Sunday, September 20, 2015

Americana Music Fest: Henry Diltz and Pattie Boyd Charm and Inspire During 'Behind the Lens'

By Chuck Whiting
MCAU Editor

            NASHVILLE -- Some people are meant to be famous. They have a remarkable gift (something they love to do) and make themselves available for cool things to happen -- without pushing the envelope too hard. Photographer Henry Diltz is one of those people. It's almost as if he stepped out of the shower one day into rock 'n' roll legend. Of course, it wasn't as simple as all that. He just happened to be at the right place at the right time. When opportunity knocked, he said "yes".

            Diltz shared his incredible and remarkably fun stories during a show-and-tell "Behind the Lens" audiovisual presentation on Sept. 13 at Nashville City Winery during the Americana MusicFest. Before going on, I have to say that Jed Hilly and his staff have done a terrific job putting together one of the best conferences and festivals in recent memory. The "Behind The Lens" event proves that the AMF has grown up and then some.

Henry Diltz and his famous "Morrison Hotel" photo (Photo by Chuck Whiting)

            The photographer perched on a stool to the right of a large screen, sharing fascinating stories in sync with the passing frames.

            "I'm an observer," said Diltz, looking up at a photo of a beautiful girl in high heels pumping gas. "I also was a fan of cannabis".  His down-to-earth, good-natured talk drew applause and laughter from the audience.

            There were photos of Buffalo Springfield, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Michael Jackson, The Turtles, Jimmy Webb, Graham Nash, Blondie, George Harrison, and other superstars of the '60s and '70s.

            Diltz more or less got his start with a surprise album shoot for the Hollies. His notoriety grew when he was hired to shoot the Monkees for Tiger Beat. Other projects for the Partridge Family (David Cassidy), Linda Ronstadt (Stone Poneys), and Cream (Eric Clapton) followed. During the '70s, musicians were seeking him out for album covers, as well as hang time (as they still do). They enjoyed the company of a man who was somewhat like them. He could write and play songs, and he enjoyed smoking a little weed. He didn't force them into unnatural poses.

            All of his photos were amazing, but three stood out to me especially.

            * Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash looking so much in love during their tender romance in the late '60s. (Diltz spent a lot of time with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.)

            * An accidental shot of James Taylor leaning on a post in his early days. The shot was used as the cover for his second album, "Sweet Baby James".

            * The cover shot for the Doors' "Morrison Hotel". Diltz took the shot through a window into the lobby of a run-down hotel. But getting the photo wasn't easy. The hotel clerk ordered the band to leave when they began posing on a couch in front of the window. They obeyed but quickly returned (at Diltz's urging) after the employee left the room. The photo is one of the favorite items in his collection.

            What inspires me most about Henry Diltz is that he knew, hung out with, and made art with some of the greatest acts that ever took the rock 'n' roll stage. Yet, he's about as relaxed and charming as anyone you might meet. Don't push too hard, and let things happen naturally. Perhaps that's the answer for those of us who aspire to bless others with our artistic talents.


By Wil Comstock
MCAU Contributing Writer

            I couldn’t have been more excited about seeing Pattie Boyd. I was not disappointed. Model, actress, first wife of George Harrison and Eric Clapton. Sister-in-law of Mick Fleetwood and photographer extraordinaire.

            Pattie started her presentation by showing us her modeling photos.  She graced the cover of Vogue many times. Pattie explained that in those days the models did their own makeup and had to carry several outfits and wigs.  She noted, “Today they have all of that done for them, and they make an absorbent amount of money."  

Pattie Boyd talks photography at City Winery Nashville (Photo by Chuck Whiting)

            One day she went on a modeling interview. Later that day she received a call from her agent saying she got the role in the new Beatles film, "A Hard Day’s Night".  She said at the time, “But I can’t act.” How did I get that?"  Her agent said it was the interview she had gone on earlier in the day.  Pattie went to the wrong interview!   She did take the small part and met the Beatles during her train scene.  George Harrison asked her out.  On their first date, Brian Epstein accompanied them. While dating and later marrying Harrison, she continued to pursue her modeling career.  At the same time, she started taking up photography. George was a natural subject.  We saw lots of wonderful photos of George and Pattie with George. 

            While the Beatles were in Australia, Pattie and her sister Jenny, also a model, went to a Transcendental Meditation meeting  in London. She told George and the other Beatles about her experience when they returned. Paul learned that the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was going to be in London in two weeks. The Maharishi invited the Beatles to visit him in the foothills of the Himalayas. Pattie documented this time in India with stunning photos of the Beatles, their wives, and Donovan.  It was during this time that most of the "White Album" was written. Pattie explained that this was the last time she saw George totally relaxed and at peace.  

            Eric Clapton and George became friends and toured with Delaney and Bonnie. We were treated to lots of great photos of Eric and George. Around this time, George wrote "Something" for Pattie. Eric had a crush on Pattie, who at the time rebuffed his advances. Later, when she and Harrison divorced, she starting dating and later married Clapton, who wrote "Layla" and "Wonderful Tonight" for her.   Eventually, Eric and Pattie divorced, but she continued to take photos for magazines and later have exhibitions of her photography shown around the world.

            For more information about the Americana Music Festival, visit

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