In 1976, I was breaking into the business, but I didn’t know how to get access to shows.
One night, I went to the Ivanhoe Theater in Chicago to try to talk my way in. I figured a small place would be easier. I went to the backstage door and started talking to the guy doing security. We bonded over the fact that we were both short, and a friendship began. He let me in to shoot that night, with Kenny Rogers performing. The following night I brought him some prints. He called the manager of the club over, and they both told me that they liked the prints, and invited me in again. I then brought them both prints, and they decided that they needed a staff photographer. I was offered the “position:” no pay of course, but total access. Of course, I said yes.
That began a year of some great concerts: Dolly Parton, and Cheech and Chong to name a few. It was also an opportunity to see artists as they started their careers. One case was when I went there to shoot Tom Scott and the LA Express and watched the opening act, a young band from Florida called Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Everyone from the club was in total agreement that they would never amount to anything!
A year later, my friend Scott (security guy from the back door) introduced me to his boss at Jam Productions, the biggest concert promoters in Chicago, and I made the same deal. And the rest is history!
About Paul Natkin
Paul Natkin learned photography in the trenches, working with his father, the team photographer of the Chicago Bulls. He shot sports in the Chicago area for five years before he discovered music photography in 1976. Since then, he has photographed most of the major music stars of the last half of the 20th century, shooting album covers for artists such as Ozzy Osbourne and Johnny Winter and magazine covers for Newsweek (Bruce Springsteen), Ebony (Tina Turner), People (Prince), and music magazines around the world. See his work online at natkin.net.