Larry Singer started photographing concerts at some of South Florida’s most storied music venues in 1971.

Larry Singer: Good afternoon, sir. You are right on time.

SFL Music: Hi, Larry. How are you?
Larry: I’m doing good. How are you doing?

SFL Music: Fantastic. I want to start at the beginning, how did you first get into photography?

Larry: Okay. My father was a professional photographer. I never took a picture until… I went to the Air Force a month after I graduated high school. And before I left, he gave me this old beat up 35-millimeter camera he got at a pawn shop. And I said, “I don’t believe…” All I really wanted was a Kodak Instamatic. He said, “No son of mine’s going to use an Instamatic.” So, I learned how to use that.

And I didn’t really want to, but I was all I had. And I actually read magazines and did everything. Fortunately, I had a roommate that knew a lot about photography, and over the next two and a half years he taught me a lot of stuff. And that really is the truth.

SFL Music: Wow, interesting. What publication were you with when you started photographing concerts?
Larry: I was with a newspaper, which I cannot remember the name of, in Davie, Florida. At the time there were two newspapers, weeklies, in Davie. And Davie was… At the time, there were more horses than people in Davie.

SFL Music: Okay. So, did you shoot for the college newspaper also?
Larry: Yeah, I did that also, I took pictures for the Broward Community College newspaper and for the weekly. It was my college journalism instructor there at Broward Community College found out about the job, asked me if I wanted to go down and apply for it. And I did, and I became a writer and a photographer for this little weekly.

SFL Music: Interesting.
Larry: Yeah. The editor said to me, “Listen, they got…” I’d been there for maybe a month or so, and she said, “They do concerts at Pirates World. And I want you to go down there and I want you to write a weekly column. I want you to interview the groups that are there playing every week, and I want you to take pictures of them performing and write an article about them.” And it was called Insight Rock, I-N-S-I-G-H-T Rock. Kind of like inside, but insight. And, anyway, a bad pun. And that’s how I started.

SFL Music: Wow. Do you remember what the first concert was you photographed for them?
Larry: I don’t remember what the first one was. The first one I can remember, as a matter of fact I think it was David Bowie. David Bowie was appearing at Pirates World. I really didn’t know what I was doing. I couldn’t get back to see him, I had no idea what was going on. I couldn’t get an interview, obviously, with David Bowie. I was just a nobody, at a weekly newspaper.

And I remember I was taking pictures of him during the concert. And his road manager came up and tried to take my camera away from me, because he said I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of David performing. And we had a little tug of war over my camera, and I won. And that was really my first memory of taking pictures at Pirates World, getting into it with David Bowie’s Road manager.

SFL Music: After that, just in general, what was it like photographing concerts in South Florida in those years?
Larry: Okay. Those years were the cusp. I met these people and photographed… The people who I did meet, who I did wind up meeting and who I did wind up shooting. When I met them, they were taking the step from being rock and roll musicians to being rock and roll superstars.

When I met Alice Cooper, he had just brought out his album Killer, which was about to make him a superstar. When I met Deep Purple, they had just brought out Deep Purple in Rock, which not only made them superstars, but became one of the greatest rock and roll albums of all time. And it was released on my birthday, June 3rd, I think it was 1970. Best birthday present I ever got in my life.

In fact, the only two groups that I ever really knew that… Well, once I went to work for Circus Magazine, that I only really knew was Deep Purple and Alice Cooper. And I could have invited either of those members of those bands to come to my house for dinner, and they would have.

My wife and I took Alice out clubbing in civilian clothes after a concert and nobody… There used to be a nightclub called The Flying Machine right across from the old Fort Lauderdale airport, which is now the big, huge Fort Lauderdale airport.

SFL Music: I remember it.
Larry: And we took him there. And nobody in the place recognized Alice Cooper except the bouncer. And we said, “Don’t say anything,” and he didn’t. “No problem. Won’t tell a soul.” And nobody… And we had a great time and took him back to the hotel.

In fact, the best time I had with Alice Cooper was taking… Okay, Alice came and performed. I think he had two concerts like Saturday, Sunday, and then he stuck around for a couple days. I shot the first concert with slide film and developed it. And had arranged with my professor to do a slide show. Okay, I was taking astronomy at Broward Community College and they had an incredible projector. They could project images on the dome of the planetarium.

And I picked up Alice Cooper with a friend of mine, and we got two cars, two really nice cars. Picked up Alice and the band, drove him out from the beach… I think it was the Diplomat Hotel, all the way out to Broward Community College of Davie to the planetarium, where I gave Alice a slideshow. And the music was from his brand-new album, I think it was Billion Dollar Babies. And it was just…

Anyway, the music was great, the show was great. In fact, Alice was the first to stand up and start a standing ovation after it was finished. I think, what was it, half an hour. And it was really neat because the professor said, “Well, excuse me, we’re going to take a break. And we’re going to have some rock and roll music. If you all want to stay in your seat and enjoy it, that’s great. If not, you can go outside and take a break for a half an hour or so. Come back in,” nobody left.

And the next thing they knew, Alice Cooper and the band came down the aisle with their manager, Shep Gordon, and sat in the front row. And the show began. And there were people whose mouths were still open going, “What?” So yeah, it was really cool.

Let’s put it this way, it was a time… Okay, I had a writing partner and his name was Jimmy Esposito. And the only thing we had in common was we both liked to get high, but we agreed on absolutely nothing. And we went everywhere together for two or three years. And the only reason people would let us interview them and put up with us is because we were great comic relief. It was like being interviewed by Laurel and Hardy, the Three Stooges. So it was really a fun time. I only wish I would have paid more attention to what I was doing as opposed to just relying on film to remember.

So when I was in the Air Force and they sent me to Bangkok, to Thailand. And I went to Bangkok and I’m walking around in Bangkok, and I say, “I will probably never be back here again. I’d better remember what’s going on.” And I did. I actually did. I made an effort to… I actually tried to remember everything I saw, because I… And I never did get back again.

SFL Music: Wow, wow.
Larry: I was right.

SFL Music: What venues in South Florida did you photograph at back then?
Larry: The main three were Pirates World and the Sportatorium. Occasionally there was the Miami Jai Alai. And occasionally, I believe, although I don’t only think there were very many that would hold a concert at the Dania Fronton. Most of it was at the Miami Jai Alai Fronton. That became the-

SFL Music: Right. For concerts?
Larry: Yeah, for concerts. And there was one or two… Pink Floyd was at the old Miami baseball stadium, where they had their minor league team. But unfortunately, it was a windy day, and they tried to launch the pig on a rope tied to the lights around the stadium, because the pig was part of their album cover. And the pig blew away because of the winds, the Florida winds. So it was kind not quite the Pink Floyd concert everybody wanted.

And to answer your question, it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun going to concerts. It was a lot of fun meeting the people, getting high with them. And the other thing, that if anybody ever objected to us finding us in their dressing room, before they could say, “Do you want to leave?” We’d, “Hey, want to get high?” “Sure.” Okay, no problem. And marijuana was the universal peacemaker.

SFL Music: Yeah.
Larry: The universal introduction. It smoothed the road.

SFL Music: Yeah. Did you shoot up at West Palm Auditorium too back in those days?
Larry: Not in the auditorium. We shot one or two at the Speedway.

SFL Music: Oh, okay. At the Speedway, all right.
Larry: In fact, when Jimmy… My writing partner, Jimmy Esposito. We were up there with Deep Purple and we were at their hotel. And the group goes to get in the limos, two or three limos, from their hotel to the Speedway. And Ritchie Blackmore says to Jimmy, “Come here, I want you to ride with me.” And Jimmy said, “Really?” Because Richie doesn’t talk a lot. Richie never said five words to anybody.

In any case, Blackmore says, “Something I want to tell you.” And he knew Jimmy well, because Jimmy had been with me. And he had read Jimmy’s articles about his band, praising the group. And in the limo between the hotel and the Palm Beach Speedway, he told Jimmy both the news that two members of Deep Purple were leaving, the lead singer and Roger Glover, the bass player.

And this is when the group was at the very apex, the peak of their popularity. Smoke on the Water was selling more records than they knew what to do with, making more money. Incredible. And all of a sudden, Ritchie announces that they are breaking… Not breaking up, just sending two guys away and bringing two guys in.

And yeah, it shows how close Jimmy got to Ritchie. Because Ritchie, like I said, Ritchie Blackmore was the only member of Deep Purple mark two that did not show up at the induction ceremony, at the banquet when Deep Purple was inducted into the Rock Roll Hall of Fame. Every member of Deep Purple mark two that was living showed up, except Ritchie Blackmore. That gives you a hint as to Richie’s personality.

SFL Music: And your partner, Jimmy, seemed to have developed a relationship with Ritchie. But you also developed a good relationship with Roger Glover, and I think… Was it Jon Lord?
Larry: Yes. Roger Glover was the guy that came and got me. Okay, now this is reality. And if somebody told me this story, I wouldn’t believe it. When I went to the concert, to the Deep Purple concert, I really didn’t know anything… I was… Okay-

SFL Music: This was at Pirates World?
Larry: Yeah. Okay. Rod Stewart was the headline act. Deep Purple was the middle of the three groups. And the opening act was Matthews Southern Comfort. And they had one hit song, and that was it. They played 58 minutes and left.

Deep Purple shows up. And between the time that Matthews Southern Comfort played their 58 minutes and left, the entire Pirates World Arena was filled, about 8,500, people with Rod Stewart fans, who had paid money to see Rod Stewart. Nobody really knew anything about the Deep Purple. Deep Purple is now the second act.

And they show up, stage goes black, stage all of a sudden lights up. And Deep Purple starts their show. When Deep Purple finished their show, and I’ll tell you a little more about the show in a second, about a third to a half of the people in the auditorium got up and left. They were stunned. They had had all the rock…

Now, these people paid good money to see Rod Stewart, they left without even hearing a note or seeing his face. A third of the people. And I’m looking behind me and I’m watching these people go, and I’m going, “Where are they going?” I’m thinking, “Well, they’re all going to the restroom.” And I noticed they’re taking their blankets, their chairs with them. And I went, “What the?” It’s an exodus, it’s like the Jews and out of Egypt.

And so I go, “Where are these people going?” And I realize they’re leaving; they’re not coming back. And all of a sudden, I look down, I’m standing in the photography area, and I see a guy walking towards me from the other side of the stage where Deep Purple exited. And the guy’s wearing a cowboy hat and he walks towards me, and there’s like smoke, because Deep Purple, their final number was Child in Time. And it’s like a machine gun, it’s like a battle. It’s an eight-minute opera.

Anyway, whoever’s walking towards me, I don’t recognize. He walks up, this guy wearing a cowboy hat walks toward me and he says, “Are you a journalist?” And I said, “Yeah.” And he sees the cameras around my neck, and he goes, “Are you a journalist?” I go, “Yeah.” He goes, “Do you want interview the group?” And I go, “What group?” He goes, “Deep Purple. The group that just left.” He said, “I’m Roger Glover, I’m the bass player.” I went, “Oh yeah, of course.”

Because I couldn’t see him, because where I was standing there were a bunch of people there in the photography area because of Rod Stewart, a bunch of magazine photographers. Rod Stewart has the number one album in the world with Maggie May on it. And it came out two months before he came to Pirates World. So this guy was like riding the crest of the wave.

So, all these photographers are there, they kind of left. And then there’s all this smoke, and through the smoke Roger Glover comes to me. And he takes me back and he introduces me to Deep Purple. And as it turns out, it’s the Deep Purple that went on to do Smoke on the Water and all the stuff that they…

And the only hit they ever had was Smoke on the Water. But their albums, and it really bothered me that they never get played on the radio are just… Especially Deep Purple in Rock, there are songs on there that are just epic. But nobody ever hears them because they’re too busy playing Van Halen. Which I don’t mind, but some groups never do get played on classic rock radio.
And I always wonder why some groups qualify. Like Jefferson Airplane, I mean, really a great group. You never hear anything but White Rabbit, never hear anything by Jefferson Airplane at all because they’re just not part of… They were not invited to the party. What can I tell you? So what else would you like to know?

SFL Music: I want to get your thoughts on some of those venues. So when I give you a name, tell me your thoughts just on that venue.
Larry: No problem.

SFL Music: So Pirates World.
Larry: Pirates World was very cool and very kind of homey. Because it took place in an amusement park it was unlike any other venue, because you could always hear what was going on the roller coaster and things like that, competing with the people who were performing.

But because the police were… And the one thing I can tell you for sure is the police were very cool, and everybody got high and everybody had a good time. And, to the best of my knowledge, nobody ever got busted at Pirates World. And nobody ever got tear gassed, which I can’t say about the Sportatorium.

In any case, it was a very nice place and it was homey. And the people were nice to me. That’s where I got my break. That’s where the gentleman, Buddy Clark, was the promoter. And Buddy Clark managed to get the biggest bands in the world down there to perform in Pirates World for next to nothing by flying them down and putting them up for a weekend and all expenses paid. And he got groups like Alice Cooper and Deep Purple to show up and play.
And if you go online, there’s a website that all the concerts that were at Pirates World and at the Sporto. And somebody actually kept tabs. And it was a place where people went to hear rock and roll music. And a nice place, 5000 people was all. The only seats were the metal bleachers around the edges against the wall, or what passed for a wall. And that was it. You stood up or you sat down on concrete, on your blanket.

SFL Music: Right. The Sportatorium.
Larry: Oh, Jesus. A hell hole. It was the only place I’ve ever been tear gassed in my life. And that’s at the Rush concert. For whatever reason, the Rush had been doing a little vacationing in The Bahamas before their show. And the word was that Neil Peart did not make the plane back, and they were not going to start the show without him.
So you have a bunch of people in the parking lot at the Sporto waiting to go in, who were on drugs and their drugs were timed to go off with Tom Sawyer, when Rush did Tom Sawyer. And there ain’t no Rush. So they kind of stormed the auditorium. And they tried to climb over the fences, a whole bunch of people, about 10,000.
And the Broward Sheriff’s Department brought out the tear gas and decided to do battle with them. So I got tear gassed. And it was the only time in my life. And I had to put Coca-Cola in a kerchief and put it over my face so I could breathe. And people were gagging and throwing up. And I always thought it was called tear gas just because it made you cry, I discovered it was called tear gas because it stung so badly, it hurt so badly, you cried. Big discovery on my part.

SFL Music: Miami Jai Alai?
Larry: Oh, Miami Jai Alai. Very few memories at all. Except I remember Ike and Tina Turner were there. And I was back there taking pictures. Well, I think Jimmy was interviewing them and I was taking pictures of Ike and Tina.
And Ike wanted to go to the bathroom. And this was before anybody knew he was a wife abuser. And I took him by the hand, more or less, and took him to the back end of the venue through the crowd to a restroom, and then back through the crowd to his dressing room. And then I discovered later on that he had been beating her and all that stuff. And I went, “Man, I didn’t know anything about that.” And he just seemed like a really nice guy.

And everybody treated… One thing I can remember, the Jai Alai was a good place, I guess, to perform as far as the artists were concerned. I was never part of the audience, I was always either backstage or on the side of the stage. So, like you, I very seldom knew what was going on out front, well, most of the time.

And it was just one of the places that… The place that had the most reputation, it had the worst reputation was the Sportatorium. Because it was called the Vomitorium, because people used to get sick there. People would get in fights there, people would try and hop over the fence and get on the stage, and security would beat them up and throw them back over the fence. So it was…

SFL Music: Could be a rough place?
Larry: Oh, yeah. But once again, I only saw these things happen as opposed to, thank God, having to be too close to them.

SFL Music: Yeah. Any other venues that come to mind back then that…
Larry: No.

SFL Music: No?
Larry: No. Basically the Sportatorium and Pirates World, they basically owned it. They basically were the place… Oh, yes, there was one other; Sunrise Musical Theater. The Sunrise Musical Theater had… Pat Benatar. Pat Benatar and several other groups.

And it was not a place really for hard rock bands, it was mainly mellow groups, like I said, like Pat Benatar. And it was very nice venue, because it was very civilized. It was like almost going to a movie theater. But people who went to the Sportatorium were definitely not used to.

SFL Music: Yeah. Well, it started out with the whole Sinatra dinner theater kind of thing, and then morphed into rock music later on.
Larry: Yep. And then they got rid… Now it doesn’t even exist.

SFL Music: Yeah.
Larry: Oh, there was one other place that we went to one or two concerts and that was in Tampa. Curtis Hixon Hall. I went to one or two Deep Purple concerts there. Jimmy and I drove over.

In fact, coming back from that, from one Deep Purple concert in Tampa, we drove through Lake Wales. And we had run out of weed in Tampa and we were both a little grumpy. We had stayed overnight and we were driving back the next morning, and we were both grumpy. And we see a sign outside Lake Wales that says Spook Hill. And he goes,
“What the hell is that?” I said, “I don’t know.” And he said, “Let’s check it out.”

And we go to Spook Hill. And we find that Spook Hill is just merely, you drive up to a line on the road. And you put your car in park and then in neutral. And when you put it in neutral, it looks like it should be rolling downhill or staying where it is. And it appears to be rolling uphill by itself, thus the name Spook Hill, because your car appears to be rolling up the hill.

To make a long story short, two people ahead of us rolled up the hill magically. Jimmy and I get to the line, nothing happens. We back up a bit, roll up to the line, nothing happens. We try one more time, nothing happens. Finally puts it in drive, says, “Screw it,” and we leave. Halfway between there and the turnpike, I’m in the passenger seat and I just reached down between the seat and the backrest. And I feel something and it feels kind of hard. I pull it out and it is a bud. And it looks like it has been petrified, a cannabis bud that… I mean, it looked hard as a rock.

And Jimmy said, “Where’d you get it?” He had no idea where it came from, I had no idea where it came from. It was just enough to get us high and keep us high until Fort Lauderdale. And we decided this was a gift from the Spook when we went to Spook Hill. He said he had something better for us than just a cheap ass ride up the hill, he has something special. And we credit him to this very day for that little bit of weed. Spook Hill, hey.

SFL Music: That’s funny.
Larry: But what can I say? Yeah, that’s my big Spook Hill story.

SFL Music: That’s funny. Given your experience and access back then, what do you think most people don’t know about the music scene in South Florida in those days?
Larry: If they weren’t a part of it, they really don’t know that they could have gotten to see people when they were just about to become superstars, when they were just rock and roll musicians. And some of them were famous, but a few of them went on to become superstars, like Deep Purple and Alice Cooper, and more than that.
And the only thing I can really say, that people, it would’ve been nice if they would’ve gone to concerts and would’ve been able to see what I saw. And I’m glad I was able to capture it. That thing is… I had no idea that when… Okay. When I went to see the Rolling Stones, we had no idea when we got the Rolling Stones tickets that we were going to see… We thought it was going to be George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers. Then it said it was Van Halen. And it was like, we didn’t expect this.

And when I went, and I’ll show you when an idiot was, I went to shoot David Lee Roth. I had no idea that Eddie Van Halen was going to be a superstar guitar god. A picture I took of Eddie leaping, that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame loved, used on their billboards, was just I wanted one good shot of him leaping through the air because he seemed to enjoy it so much. And I did. And basically, the time I shot Eddie was when he was in the vicinity of David, because David was such a ham. He was the show. He was the show. And it was so unbelievable to be able to see Eddie…

Oh, by the way, I don’t know, I didn’t tell you, there were no cameras allowed. What happened was I hid my camera gear, I put my 300-millimeter lens in the small of my back, I hid my camera body under my left armpit, and I hid my film, 20 rolls of film, in my underwear. In my tighty whities. And that’s how I got into the show because you couldn’t bring a camera.

And as it turned out, I got everything in except the lens. And some big security guy finds my lens and he says, “I got to take this.” And I go, “Please, please, please. I just want to use this as a telescope.” He goes, “No, no, no.” He gives it to a girl, a pretty girl, about 18, 19 years old.

And says he said, “You have a choice, either you to take it back to your car, “and we didn’t have a car anywhere near there, we walked to it from the motel room and that was out of the question. Or I could have it checked, the lens checked in lost and found up upon the third, fourth floor of the Tangerine Bowl. And I said, “Let’s check it.” And the girl takes the lens, and we put me and two other guys follow her up the steps.

She gets halfway up and she gets a call on the radio. And she turns around and she says, “I got to go to the other side of the auditorium.” She hands me back my lens and says, “Take this up and check it for me.” And she heads up the steps. The guy who was with me, yells, “Run.” And we ran through the crowd. And that’s how I was able… And we hid in the crowd of this massive Rolling Stone, Van Halen crowd. And that’s how I was able to take pictures of the Rolling Stones and Van Halen. A miracle. If she hadn’t have disappeared, it would’ve never happened. So it was… Yeah.

SFL Music: So uncredentialed for that show?
Larry: Oh yes, sir. And here’s the thing, when my book came out in 2017, the second interview that was done with me on the radio about my book was Paul… Well, in the morning, I can’t remember his last name.

SFL Music: Castronovo?
Larry: Yeah. Paul, yes. And then he interviews me, they set up an interview and they talk to me on the air about my book. Then the first thing he asked me was, “I’ve heard you partied with the Rolling Stones. What was it like to be backstage and party with the Rolling Stones?” I never told him that, I don’t know who did.
But now I’m on the air in front of a whole bunch of people and I have to tell him, “Gee, Paul, I never met the Rolling Stones. I have no idea, I was out in the audience.” And the rest of the interview went just about as well.
And that was the only interview that went that way. Every other person that interviewed me, I had like 20 people, 20 different either program directors, or jocks, or news directors would interview me on the air from here to California for at least five minutes about me and my book. The only one, as I said, that went really badly was Paul, what can I tell you?


SFL Music: You joined Circus Magazine in 1973, as you said earlier. How did that come about? And did that change your concert photography?
Larry: A whole ton. And I’ll tell you the story, the story is absolutely wonderful. Okay. One of the reasons I was so happy to do work for Broward Community College with newspapers and their annual was because… And I get paid. Was not only for a better grade, but because once a year they would send the staff members to New York for two or three days, all expenses paid, to attend a Columbia University journalism convention there.

And the first year I went in, nothing really much happened. The first year was 1971, the second year it was 1972. And in ’72 Esposito and I went up together on the first one. And the second one in ’72, he went up two or three days earlier and he traded in this ticket for the one they gave him and got another one that would get him up there earlier. And I had no idea why he went up.

And when I go up there, he meets me at the gate when I get off the airplane and he goes, “Singer, Singer, Singer.” he says, “Do you have your portfolio with you?” And I go, “Yeah. Why? What are you doing here?” He says, “They want to see us at Circus Magazine, they want to see you at Circus Magazine.” I go, “What?” And he said, “Yes.” I said, “You’re kidding.” He goes, “No, no, no.”

I find out on the way to Circus Magazine that he had been there a day or two earlier and tried to get a job as a writer. And they said they wanted absolutely nothing to do with him and told him where the door was, and not to let it hit him on the buttocks on his way out. And before he walked out the door, he turned around and said, “Listen, you may get rid of me, you may not want to see me. But let me tell you, in a couple days there’s going to be a guy up here, a photographer from Florida. His name is Larry Singer. And he’s one of the greatest photographers in the history of rock and roll.”

The only reason he said this was because I had a picture of notes coming out of Peter Townsend’s guitar. And anyway, he said, “Just an incredible photographer.” He says, “You have got to see his work.” And the girl behind the counter goes to the guy, he says, “Okay. What’s his name again? Larry?” “He’s Larry Singer.” He said, “And your name is Jimmy Esposito. Okay.” He said, “When he gets here, bring him up. The publisher will want to talk to him.” Jimmy goes, “Okay.”

He goes, he gets me. He brings me to Circus Magazine. We were waiting in the waiting room. They say, “Larry, Mr. Rothberg would like to see you.” Gerald Rothberg called me and he says, “I hear you’re great.” I showed him my portfolio. The first picture in there is notes coming out of Peter Townsend’s guitar, I’ve got Alice Cooper looking over his own shoulder, that kind of stuff.

And he goes, “I’ve never seen anything like this before.” He says, “You’re incredible.” He says, “You’re hired.” He says, “Here,” and he gets some paperwork for me to fill out. And I filled it out, and hand it back to him. He looks at the paper and he goes, “Wait a second.” He says, “You’re Larry Singer?” He said, “I was told you were Esposito.” I go, “No, no, no, no, no. Jimmy Esposito is my writing partner. If you think I’m a good photographer, he’s a better writer than I am a photographer.”

He goes, “Well, where is he?” I said, “He’s outside in your waiting room.” He says, “Well, bring him in here.” I went and brought him in, he got hired. Now, here we go. I was hired because he PR’d me into it, he was hired because I PR’d him into it. They both listened to two people… best friends tell both of them that we were great, and they believed them, and we both got hired. And that’s the God’s truth. Both of us got hired by Circus Magazine.

SFL Music: That’s an incredible story. How long did you work for them?
Larry: From 1972 to 1983. Right up until the Us ’83 Rock Festival. Okay. Earlier I had been… I was ready to quit rock and roll photography. I went to a Journey concert in Los Angeles in an arena. And because I wasn’t supposed to take pictures of Steve Perry singing past song two or three, whatever, I went in I just kept on shooting. They actually came and got me and escorted me out, out, out of the entire auditorium. First time in my life. I said, “This is awful.”
A month later, or two months later, I had credentials to go to the Us ’83 Rock Festival. They treated me like I was the greatest thing ever. And that was the last thing I ever did was the Us ’83 Rock Festival.

SFL Music: The Us Rock Festival?
Larry: Yeah. It was called the Us, the U-S ’83 Rock Festival. It was San Bernardino and it was in ’83. And one of the co-founders, Steve Wozniak, and Bill Graham. They put on the show. And they were the promoters. And it was a three day festival. And that’s where I got to see A Flock of Seagulls, and Mötley Crüe, and Quiet Riot. It was incredible, it really was. Because it was like being back at Pirates World, I was treated really nice. I wasn’t thrown out. And I didn’t sneak my camera in. So it was that kind…
And you know, you are me now. He was like, I am so amazed that you do… You’re a writer, and you are doing exactly the same thing in the year of our Lord, 2022, that I did in the year of our Lord, 1971.

SFL Music: Well, you had a little better access than we do today.
Larry: Oh, hey. Okay. I would imagine most of your shooting is done at the Hard Rock indoors.

SFL Music: Yes and other venues.
SFL Music: You touched on it briefly earlier, but you’ve authored about a dozen books of photography, photographic art, and guides to photographic techniques. I want to ask you about your book, Rock & Roll: Concert and Backstage Photographs from the 1970s and 1980s. Tell me about the process of when you were putting that together, of choosing the images and the stories for that book.

Larry: Okay. There really were not that many… Very few stories made the book. The book was a book of pictures. That book, Rock & Roll: Concert and Backstage Photographs from the 1970s and 1980s, it is pretty much what it was.

How I chose it was they were pictures I chose that were from the Rock and Roll Hall… The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame took 200 of my pictures. I used 100 of them for that book. Except for two books, which I self-published every other book except for two. The Rock and Roll book and the book on Bonnet House were published by a real publisher, by Amherst Media.

The thing was in like, how did I choose the pictures? It was the ones I gave them, I said, “Listen, these are what I have.” They gave me their input, I gave them my input. I loved every single one. They chose where they were going to go, how they were going to be in this book, how they were going to look and where they were going to be double trucks, one picture, two. And they did it all, they did such a beautiful job. I’ve been thrilled with it.

SFL Music: They really did. Yeah, they really did.
Larry: Yep. I did it myself, and I did it by the skin of my teeth. I did it because I didn’t have a publisher, so I published them myself. And I had hoped to actually have my pictures sold by a gallery out in California, I believe. Anyway, they went out of business. And they stopped being a brick and mortar gallery and went to doing just online. And all of a sudden I had to find a way to do something with my pictures. And self-publishing was basically the first choice. And I did the best I could, and that was it.

SFL Music: Yeah. Well, the rock and roll book is fantastic. I have it. And I’ve read through on Amazon about some of your other books and they seem very intriguing as well. Can you tell me briefly about some of the places that your rock and roll photographs have appeared or been used? I know the Rock Hall, but the other places?
Larry: Okay. One made the cover of Circus Magazine, of Gregg Allman. I went to a concert out at the Sportatorium, and it was like Jo Jo Gunne, three bands, one hit wonder type bands. And the second band that performed, they said, “Ladies and gentlemen, we have an old friend of ours and he asked if he could come by and sing a couple songs with us, Please, ladies and gentlemen, welcome Gregg Allman.”

What? Now I’m standing directly in front of the stage and all of a sudden Gregg Allman walks out of the shadows and directly toward me. And I went, “Holy fuck, that’s Gregg Allman.”

SFL Music: Now, what band was it that he sat in with?
Larry: It was a group of… Like I said, it was a band like Jo Jo Gunne, not a well-known group. But apparently, they knew Gregg. And he sang three songs and left. And that made the cover of Circus Magazine.

SFL Music: Very cool. And that made the cover of Circus Magazine?
Larry: Yeah. It made the cover, it was only cover I ever had of Circus. And I got Peter Townsend in the Circus Magazine… They had a fold out poster in the center. And I had that poster of Peter Townsend leaping up over a stack of Hi Watt amps.

SFL Music: Wow.
Larry: So that made the center fold poster. And he’s like, he couldn’t be higher. I mean, his legs are tucked underneath him. He’s wearing brown paratrooper combat boots, and he’s wearing a silver lame jumpsuit.

SFL Music: This was the show at the Convention Center?
Larry: Yes.

SFL Music: I was there.
Larry: Yes. You were there. Do you remember the silver jumpsuit?

SFL Music: I remember that show. It was right after they had released Who’s Next. They were touring behind Who’s Next.
Larry: Yes.

SFL Music: Yeah. Fantastic show.
Larry: Oh, yes. And that’s where I got the notes coming out of Peter Townsend’s guitar.

SFL Music: Wow.
Larry: And let me tell you, when Gerry Rothberg, the publisher of Circus Magazine, who had seen just about every motherfucking rock and roll picture you can imagine, from Annie Liebovitz, to the biggest names, Jim Marshall, you name it, he had never seen anybody with a picture of notes coming out of someone’s guitar.

And I remain to this day, I believe, the only photographer he has ever seen to show him a picture of notes coming out of someone’s guitar. And what I tried to do was just a longer exposure I shot it like a half second or a second, I moved the camera, shoot, pops the flash, and hoped for the best.

SFL Music: Oh, that’s fantastic. How many of your images have been at the Rock Hall?
Larry: Oh, there’s 200, I believe, and 24 currently in their archives, their historical archives and their library.

SFL Music: Wow. That’s amazing.
Larry: What amazed me was this; they got the pictures and I thought they’d have just one. All I wanted was one, I swear to you, one picture in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I have a picture of Alice Cooper with no makeup on, looking better than he ever looked in his entire life, holding a bunny rabbit.

SFL Music: I remember that photo.
Larry: That picture is in the book, but as I was saying, In any case, that picture, that’s what I wanted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They get my photograph, I show my portfolio of photographs. Next thing I get an email from Risa Goehrke who is head of a public relations. She said, “Listen, we’re going to use your picture for a billboard. Would that be okay?” I said, “Great.”

Next thing I know… This is 2016. She’s got four of these huge billboards, roadside billboards of Eddie Van Halen leaping off of the billboard. And right in time, because the Republican National Convention, the one that nominated Donald Trump for the first time was in 2016 in Cleveland. They had a position and it said, “Go rock yourself.” And they had it facing so everybody coming in from the airport had to see the billboard, you couldn’t miss the billboard. It was right there on the turnpike. So that stayed up.

And they had my picture more… The thing I loved… And I’ll tell you something, I’m still proud of this. The Rock and Roll Hall fame, they have that picture of Eddie right on the top of the first page.

And in fact, I was calling, trying to get interviews from a radio station. And talking to a guy, a guy picks up the phone in Denver. And I said to him, “Listen, hey.” I said, “My name is Larry Singer. I have a book out, my picture’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” He goes, “Really?” I go, “Yeah.” He says, “Really?” I go, “Yeah. You just have to go” And while I’m talking to him on the phone, he goes to and the picture of Eddie Van Halen pops up in front of him. And he goes, “Wow, that is a great fucking shot of Eddie, man.”

And I’ve never met him, he’s never met me. All this is going on of a three-way loop that all electronic and digital.

SFL Music: Is your work currently being shown anywhere, galleries or anything?
Larry: My work currently is in one gallery and that is the David Leonardis Gallery in Chicago, and it’s in downtown Chicago. And before that, the only place that my work had been really put up on the wall of a real gallery was the Rosetti Fine Art in Wilton Manors. And it was up there for two or three. He was there at that gallery this Rosetti for about three years. And it was a really elegant, beautiful, really rich looking gallery. The kind of thing you’d expect to see in Beverly Hills. The one that David has up in Chicago is just the opposite. It looks like a fun house for art. And his place is just jam packed with stuff. It looks like he just puts stuff in all over the place and it’s the place you go and go, “Wow. Look at this, look at this.”

And he’s really sharp. And he liked my stuff, my rock and roll stuff, a whole bunch. He’s had my work for about five or six years now.

SFL Music: Where did you grow up?
Larry: So yeah, basically I still see myself as just a kid from Youngstown, Ohio, that got lucky. I grew up 60 miles from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame before there was a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I grew up in Youngstown, Ohio.

And let me tell you, Youngstown, Ohio, was a gritty, dirty steel mill town that I couldn’t wait to get out of. And joined the Air Force, and that’s when my life began, and I learned photography and all things started to happen. But Youngstown, Ohio, a good place to grow up and a good place to leave and say, “Hey, man, have a good time y’all.”

SFL Music: A hometown boy makes it big at the Rock Hall.
Larry: Yeah. Well, I’ll tell you what, now Youngstown, because all those steel mills are closed down, now they’re famous for being only 60 miles from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. An hour away from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. So that’s a good thing. And the sad thing is I’ve never been in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and I really would like to see it before I die. And being 75, I don’t know when that’s going to be.

SFL Music: Well, we all are not privy to that number for each of us. But I’m in that same boat with you, I’ve been there either and would love to go, so.
Larry: Oh, man. Got to spend a day, dude.

SFL Music: How did you get to be the photographer for Pirates World?
Larry: When I was working for the very first weekly newspaper, after I’d been working there for about a month or two, the editor said to me, “Listen, I want you to write a column. I want you to write a column on rock and roll, because there’s a place near here called Pirates World, it’s an amusement park, and they bring in rock and roll acts every weekend. I want you to interview them, take pictures of them, then write a column and then put it on the paper. Would you like to do that?” I said, “Yeah”. I called up Pirates World. They said, “The guy you want to talk to is named Buddy Clark.” I called Pirates World to see if they could get me in, they said, “We have just who you need to talk to”. They connected me with the guy called Buddy Clark.

And Buddy and I talked on the phone. I told him I was with the newspaper, I was going to write a column, I needed his help. He said, “I’ll tell you what, why don’t you see me tomorrow at three o’clock?” I said, “Okay.” Went down there to see him. He was a lot younger than he sounded on the phone. And as it turned out, in return for just exchanging photographs… In return for giving him any photograph I took, one of each, he gave me unlimited backstage access to Pirates World.

And that’s how I became the photographer for Pirates World. He was the promoter for Pirates World and they didn’t give him a budget. What he had to do was get big names down there, but they would give him stuff to barter like hotel rooms and food and liquor. He would get the biggest band to come down for next to nothing like Led Zeppelin and Alice Cooper and Deep Purple and get them down there and get them to perform for next to nothing for the weekend Friday and Saturday night. And then he’d fly them back. Basically, he comped them for the whole weekend, and in return for comping for the weekend, they’d put on a show for an hour and a half at Pirates World. That’s it. It was so different than the buttoned-down corporate world that you’re working in now. Mine was just the opposite. It could not have been looser.

In fact, I was so lucky to catch these people on the cusp, when they were leaving, from being really good musicians to being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

SFL Music: Right.
Larry: And I happened to be there, and like I said, there were two groups and two miracles, I kid you not, that basically changed my whole life. And one of them was Roger Glover. That is miracle number one.

And the other miracle was meeting Alice Cooper. And the truth of the matter is, before I went, you’re the only person I’ve ever told this to, I thought Alice Cooper was a girl. I was going to go down there and interview what I thought it was just a woman with a really deep smoker’s voice. And if I would’ve listened to the song, I would’ve heard Alice sing, “I’m a boy and I’m a man.”

But apparently I didn’t pay attention because I was a lot younger than you are now. In any case, I go down there and I’m thinking to myself, “I’m going to take some pictures of this girl. She’s probably really good looking. And I’ll take some really cool pictures of her backstage and then I’ll take pictures of her onstage.” And I get backstage to the backstage area and I go looking for Alice Cooper and nothing, nothing, nothing. Finally, at the end of the hallway, I guess at the last door they’re written Alice Cooper. I open the door and I look inside and there’s the Alice Cooper band, almost all… They’re completely just eight nines dressed. And Alice is totally dressed looking like that picture where he is looking at that portrait.

And once again, I’m expecting a very attractive girl and I see something I had never seen before in my life. And I swear to you, Alice Cooper scared the shit out of me because I closed the door and started to walk as fast as I could away. And I figured it out real quick that because everybody else was all in color, and this creature from hell was dressed all in black and white. That had to be Alice Cooper. And sure enough, I was right, because I’m almost at the exit sign and I hear, “Stop, stop. Who are you? Stop.” I stop. It’s Alice. He’s in the middle of the hallway and he’s telling me, “Stop.” I go, “Okay.” I turn around. He says, “Come here.” I come down. He says, “Who are you?” He sees the three cameras around my neck. They just saw them when I poke my head in the door and he saw a photographer and let me tell you this.

The only reason we became friends is Alice is an incredible photographer. Alice Cooper is a great photographer. In fact, when I visited him in New York, I saw his dark room. And the whole thing is this. He sees me and he realized once thing, I’m publicity and he needs publicity as bad as Deep Purple did. He’s starting out too. And I go back and I figure, “What’s the hell?” I walk back towards him. “Hey man.”

All of a sudden, my night’s going to get really interesting. He brings me back, introduces me to the band, tells me I’m a photographer and a writer. And he says, “You got any pictures?” He says, “What do you like to shoot?” I said, “Rock and Roll.” He says, “What kind of rock and roll?” He says, “I have some with me of The Who.” I just happened to have pictures of The Who. And one of them happened to be the picture of notes coming out of Peter Townshend’s guitar, which is in the book. In any case, Alice Cooper, who is a very great, excellent photographer, and he was a photographer for his school annual and for his school newspaper and college newspaper. He was really good. And he sees notes coming out of Peter Townshend’s guitar, and all of a sudden Alice Cooper decides he wants to be my friend.

And from that moment on, we were. And he said to the guys, “Holy shit. Hey. Come on over here. Wait a minute, look at this.” And he shows it. “This guy took it.” By the way, Alice’s own photographer’s there. Alice has his own photographer.

SFL Music: Wow.
Larry: And he’s looking at my stuff and going apeshit. And his photographer’s looking at me like, “Where the fuck did you come from?” There you have it and basically those two incidents were what changed… And by the way, Deep Purple and Alice Cooper were the only bands that I could honestly invite to come home for dinner and they’d show up.

SFL Music: One of the pictures in your book that I gravitate to is the one of Alvin Lee backstage at Pirates World.
Larry: The joint.

SFL Music: Yeah. Tell me about being back there with him.
Larry: I got a great story. Are you ready?

SFL Music: Yeah.
Larry: When I went down there to interview Alvin Lee, I knew nothing about Alvin Lee and nothing about Ten Years After, other than the fact I had seen Alvin Lee and Ten Years After in the movie Woodstock. They had one song called I’m Going Home. And it was six or seven minutes in the movie. And the director had a kaleidoscope effect going where he had Alvin Lee just wailing on the guitar for six or seven minutes and he had him splitting apart and going in different directions. And it was a really incredible performance. And at the end of the performance in the movie Alvin Lee takes the guitar off and somebody rolls a big watermelon on the stage and directly towards Alvin Lee.

And he almost trips over it as he’s leaving, but he stops and he picks the watermelon up and puts the watermelon on his shoulder. And Alvin Lee walks off the stage, and the next group comes on. I said, “I know nothing. Wait, I know what I can ask him.” Alvin Lee comes in. He gets high. We’re talking. He said, “Do you mind if we get high?” I said, “No problem.” I said, “I’ll get high with you, no problem.” He said, “Great.”

After we finished getting high, I said, “Listen, I almost forgot. Tell me this. When you were at Woodstock, doing your song, somebody put that watermelon, what did the watermelon taste like? Was it any good?” He goes, “Wait a second.” He thinks about it for a second. He scratches his head. He’s stoned. “I didn’t get to taste it. I have no idea what it tasted like.”

I said, “What do you mean you didn’t taste it?” He says, “I put it down and the minute I put it down before I could do anything, the roadies descended on it and they had it carved up and it was gone before I knew what had happened. It was like seconds. It disappeared. I never got to taste it.” Here’s the story. It made the book. Made my column.

Now a year later, I decide I’m going to see Woodstock. Woodstock comes back to the dollar theaters, and I went to a midnight showing. I’m going to go see Alvin Lee. I met him. He was a really nice guy. I’ll be able to watch on stage. And I sit there, my wife and I are sitting there, the place is packed and Alvin Lee does his thing and he takes the  watermelon and carries it off stage and I bumped the elbow of the guy sitting next to me who I had never met before and didn’t know who he was, but I knew he was enjoying the movie. He was about my age. I said, “You want to hear something interesting? He never got to taste that watermelon.” And the guy looked at me, he goes, “Really?” I went, “Yeah.” He said, “How do you know? Were you there?” And I went, “No, but I know somebody who was.”

SFL Music: That’s great.
Larry: And that’s the story.

SFL Music: You know another one in your book from the Sportatorium, I’d like you to tell me about is that great picture you got of Spirit.
Larry: You’ll love this. I knocked on the door, they said, “Come in.” I opened the door they were all doing their own thing, getting ready to go on stage. And when I walked in, I said, “Please, gentlemen, don’t stop doing what you’re doing. I’ll shoot you. I just wanted you to get you guys un-posed.” The next thing I know, within 15 seconds, the picture that appeared in the book appeared directly in front of me. I didn’t say a word other than, “I want you guys to just be yourselves and ignore me.” And the next thing I know, I couldn’t have… Annie Leibovitz couldn’t have sent that picture up better.

SFL Music: They posed for you?
Larry: Exactly and I swear to you all I did is stand there with my camera up in my eye and go, “Holy shit.” Click, click, click. And I was like, “Wow.” And if I tried to get it, I could never get it to work that well because that just happened. And there was one of those things, and that’s what makes that… And the best part of that picture is right behind them on the wall is a poster of them with their faces and it says Spirit.

SFL Music: Yeah. I see that. That’s great.
Larry: Yeah. I lucked out.

SFL Music: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I know I’ve kept you a long time. And I have so enjoyed this, Larry. I’ve been looking forward to it and I greatly appreciate your time. It was very much my pleasure to listen to your stories and how it all came about, because I’m a big fan of your work. Take care.
Larry: Thank you. If there’s anything extra you want to know, please text me or email me, call me, whatever. You too, man. Take care. And have a great week.

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