. The shot here is one of a series Brian took from the side of the stage during a Rolling Stones concert… what an experience!

Boom Boom Brian Smith photos

 

Boom Boom update

The book of Brian Smith’s fabulous Sixties Blues photographs – Boom Boom Boom Boom – is pushing along nicely, albeit a little behind schedule! But we’re pleased to be able to show the first page visuals at last.  Brian has also had some of his photographs selected for a really interesting new documentary on some of the Blues sidemen who perhaps never got the recognition of some of their peers.  Titled Sidemen : The Long Road To Glory, you can see an exclusive trailer for the project at the producer’s official Vimeo site. Universal have also requested a dozen of his images for an upcoming Chess blues box set. If you haven’t yet checked the book out, you can read the full details on the site.

montage

 

all scanned out

Willie Dixon, Free Trade Hall, Manchester. Jazz Unlimited show.

Happy to say the job of scanning Brian Smith’s negatives for the Boom Boom Blues photo book is at last complete.  Brian has had most of his images scanned in the past but generally by high-street operators who didn’t really appreciate what they were doing.  During work on the book, Brian collected together ALL his surviving negatives. We decided rather than just scan those earmarked for the book, we would do the LOT, and then they would be saved for posterity.  The job was done in-house using a high-end Nikon negative scanner.  Amazingly Nikon stopped making this expensive bit of kit a few years ago (apparently all the professionals who needed one had bought it, and sales stalled after that. We were lucky to get ours off a studio who had finished doing their own archives), and had stopped supporting the software for it even before that.  For this reason the machine has to be hooked up to a vintage Macintosh which can still run this old software and is now being kept largely just for this task.  Normally you pop in a strip of negatives, and leave it to work away.  But Brian’s negatives were all done individually because of the poor light levels he had to work with back in the early Sixties which left some real underexposure problems on some.  In a couple of cases really difficult negatives have been scanned twice at differing settings so we can combine elements.  All this has taken a lot longer than anticipated and delayed the launch, but we can now crack on and finish the layout.  And return the precious originals to Brian of course!

You can read more about the book, and sign up for newsletters, on the site. The really atmospheric photo above was taken by Brian of Willie Dixon during a show at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester.  The bit of kit on the left is the hulking great ABC TV camera.  Copyright Brian Smith / Easy On The Eye Books

The list gets longer…

Work on the Boom Boom book of rare Blues photographs is nearing completion and the final stage is to sit down with Brian and get his personal recollections of taking the pictures, the shows, the clubs and of course meeting all these amazing musicians (and whether they took him at cards or not!). Most of the photo selection has now been made so we can come up with a more complete list of artists who Brian photographed in the early sixties and appear in the book (though new images are still turning up, so this may get even longer.) If you want to get the latest on this title do please join our mailing list, which is linked from the book’s news page on this site.
In the meantime here is another of Brian’s treasured signed personal photos (which he had to get a friend to take!) meeting Bo Diddley backstage.

Bo-Diddley-and-Brian-Smith, American Blues photographs

BOOM BOOM BOOM BOOM FEATURING : Johnny Guitar Watson, Big Joe Turner, Chuck Berry, Sunny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Little Richard, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed, Hubert Sumlin, Howlin Wolf, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Carl Perkins, Fred Below, Gary US Bonds, Eddie Boyd, The Chants, Charlie and Inez Foxx, Clifton James, Rev. Gary Davis, Sugar Pie Desanto, Willie Dixon, Sleepy John Estes, Hammie Nixon, Lightning Hopkins, J B Lenoir, Jerry Lee Lewis, Larry Williams, Little Walter, Lonesome Jimmy Lee, Memphis Slim, Millie Small, Otis Span, Jimmy Reed, Doctor Ross, Joe Richardson, The Shirelles, Sunny Boy Williamson, Sunnyland Slim, Roosevelt Sykes, Eddie Playboy Taylor, Big Mamma Thornton, T-Bone Walker, Walter Horton, Muddy Waters. The Rolling Stones, Tony McPhee and The Groundhogs, Alex Harvey, Johnny Cash, Duane Eddy also feature and there is a special bonus section of images shot at Granada TV during musician’s rehearsals for the Scene At 6.30 news shows.

who needs selfies?

Carl Perkins, Brian Smith, Sheffield City Hall May 14. 1964Not that the compiler of our upcoming book of vintage blues photographs Boom Boom Boom Boom needs to prove his bona fides, but we couldn’t resist showing these two great images which photographer Brian Smith sent us to go with his author profile on the Easy On The Eye Books site.  The first image was taken backstage in the dressing room at Sheffield City Hall in 1964, and shows Brian with one of his musical heroes Carl Perkins.  Brian went on to run Carl’s UK fan club for several years.
Brian was also the official photographer for Manchester based R & B Scene throughout the life of the magazine. But while he mostly took pictures, on this occasion the tables were turned for a publicity shot with Screaming Jay Hawkins – which the editor thought would make a great cover image!  This issue came out in 1965.

R & B Scene cover issue 6 Screaming Jay Hawkins and Brian Smith