Since Led Zepplin recently won their copyright suit to their song “Stairway to Heaven”, it takes me back to their momentous appearance in San Antonio in 1973. My older brother Gerard and his friend Charlie had an extra ticket for the show, and offered it to me. I had my dad drop me off in front of the old Hemisfair Arena to meet up with my brother and Charlie.
As I wound around the exterior hallways trying to find my seat with a huge satchel of photo gear that held film, lenses, a huge Honeywell flash unit with 510 volt battery and a Nikon Nikkormat, a security officer stopped me.“Hey kid, what’s in that bag?” I told him it was camera equipment and he said, “You can’t bring that in here, no one is allowed to take pictures. You have to take it back to your car.” Flustered and embarrassed, I explained that I didn’t have a car that I had been dropped off. I asked if he wanted me to check my bag in the office, but he said, “No, you can’t do that, either.” He was about to escort me out. Just then, the concert promoter Joe Miller from Jam Productions and a friend – the program director at KONO radio – saw what was going on and stepped in.
This turned out to be a golden opportunity. I said with all my Central Catholic etiquette, “If you let me take pictures of the concert, I’ll turn you on to all the photos you want of the show. And if you can arrange it, I’ll take your picture with the band.” That sealed the deal and they allowed me to photograph, but only from my seat. Unfortunately my seat was high up in the arena, a lot closer to the rafters than the band. However, as the concert drew to an end, the crowd left their seats and rushed the stage. I did the same, and found my brother and his friend Charlie about six rows back from Jimmy Page and Robert Plant.
I had exposed a few frames from my perch in the balcony, but conserved my film because even with the telephoto, I couldn’t get a very good picture. At stage level, Charlie lifted me on his shoulders and I shot most of the remaining frames on the roll. Finally, a stagehand shined his flashlight on me and told me to get down. This was my cue to disappear before I got in trouble.
While the photo with the band and promoters never got taken, I made good on my promise and delivered my best shots to Joe’s office the next week. Both of the above images were a part of my 2007 exhibit, “All Access” featuring my rock n roll pictures taken during San Antonio’s groundbreaking hard rock era of the 70’s & 80’s. It is significant to me because those photographs opened the door to the relationships I made with the promoters, Joe Miller of Jam Productions, Jack Orbin of Stone City Attractions, Lou Roney & Joe Anthony (the Godfather of Rock at KISS-FM) and others who became the root of my professional career.