ELVIS AND HIS GOOD OL’ MEMPHIS MAFIA MEET THEM LONG HAIRED BOYS FROM LED ZEPPELIN

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Sept. 7th, 1976 — Joe Esposito (Elvis Presley’s Memphis Mafia buddy) wearing a Led Zeppelin 1975 Tour T-shirt at the Holiday Inn hotel with Elvis in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. 

I Was There. And more… as told by Elvis Presley’s step-brother

“I was 14 years old when Led Zeppelin came to Memphis in 1969. As the youngest step-brother to Elvis Presley, I was living at the Graceland Mansion. My divorced mother Dee Stanley married Elvis’s widowed father Vernon Presley on July 3, 1960. Anyway, I went to the concert with a friend and was blown away. John Bonham playing his solo on Moby Dick, Jimmy Page stroking his Les Paul with a fiddle bow, John Paul Jones laying down heavy bass, and of course the driving voice of Robert Plant. While growing up as Presley’s step-brother I was no stranger to great music. But it was Led Zeppelin that became MY MUSIC while growing up the King.

I started touring with Presley in 1972 when I was 16. I always had Zeppelin’s music with me. In 1974 while at the LA Forum Led Zeppelin came to see Elvis. Later that night after the show Robert, Jimmy and John Paul came to Elvis’s suite at the hotel across the street from the Forum. I met them as they came off the elevator and walked with them to Elvis’s room. I introduced myself, shook their hands and got their autograph. Of all the people I met during my life with Elvis, it was only Led Zeppelin’s autograph that I asked for.

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BO DIDDLEY & THE CLASH, 1979 US TOUR | EVERY GENERATION HAS THEIR OWN LITTLE BAG OF TRICKS

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1979, Cleveland — Bo Diddley opened for The Clash on their US tour — Image by © Bob Gruen. In 1979, Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon of the Clash asked that Diddley open for them on the band’s first American tour. “I can’t look at him without my mouth falling open,” Strummer, starstruck, told a journalist during the tour. For his part, Diddley had no misgivings about facing a skeptical audience. “You cannot say what people are gonna like or not gonna like,” he explained later to the biographer George White. “You have to stick it out there and find out! If they taste it, and they like the way it tastes, you can bet they’ll eat some of it!” via

The Clash where huge fans of Bo Diddley, as many of the formative British bands (and American too) of the ’60s and ’70s were– The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Beatles, The Yardbirds, and many more. Bo Diddley joined The Clash as their opening act on their 1979 US Tour– opening up a radical, young, new crowd to the sound of the man many consider to be one of the most important pioneers of American Rock & Roll music. Bo Diddley himself made no bones about stating that HE was THE beginning of Rock & Roll. Bo Diddley not only influenced sound– he also influenced the attitude, energy, and look of Rock & Roll for decades to come. Look at the pics here, I see the bold plaids that Diddley and other Rockers of the ’50s wore (Plaid was for hipsters, not squares, in the ’50s..), that emerged again strongly in the ’70s through the Sex Pistols (great credit due to Vivienne Westwood), The Clash and others. You can also see and hear where Jack Black got the lion’s share of his game from– no doubt Bo Diddley. The man is a legend and has never gotten his due, and the due that came, came too late. He had a well-earned chip on his shoulder, and even insisted The Clash pay him upfront, as he’d been screwed over so many times before.

“I was the cat that went and opened the door, and everyone else ran through it. And I said– what the heck, you know? …I was left holding the doorknob” –Bo Diddley

Bo Diddley

ca. 1950s — Norma Jean “The Duchess” Wofford in white blouse, Jerome Green squatting in front with maracas, and Bo Diddley with his signature rectangular Gretsch guitar. Bo and his crew were the badasses of their generation, just as The Clash were in theirs. — Image by © Michael Ochs

“If you can play– all you need is one amp, your axe, and you. “ –Bo Diddley explaining his feelings about The Clash’s monstrous wall of sound during their 1979 US tour.

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ZIGGY STARDUST | YOU’RE JUST A GIRL… WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT MAKEUP?

david bowie aladdin sane ziggy stardust

Brian Duffy photograph of David Bowie for the Aladdin Sane album cover, 1973. “Bowie’s sixth studio album marked the birth of the ‘schizophrenic’ character Aladdin Sane who was a development of the space-age Japanese-influenced Ziggy Stardust. To create the compelling album cover image, Bowie collaborated with photographer Brian Duffy and make-up artist Pierre Laroche. The result was one of the most recognizable images in popular culture– a ‘lightning flash’ design which has been reproduced in multiple forms world-wide.” via

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Look, there are those that revere Bowie as an ahead-of-his-time visionary who revolutionized Rock ‘n’ Roll. And there are those who see him very black & white, as a plodding opportunist who coldly studied what was happening around him (heavily borrowing from  true innovators at the time like Marc Bolan), and then expertly went about merchandising himself for mass commercial consumption. Both are fucking true. Bowie is an epic genius who learned through years of toil, trial, and error how to create a magical out-of-this-world persona and artistically sell it to us on a silver platter. No one has done it better in recent memory, and it’s unlikely that anyone in our lifetime will top him. Period. End of story.

There’s an incredible account by Glenn O’Brien in the recent issue of Out Magazine. Gay or straight, get over it, go buy it, and devour the entire spread on David Bowie. It is brilliant. You can read a chunk of it here after the jump. Now go– oh, you pretty things.

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“David Bowie (AKA Ziggy Stardust) wearing a sensational creation by Kansai Yamamoto. Born in Yokohama in 1944, the Japanese fashion designer was only 27 when he held his first international fashion show in London in 1971. The Japanese division of RCA records made MainMan aware of Yamamoto’s work and Bowie purchased the “woodlands animal costume” from Kansai’s London boutique– which he wore at the Rainbow Concert in August 1972 and which was later remade by Natasha Korniloff. Bowie subsequently viewed a video of a rock/fashion show that Kansai had staged in Japan the previous year and reportedly loved the costumes which were a combination of modern sci-fi and classical Kabuki theatre. Kansai and Bowie met in New York where he gifted Bowie two costumes during the 2nd US Tour. Kansai was then commissioned to create nine more costumes based on traditional Japanese Noh dramas for Bowie to pick up in Tokyo in April 1973. These were the flamboyant androgynous Ziggy Stardust costumes Bowie wore on the 3rd UK tour in 1973.” via The Ziggy Stardust Companion –photo by Masayoshi Sukita, the David Bowie archive

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David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust –photo by Mick Rock via

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“KNOWLEDGE SPEAKS, BUT WISDOM LISTENS” | THE WISE WORDS OF JIMI

“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.”

― Jimi Hendrix

Too often in life we seek only to be heard instead of truly listening to, and understanding those who matter to us most– the ones that we love in this world. Jimi knew, and it would serve us well (me especially) to heed his wise words. At the end of the day, it’s the love that we give and receive– in other words, relationships, that make this life beautiful and worth living. Sometimes we must decrease so that the relationship can increase. After all, what’s more important–  being happy, or proving how smart we are and being right all the time?

Jimi Hendrix, 1967  Image by © Gered Mankowitz

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STRAY CAT STRUTTIN’ STYLE | BRIAN SETZER AND THE BOYS ROCK THIS TOWN

I loved the early days of the Stray Cats back when they were young, raw and fresh from Long Island. Seeing lil’ Brian Setzer in these grainy old pics (if you can help out with any photo credits, I’d appreciate it!), some even from his pre-tattoo days built like a matchstick with a pile of hair that entered the room a full minute before he did…well, they are a sight to see. Their style was pretty tough back in the hungry years before the big payday when they rocked on a steady diet of engineer boots, creepers, skinny jeans, polka dot thrift shop tops with cut-off sleeves, bandanas and a sneer. Soon the look was gobbled up by the mainstream made-for-MTV crowd and regurgitated into a uniform with elements of new wave / new romantics fluffy hairdos, argyles, leopard print, gold lamé, Zodiac boots, and over-sized sportcoats.

Give the Stray Cats their due. Not only were they heavily responsible for a resurgence of interest in American roots Rock, Rockabilly, Swing, and Greaser culture– Brian Setzer was honored with being the first artist since Chet Atkins to be granted a Gretsch artist model guitar built and named for him. A true reflection of how strongly he was identified with Gretsch, and how he helped cement them with a new generation as the true player’s guitar for anyone serious about Rockabilly and the like. After the Stray Cats, guys like the Reverend Horton Heat, Mike Ness (Setzer played on Cheating at Solitaire) and others like them have carved-out their own sound and legacy on a Gretsch– and they owe a nod to Brian Setzer for paving the way.

A young and well-coiffed Brian Setzer of the Stray Cats back in the early 1980s

1982, Paris– A couple of lean, mean rockers Thierry Le Coz & Brian Setzer. Brian and the Stray Cats hit the road for the UK and Europe early on, as the Teddy Boy movement and the strong  love abroad for the Sun Records & rockabilly music legends (Elvis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Duane Eddy, and many more) called them there to make their mark. Thierry (yep, he’s French) is a great guitarist and started out in the Rockabilly band Teen Kats back in the early 1980s, and met Brian and the boys while they were there touring Europe.  Le Coz moved to Austin, Texas in ’84, played with Will Sexton in Will and the Kill among others, and is still doing his thing. I love that pic of them, great style.

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THE ROLLING STONES’ 1972 AMERICAN TOUR | STP– STONES TOURING PARTY

“Some of my most outrageous nights– I can only believe actually happened because of corroborating evidence.  No wonder I’m famous for partying!  The ultimate party– if it’s any good– you can’t remember it.” –Keith Richards

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Keith Richards & Mick Taylor of The Rolling Stones on stage, 1972 –Image by © Ethan Russell

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The Rolling Stones embarked on their 1972 American tour to support the release of Exile on Main Street— which in and of itself was a push into new territory for the band, both musically and commercially. What followed rewrote the game for The Stones and the music industry, and basically set the stage for a decade of big, balls-out tours that went from being simple promotional vehicles the pop culture events. Nothing like this had been done in Rock ‘n’ Roll prior and all subsequent tours would follow the ’72 tour blueprint for scale, attempted musicality, logistics, legal entanglements, drugs, women, hilarity, hangers-on, and general debauchery.

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Mick Jagger & Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones on the  STP tour, 1972 –Image by © Ethan Russell

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“GREGORY’S GOING TO GET SCREWED-UP FROM TIME TO TIME– AND SO AM I.”

“Our whole world as we knew it was shot to ratshit.  I ought to write a soap opera.” 

–Cher

Being a child of the ’70s, the one over-riding vibe stuck in my memory is that it felt messy. Very messy. Nothing felt solid, like it could all collapse at any given time. Maybe we were all dealing with the after effect of the ’60s free love, drugs, rock & roll deal– only now there were kids, complicated relationships, and worldly responsibilities popping-up that we didn’t feel ready for and certainly didn’t fully embrace. Still hanging on to our freedom– no one wanted to admit it was time to grow up and get real. We graduated from pot to cocaine and hard drugs, and went back to our father’s crutch– booze. Too much.

Looking back on these pics of Gregg Allman and Cher, I’m struck by that feeling. Two messy lives, neither one able to get out of their own way, coming together for an epic meltdown. People magazine, and the like, would have all the coked-out celebrity fodder ever needed to fill the racks at the supermarket checkout lines. Business was strong. Life felt cheap. You better at least look fucking fabulous if you want to survive.

Cher, smoking in bed, in the grip of a 1,000 yard stare… The Allman Brothers Band (and  fans) did not have kind words for Cher– likening her to their own ‘Yoko Ono’ for distracting Gregg and the resulting disintegration of the group. Truth is, Allman was seriously coked-out and a mess.  His weight dropping down to 125 lbs at one point. His head was all fucked-up from the loss of his beloved brother Duane Allman in a motorcycle wreck. Then, unthinkably, almost exactly a year after Duane’s tragic passing–  ABB bassist Berry Oakley also died in a motorcycle wreck only about a block away.   

1973, San Francisco– Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band –Image © Neal Preston/Corbis. While with Cher, Gregg Allman found himself labeled a snitch for testifying against ABB’s road manager Scooter Herring in exchange for his own immunity in a drug case. Seems Scooter was busted for supplying Gregg with 1/2 gram of cocaine a day– he reportedly even saved Allman’s life once by resuscitating him during an overdose. Cher stood by her man claiming, “Gregory makes a great villain because he’s taken drugs. They acted as if he had turned his road manager into a drug dealer when it was the other way around.” Most folks didn’t see it Cher’s way. Allman’s name became mud in Macon– death threats were flying and the locals wanted his head. Even the federal judge on the case smelled a rat stating, “the person who ought to be prosecuted is Mr. Allman.” Gregg claimed things were cool between he and Scooter, and that they both understood what Allman had to say and do to escape a prison sentence. It was all cool. In Allman’s mind, if anyone was the fall guy it was him. Somewhere in the middle there lies the truth.

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PEOPLE ALWAYS CALLED ME BLONDIE | AT SOME POINT I BECAME DIRTY HARRY

“Hi, it’s Deb.  You know, when I woke up this morning I had a realization about myself.  I was always Blondie.  People always called me Blondie, ever since I was a little kid. What I realized is that at some point I became Dirty Harry.  I couldn’t be Blondie anymore, so I became Dirty Harry.”

–Debbie Harry

Debbie Harry of Blondie, Coney Island, NY, 1977 — Image © Bob Gruen

“It was in the early ’70s and I was trying to get across town at two or three o’clock in the morning.  This little car kept coming around and offering me a ride.  I kept saying ‘No’ but finally I took the ride because I couldn’t get a cab.”  

“I got in the car and the windows were are rolled up, except for a tiny crack.  This driver had an incredibly bad smell to him. I looked down and there were no door handles.  The inside of the car was stripped. The hairs on the back of my neck just stood up.”  

“I wiggled my arm out of the window and pulled the door handle from the outside.  I don’t know how I did it, but I got out. He tried to stop me by spinning the car but it sort of helped me fling myself out.”

” Afterwards I saw him on the news–  Ted Bundy.”

–Debbie Harry

Debbie Harry, NYC, 1976 —  Image © Bob Gruen

1978 — Debbie Harry of Blondie — Image by © Martyn Goddard/Corbis

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PHOTOGRAPHY OF ROBERT ALTMAN | PAPA WAS A ROLLING STONE

After attending Hunter College in NYC, Robert Altman apprenticed under none other than Ansel Adams. He then went on to serve as Chief Staff Photographer for Rolling Stone magazine from 1969-1971. Many of Altman’s images became iconic for the brilliant and passionate way he captured those that shaped music history in particular, and the ’60s & ’70s culture at large.

The Sixties: Photographs by Robert Altman is a must own. Oh, and he’s not to be confused with Robert Altman the film director — both epic in their own right.

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Holy Man Jam festival, Boulder, Colorado, August 1970 — Image by © Robert Altman. “I love this photograph. You’ve got the perfection of a very pretty young lady, hands raised, holding a maraca. Right between her is this jubilant face… Another second or two, and her expression may have changed, an arm might have moved in front of an eye, and it’s a whole different photograph. Sometimes photography is alchemy, pure magic. Sometimes it just all comes together.” –Robert Altman

January, 1970 — Author Ken Kesey at home in Springfield, OR — Image by © Robert Altman. Kesey, author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and a master mind of The Sixties was an original and much loved figure, and the focus of Tom Wolfe’s best seller “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.” Sadly Rolling Stone ran this photo as a double page spread when Ken passed the acid test and also passed onto the next great adventure. via

The Gold Rush Festival, October 4, 1969 — Tina Turner, “The Fan” — Image by © Robert Altman

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MACHINE HEAD | THE EPIC 1972 ALBUM THAT PUT THE “DEEP” IN DEEP PURPLE

Deep Purple credits none other than Led Zeppelin for finally giving the band their focus.  The boys in Deep Purple had experimented a lot with their sound in their early years– adding elements of psychedelia, and funk to their sound.  With Led Zeppelin (and Black Sabbath) blazing the way by laying down the most epic, indestructible and powerful ‘Riff Rock’ tracks of all time– they finally knew exactly how they wanted to sound.  The Mk II lineup was unstoppable– Ian Gillan (easily one of Rock and Roll’s best vocalists), guitarist Ritchie Blackmore (’nuff said), Roger Glover on bass, Ian Paice on drums, and arguably one of the most important elements to the “Deep Purple” sound that truly separated them from the pack– the eloquent and driving keyboard playing of Jon Lord.

Coming off a huge 15 month tour to support their successful In Rock, the band holed up in ‘Le Pavillon’, an old hotel in Montreux, Switzerland. Using the Rolling Stones’ mobile recording unit, Deep Purple recorded one of the hardest rocking albums of all time– Machine Head. Apparently the locals were not aware or appreciative that Rock history was in the making. In the middle of recording ‘Smoke on the Water’ the Swiss police showed up– pounding on the door to shut them down for keeping up the entire town of Montreux.  Deep Purple’s roadees were holding the doors shut so that the band could get the track down on tape before getting thrown out.  Deep Purple had to find new digs to record in, and finally came across a grand old Victorian hotel on the edge of town that was shutdown for the season– it was now the depths of winter.  They found a tiny, quirky little space off of the main lobby where they could setup, and that was where Machine Head would be recorded– in just 3 weeks.  Quick, dirty, and epic.

1971, Montreux, Switzerland — Singer Ian Gillan of  Deep Purple playing guitar. Their epic album “Machine Head” was recorded in an old hotel in Montreux, Switzerland using the Rolling Stones’ mobile recording unit. — Image by © Shepard Sherbell/Corbis

“…Highway Star was written on a bus going down to Portsmouth. We were playing Portsmouth Guild Hall– and we took some of the filthy press down with us, to, um… and Ritchie was dickin’ around on his banjo, and one of them said, ‘Well, how do you write a song then?’ And Ritchie went like this– he just went ‘ding,ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding… and looked out the window playing ‘ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding’–  just playing one note. So, I started singing– and uh, we played the song in the show that night.”

–Ian Gillan of Deep Purple

’71, Montreux, Switzerland — Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore — Image by © Shepard Sherbell/Corbis

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