By Pete Zamplas
Paul Price as a teen had a keen photographic eye, and knack for anticipating a striking expression by a rock star.
The longtime Asheville resident took many photos in the early Seventies while growing up in New Orleans, in the Crescent City’s famed Warehouse nightclub.
Now, six of his images are part of a spectacular outdoor display at The Warehouse Monument in Warehouse Park, at 1475 Tchoupitoulas St. The exhibits dedication is slated for April 4.
The Warehouse club is a cultural landmark, hailed as “The Fillmore South” for drawing major rock acts indoors. The ballroom operated in 1970-1982, for a dozen years and was demolished in 1989.
The Warehouse District is the N.O. arts hub, much as Asheville’s River Arts District has emerged. Rock music has been an “instrumental part of New Orleans’ world-renowned music scene,” the New Orleans Mayor’s Office of Cultural Economy stated in a press release in 2015. “Few places captured the spirit of rock ‘n roll more than The Warehouse.”
Major acts there included the Allman Brothers, The Eagles Elton John, Fleetwood Mac and the Grateful Dead. The Allmans starred in what the release calls “infamous all-night New Year’s Eve shows” in 1970-72, to help launch their legacy. They were the club’s unofficial house band, played for hours as the club had no curfew, then often played again in the adjacent park the next day, according to the house photographer Sidney Smith.
In some eerie trivia, The Doors performed their final show in The Warehouse on Dec. 12, 1970, a half-year before singer Jim Morrison died. He was reportedly so aggressively drunk in The Warehouse, he kept pounding his mic stand into the stage floor until he made a hole in it.
The six rock stars in Price photos in this exhibit are: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bob Seger, Buck Dharma, Mike Pinera, J.J. Cale, and Jimmy Hall. There is one image of each.
Pinera and Hall are singing very emotionally, with Hall visibly perspiring, in these photos. These dynamic moments are captured by Price on film.
To do so, the photographer is “like a hunter,” he reasons. “You anticipate,” then snap the photo an instant before the action peaks. The same is true for sports and other action photography.
Vaughan, who went by Stevie Vaughan, was the opener for a concert in early 1974 with Cale and San Fran psychedelic rockers Quicksilver Messenger Service. Vaughan died in a helicopter crash in 1990 at age 35. He and Cale are deceased. The other four are alive.
Vaughan, the gifted blues-rock guitarist and earthy singer from Dallas, Texas, was merely 19 years and four months old when Price photographed him on Feb. 23, 1974.
Seger, the longtime raspy-voiced rock star from Detroit, was age 28 in 1973 when Price was at his concert. That is the year Seger formed the Silver Bullet Band, and started churning out a string of hits.
Cale, the influential songwriter and guitarist, was 36 when Price saw him play live in ’74. Cale penned hits for others such as Eric Clapton’s “After Midnight” and Lynyrd Skynrd’s “(They Call Me) The Breeze.”
Dharma is the stage name for Donald Roeser, writer and singer of Blue Oyster Cult’s biggest hits. He was 25 and a half years old when Price photographed him, in March of 1973.
Pinera was age a solo act and age 24 when Price saw him in ’73. Pinera was singer-guitarist with Blues Image which had the flowing hit “Ride Captain Ride” in 1970, then heavy metal Iron Butterfly in ‘70-72 and later Alice Cooper in 1979-82. Hall sang with the Southern rock Wet Willie Band. He was age 24 in ’73, when Price saw him in The Warehouse. Hall is mentioned as among acts, if there is a concert for the exhibit opening.
Price’s six photos exhibited were all shot in color, and sent as 8×10 prints. His Seger photo was switched to black and white for a B&W collage of photos by various fans. The other photo panel, also three feet by two feet in size, has dozens of photos all in color and including five by Price. There are four other historic panels about The Warehouse.
Other people’s subjects include The Who, Bob Dylan, Gregg and Duane Allman, Alvin Lee, and Joe Cocker. Many are shot by Sidney Smith. His photos have been in Rolling Stone magazine. Smith followed the Allmans on tour for a year.
Few others’ works are displayed, other than Smith. Price had a connection, from a dozen years ago. He emailed Craig L. Hopkins, who he terms an an “author and fan site manager for anything Stevie Ray Vaughan.”
Within a week, Price sent Hopkins eight photos he took of Stevie Ray Vaughan in ’74. Two made it on page 70 of Hopkins’ book Stevie Ray Vaughan: Day by Day, Night after Night in 2008.
The two men kept contact. Months ago, Hopkins alerted Price about The Warehouse photo exhibit privately seeking a few more photos.
Paul Price is a maintenance engineer, at Biltmore Park Hilton. His wife Kathy and their daughters Kerby and Savannah are all North Buncombe High School alumni. Paul and Kathy live near the school. They married in 1983. Paul moved to Buncombe County in 1972 from New Orleans, after high school.
The Warehouse opened a half-century ago this month, on Jan. 30, 1970. That was less than a month before Price turned 16. In 1971 at age 17, he started going to concerts there. He went to 13 shows in The Warehouse and routinely snapped photos.
Back then, The Warehouse and other clubs allowed flash photos and long camera lens. In 1972 and ’73, he used both before they were banned. The lens on his 1968 Asahi (later Pentax) camera was usually a 150mm zoom, sometimes a 50mm if he got close enough to the stage. It was general admission, mostly standing room, very loud and often rowdy for these major concerts.
He kept composure to hold his camera very steady, and shoot at a slow 1/60th shutter speed with flash for crisp images.
Once the club forbid flash photos, Price’s lowest-light exposure setting was not enough to work in low light as is. If he used 300 ASA Kodak Ektachrome film, he typically set his shutter speed to go with 1200 ASA, then had it “pushed” to 1200 when developed. Usually, photos look grainier. But many of his images were very clear and especially when the singer was in a strong spotlight.
Price posts many of his photos online, on a site he named Peaches and Willie. It began in 1975. Price has exclusively run it since 2010. His photos barely survived a house fire in 2004, in his current home. “I began enjoying them more and more, as a result of the near loss,” Price said.
He researched his many photos, to identify opening act musicians he was unsure about. In late 2007, he discovered a gem. “I realized that 12 images captured over the Mardi Gras weekend at The Warehouse on Feb. 23, 1974 were of a 19-year-old Stevie Vaughan” with the Nightcrawlers. Price then connected with Vaughan super fan Hopkins.
Rock and blues star photo subjects of Price include Eric Clapton, the Allman Bros., Bob Dylan and The Band, Doc Watson and son Merle Watson, B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Billy Preston, Edgar Winter, Atlanta Rhythm Section, J. Geils, Humble Pie, Blue Oyster Cult, Bonnie Raitt, Charlie Daniels, Leon Redbone, Dr. John who died last year.
Price said his website name infers a “Greek comedy-tragedy mask expression of my photographic ‘hits and misses’ — the joys and frustrations … Sometimes I came away capturing a few great images (‘Peaches’ as in the Baretta TV upbeat character Ragtime Billy Peaches). And sometimes, I came away with a great disappointment — the blues (‘Willie’ as in “great bluesmen” such as Willie Dixon).” This preservation aims at himself, as well. “All I wanted was something more lasting than a ticket stub, and an ever-fading memory.”
Price’s personal online rock star photo exhibit is at: peachesandwillie.ifp3.com