Backstage With Paul: Chicago Blues

When I was a kid, I started listening to Blues music and grew to be a big fan. I always wanted to meet the guys making the music, and getting in this business made that come true.

In 1977, I went to a concert at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago and photographed Muddy Waters and Johnny Winter. The next day I found out that the photographer from the Chicago Reader was kicked out before the show started. So, being the opportunistic person that I am, I made some prints and rushed down to the Reader office, holding the prints out the window to dry. That is how I got my first picture published.

Muddy Waters

Muddy Watters

Several days later, I got a call from a guy who told me he was Muddy’s manager, inviting me to a show in downtown Chicago. I went down there and was ushered into a room backstage. There sat Muddy Waters, the most famous living blues guy on the planet. I met his manager who introduced me to Muddy and we had a great conversation. It turned out that this guy also managed Willie Dixon, and soon I was invited out to Muddy’s house in Westmont, IL to photograph both of them, unfortunately not at the same time.

Willie Dixon

Willie Dixon

Through them, I met a guitar player named Buddy Guy and I have been photographing him ever since. I am proud to call him a friend, and I have photographed him for about four album covers and the cover of his autobiography. It is always great to have my name on a picture of Buddy. It is even cooler to sit backstage with him and talk about the early days of the Chicago Blues scene. It is equally fun to sit with him and sound like two old men, talking about our health and what we used to be able to eat and can’t anymore!

Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy

I get invited to join him at all of his Chicago area performances, usually with a message from his manager that starts off with, “Hey, what are you doing? Want to come down tonight?”

-Paul

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.

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Cory Lorentz

Cory Lorentz is the Artist Relations Manager at Shure. He enjoys weekends, tacos and has a soft spot for the kind of lite rock music you’d hear in a dentist’s office.

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