You know the photographer: Michael Friedman. The Staples High School Class of 1961 graduate had a long career in music. He managed Todd Rundgren and Kris Kristofferson — as well as (with Albert Grossman) Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, The Band, Odetta, and Peter Paul & Mary. He did publicity for the Dave Clark 5 and Herman’s Hermits.
Nearly 3 years ago, he discovered an astonishing series of photos he’d taken almost 50 years earlier.
Mick Jagger (Photo copyright Michael Friedman)
The Stones. Janis Joplin. The Band. Johnny Winter. Gordon Lightfoot. James Cotton. Ian and Sylvia. Rita Coolidge. Tom Rush. Professor Longhair. Paul Butterfield — all were artists Friedman worked with in the 1960s.
Friedman spent several months printing, restoring and mounting the photos. Each was up close, and personal.
Michael Friedman in the Church Lane pop-up gallery. His photo shows Levon Helm, legendary drummer for The Band.
After the Westport show, the photos headed to the California Heritage Museum in Los Angeles.
The exhibit includes the guitar that Janis Joplin played on “Me and Bobby McGee” in concert. Friedman’s photos of her with the instrument — which she used onstage only twice, and only for that song — are the only ones known.
Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” guitar, with his photo of her.
It took more than a year for the exhibit to come together. His wife Donna Vita provided invaluable help.
Now it’s up, and attracting great attention. After the ribbon-cutting, Friedman was interviewed live by chief curator Karen Herman, at the Hall.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame interview.
Friedman’s exhibit runs for 6 months. Yet when it ends, it’s not over.
His entire collection of over 100 images will be archived, in perpetuity.
Which makes sense. As Neil Young sings, “Hey hey, my my/Rock and roll can never die.”
(Click here to see many of the photos on exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.)
If you grew up when I did, you’ve got a Woodstock memory.
I had a ticket and everything (except actual plans about how to get there).
Me, in my Woodstock days. Or should I say, Woogstock.
Then I got grounded. (Well deserved, I must admit.) Instead of getting rained on, sleeping in the mud and being awakened by Jimi Hendrix, I sat at home. I read about the huge festival in the New York Times. A few months later, I saw the movie.
Several years later — now out of college — I was cleaning my old room at my parents’ house. I found my Woodstock ticket: still pristine, never used.
“Oh,” I said to myself. “That’s interesting.”
And promptly threw it out.
That’s not the most compelling — or financially savvy — Woodstock story. But it’s mine.
Other people have much better ones.
Like Michael Friedman (Staples High School 1961 grad/music producer/ photographer). Roger Kaufman (Staples ’66 musician/musicologist). Dodie Pettit (Westport actress/singer/Woodstock attendee). Paul Nelson (Johnny Winter’s guitar player). Ira and Maxine Stone (Woodstock performers). Bruce Pollock (author).
They’ll all be at the Westport Woman’s Club this Wednesday (May 15, 7 p.m.). They’re part of a “Woodstock: 50 Years Down the Road” panel, talking about their experiences at that almost-50-years-ago/seems-like-yesterday historical event.
“Lotta freaks!” Arlo Guthrie said. “The New York State Thruway is closed!”
After the discussion, the Old School Revue’s Woodstock All-Stars will play favorite hits from Woodstock. Performers include Kaufman, Pettit, the Stones (Ira and Maxine, not Mick and Keith), Pete Hohmeister, Frank Barrese, Bob Cooper, Billy Foster and Nina Hammerling Smith.
Special guests include Rex Fowler of Aztec Two-Step, Robin Batteau and the Saugatuck Horns (Joe Meo and Fred Scerbo).
The Staples High School Class of 1961 graduate produced “Hello, It’s Me.” He managed Todd Rundgren and Kris Kristofferson — as well as (with Albert Grossman) the careers of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, The Band, Odetta, and Peter Paul & Mary. He did publicity for the Dave Clark 5 and Herman’s Hermits.
He sold Americana and folk art. He also owned the Ash Creek Saloons in Fairfield and Norwalk, along with Darien’s Goose restaurant.
With such varied careers — and so much going on — he could be forgiven for losing the negatives of photos he took nearly 50 years ago.
Of course, they were not random snapshots of the Friedman family at the beach, or their naked newborn in a bathtub.
These were up close, personal — and superb — shots of some of the biggest names in the music world.
Mick Jagger (Photo copyright Michael Friedman)
The Stones. Janis Joplin. The Band. Johnny Winter. Gordon Lightfoot. James Cotton. Ian and Sylvia. Rita Coolidge. All are artists Friedman worked with in the 1960s.
Last January, his wife Donna stumbled upon them. Friedman spent the next several months printing, restoring and mounting the photos.
Soon, they’ll head to the California Heritage Museum in Los Angeles.
Janis Joplin (Photo copyright Michael Friedman)
But right now, they’re part of a pop-up gallery in Bedford Square. Friedman’s taken over an appropriately scruffy, unfinished space opposite the Spotted Horse. Dozens of images are on display there — and for sale.
Michael Friedman in his pop-up gallery. His photo shows Levon Helm, legendary drummer for The Band.
There’s been no publicity. Yet plenty of folks discovered the intriguing gallery during last weekend’s Blues, Views & BBQ Festival. The word is getting out.
But remember: This is a pop-up place. Soon, the photos will be gone.
At least this time Friedman will know where they went.
The 1961 Staples graduate managed Todd Rundgren. He did publicity for the Dave Clark 5 and Herman’s Hermits. He dated Linda Eastman.
And — for a few years in the late 1960s and early ’70s — he helped manage Bob Dylan.
You know: the newest Nobel Prize in Literature laureate.
Michael Friedman in his Weston home.
Friedman — a longtime music lover and current Weston resident whose recollections of the early rock ‘n’ roll days in Westport I chronicled last April (he was Bo Diddley’s drummer at the YMCA, for example) — was just 24 years old when he joined Albert Grossman’s New York office.
It had been a 1-man operation, managing — besides Dylan, and the Band — Janis Joplin, Peter Paul & Mary, Richie Havens, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Odessa.
Friedman was hired on as Grossman’s assistant — and partner.
With Dylan back in the news last week, I asked Friedman for some insights into the singer/songwriter/poet/Nobel Prize honoree.
“What do you add to the conversation about Bob Dylan that hasn’t already been examined under a microscope?” Friedman wondered.
Bob Dylan and Albert Grossman.
He thinks, though, that it’s hard to imagine Dylan achieving all that he did without Grossman. They were “alter egos,” Friedman says.
Friedman’s work with Dylan came mainly in the office, and Dylan’s home/studio in Woodstock, New York — not on the road. But the manager saw many facets of his client.
Decades later, he remains a huge fan.
“If anything, I’m surprised that people are surprised” at the Nobel news, Friedman says.
“His lyrics and music go far beyond anything any American has achieved,” he notes.
“He’s so influential. He gave everyone — the Beatles, Paul Simon, you name it — permission to write in a way that had never been done before. The body of work he’s responsible for laid the groundwork in a fearless, extraordinary way.”
That “Nashville Skyline” album remains one of Friedman’s favorites. It was light, simple — and very country-influenced. That, Friedman says, epitomizes Dylan.
Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline” cover.
“He did not care what anyone thought, or about celebrity or fame. He was booed off the stage at Newport for going electric, when he was the spokesman for folk music. He was the anti-war spokesman, and he went country. He did what he wanted..”
But Dylan was certainly no dilettante. When Friedman asked him about his writing “process,” Dylan said: “I get up in the morning. I go to my ‘office.’ I write songs. Then I go home.”
After nearly 60 years in the business — and countless honors — Bob Dylan has received an enormous honor, for his great body of work.
“I really admire him,” his former manager said. “And I’m really proud of him.”
Mark Smollin wrote a book about all the 1960s bands that played at Staples: the Doors, Cream, Yardbirds, Animals and many, many more.
Linda Eastman — before she was McCartney — photographed Jeff Beck in the high school choral room.
A video of Steve Tallerico — before he was Steve Tyler — plays in an endless loop at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. In it, he talks about the incredible influence this town had on his musical career.
But before the Byrds, Peter Frampton and Sly and the Family Stone played here — and all the rest — there was a different kind of teenage music. And Westport was at the center of it then, too.
Michael Friedman today, in his Weston home.
Michael Friedman was there. Now 72, he’s had several intriguing careers. He’s been an antiques dealer, and a restaurant owner.
He produced “Hello, It’s Me,” and managed Todd Rundgren and Kris Kristofferson — as well as (with Albert Grossman) the careers of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, The Band, Odetta, and Peter Paul & Mary. He did publicity for the Dave Clark 5 and Herman’s Hermits.
But even before that — when he was a student at Long Lots Junior High, and a member of Staples High’s Class of 1961 — Friedman was part of Westport’s thriving music scene.
In 1958 — as a “self-taught, left-handed, not-so-great drummer” — he joined saxophonist Rick Del Vecchio and guitarist/singer Mike Youngman in a group called the Schemers. Friedman calls them “Westport’s 1st garage band.”
They were young. But the 4th member was even younger. Barry Tashian brought great guitar chops — and an amazing voice, and plenty of showmanship — to the foursome.
Bo Diddley was heard in Westport.
The Schemers covered songs by hot artists like Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. They knew Diddley especially well: He played in Westport “a number of times,” Friedman says. They were dance shows, at places like the YMCA.
Once, Diddley’s drummer was too drunk to perform. Friedman took his spot.
Another act that came to Westport was Harvey and the Moonglows (“Sincerely”). Once again, the drummer drank too much. Once again, Friedman stepped in.
Only one local band was bigger than the Schemers. Bridgeport’s Dick Grass and the Hoppers — featuring 350-pound lead singer Bobby Lindsay — had a regional hit with “Mr. John Law.”
A few years later, Tashian went on to far great fame. With fellow Westporter Bill Briggs — and 2 Boston University classmates — the Remains took Boston by storm. They toured with the Beatles, appeared on “Ed Sullivan” and “Hullabaloo,” and were (in the words of Jon Landau) “how you told a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll.”
Westporters Barry Tashian (left) and Bill Briggs of the Remains flank Staples music director John Ohanian in 1966.
Tashian was not the only Friedman-era Stapleite to go on to musical fame. Mike Borchetta brought musical acts to Westport while still in high school. One was Dave Baby Cortez (“The Happy Organ”).
Borchetta later became a noted music promoter — first in Los Angeles, then Nashville. He went on to start his own label — and discovered a 16-year-old Taylor Swift.
Don Law was another Staples musical mover and shaker. His father — also named Don — was “Mr. Nashville.” He produced Johnny Horton’s “Battle of New Orleans,”Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” and Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John,” as well as many Johnny Cash records.
His son — Friedman’s friend — was a Boston-based promoter. The Boston Globe says Law “virtually controlled the live music scene throughout New England for almost four decades.”
And who can forget Rusty Ford, who went on to play bass with the psychedelic, theremin-heavy, influential but now forgotten Lothar and the Hand People? Ford and his wife Karen have lived in Westport since 1992.
Lothar and the Hand People. Rusty Ford is 2nd from left in this photo by Richard Avedon.
Friedman’s own career took a couple of detours. He sold Americana and folk art, and owned the Ash Creek Saloons in Fairfield and Norwalk, along with Darien’s Goose restaurant.
But music was always his first love.
“I’ve had a fun life,” he says, sitting in his Weston home. He’s surrounded by memorabilia, like an acetate from the Beatles’ recording of “Help!”, a 1948 snare drum head signed by Levon Helm, and a photo he took of Janis Joplin just before she performed for a few thousand Hell’s Angels.
Yet of everything he’s done — including dating Linda Eastman — “the Barry and Bo Diddley years were the best. There’s nothing better than playing in a rock ‘n’ roll band.”
Michael Friedman knew Levon Helm when he was in the Hawks — the band that preceded The Band. The drum head says: “Michael. You & me brother. They wouldn’t believe us if we told it. Love & respects, Levon Helm. Sept. ’09.”
Last Friday was a typical summer day at the Y. Swimmers swam; cyclists cycled; basketball players basketballed.
Suddenly, around noon, a player in one of those pickup hoops games dropped to the floor.
He was in full cardiac arrest.
A fellow player — the guest of a member, who is a nurse — began chest compressions. Others ran for help.
Michael Friedman — a health and wellness specialist in the fitness center — was standing in the doorway. Like every Y staffer — from the CEO on down — he’s been trained and regularly re-certified in both CPR and AED (automated external defibrillator) use.
Michael grabbed the nearest AED unit — there are 3; this one was by the membership desk — and ran to the gym.
Ignoring a large head gash — sustained when the man collapsed — Michael checked for vital signs. All were negative. There was no pulse.
He attached the AED. It recommended a shock. He followed the prompts, and administered one. Immediately, cardiac rhythm was restored.
“That’s a blessing,” Michael says. “The best blood pump in the world is your own heart. He wasn’t without a pulse for very long.”
Michael secured the man’s airway. Then he and membership coordinator Steve Forlano attended to his head wound.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Y staff followed the exact protocol they train for. The membership desk called 911. Someone waited outside to escort emergency personnel through the maze of hallways to the gym.
When firefighters, police and EMTs arrived, they took over. Soon, the man was on his way to Norwalk Hospital.
The next day, his fianceé called the Y to thank everyone. He could have died, she said. Instead he had an angioplasty (and 17 stitches in his head), and will be fine.
He’ll be released from the hospital tomorrow.
Michael has a special background. He spent 20 years with Weston’s fire department and EMTs. But, he insists, “anyone in the building would have done what I did.
“It was a real team effort. There were so many people involved. I still don’t know all their names.
“There was an awesome continuum of care,” he adds. “From the minute he hit the floor to the end result, he had excellent care.
AEDs -- with clear instructions on how to use them -- save lives.
“AEDs were in place. We were trained to use them. Westport EMTs are some of the best in the country, so the pre-hospital help was fantastic. And then Norwalk Hospital followed up with more great care.”
Michael concludes: “I feel proud of the Y, and the team effort that took place. I’m just glad I could take the training we’re all given, and apply it when it was needed.”
Michael had the weekend off. He returns to the Y this week.
Soon, he’ll move to part-time status. He’s headed to Norwalk Community College, taking courses in physical therapy.
He could probably skip the first-aid portion of the curriculum.
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