The Story Behind the Photos
Part 3: The Eddy Street photo shoot
Later that week, after arranging the time and date with Wolf, and having given some excuse to my employer about a dental appointment or something… I drove to the jazz & blues history laden Fillmore District, to encounter the Eddy Street Hotel & Motel, where Wolf had been put up. I took along a rented 4x5 view camera, my tripod, and had smuggled out the bank’s Nikon SLR. I think I somehow had even arranged to borrow a car for the day!
So then… there we were, in the sleaziest place I’d ever been in (up until then, that is, as I’ve lived in worse since, but at that point was making a whopping $2.50 and hour 4 hours a day! This was not just a funky and old building in a funkier-yet part of town (one of San Francisco’s three black ghettos at the time, but centrally located, was since-gentrified). In Wolf's room, there was actually one (the ONLY) chair, a semi-easy type chair, with wooden arms, that featured a huge sharp very dangerous coil spring that poked way up from the middle of where the cushion used to be. Like a bad joke! I could not believe it would even be in the room! What was the point? (no pun intended.) Wolf had to sit on the arm of that chair for some shots, when not standing or sitting on the bed. And for safety's sake I wrapped a ton of tissue around that point. Yikes!
We then further discussed the logistics and I set up and took some photos (mostly the 4x5 shots) inside his room there, then later, used mostly the 35mm Nikon outside in the back carport area – there were no cars there – hence the numbers 12 & 13 on the background’s brick wall in some of the photos, denoting designated parking spaces.
The broken windows and decrepit dried up, un-maintained structures, bottles, barbed wire and broken glass in the background of a few other shots is simply “neighborhood ambiance” not "industrial wasteland," and perhaps, in some regards, somewhat of a slight step up from the West Side of Chicago where the next year I spent some time with Wolf at his club, Key Largo, on West Roosevelt.)
When ABC Booking later illegally copied my photo, they cropped the ambience out of that iconic photo of Wolf howling with guitar (along with my photocredits and copyright indication!!!) This then cost me a lot of time and revenue, as well as artistic recognition, although finally at this much later date it’s (just about) corrected in all countries where I’ve found it being used commercially.
During the Eddy Street shoot, I also got some great close-up portraits of Cassell Burroughs because I thought his face was remarkable and photogenic – and I know I sent him some through Wolf, eventually, and the same for other members I’d photographed in concert and at the next shoot, except I’m not sure that then-local resident BB Jones ever saw his, although I also got some cool un-directed performance type poses of him. I believe I had his address (and still may, somewhere) at the time, and that in fact did send them at least to his father, who I went over to meet another time.
Cassell himself took a few pictures of me with Wolf, too, and although the focus was not that sharp on any of them (though I’d attempted to pre-focus them in advance) it’s clear enough to show Wolf’s and my great sense of camaraderie, and my total sense of joy and gratitude to be a part of such moments. I stood precariously on a “parking bumpstop” in some of those shots of us so as to better get more parity of height with The Wolf, so our faces were closer.
We concluded the photo session, after about five hours, having put lots of detailed attention into it, and with each of us having used ideas about how Wolf would best be photographed in those many shots. We took some pictures of Wolf with a number of “products” on hand there, too, as an automatic progress we both just knew was good to do, both wanting to see his image used in advertising products
We worked very well together, having what I believe was a very special connection, and we were each again “in the zone,” as you will no doubt decide yourself from the results, which are in all humbleness without a doubt among the finest and most intimate portraits of the Wolf ever taken, depicting many aspects of his personality and expressing the depths of his wonderful character in many.
Only nearly 2 decades after his death was Wolf to be seen by me, in 1993, my photo being used (un-asked. unaccredited, unlicensed, un-leased (and unknown then to be mine) in The Gap's “Howlin’ Wolf Wore Khakis” campaign) other than his own material. But, since that time I found so many commercial uses of it long before I realized anyone had access to. And I still do, but now it's more so HW#2 here.