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December 04, 2016
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I am a camera…

Lynyrd Skynyrd's Steve Gaines is colorful on stage, which works well with the camera...

Jumping on top of the Honky Tonk bar that spanned the stage, the P.T. Barnum of the rock world (my words, not his) engaged the audience with personal history (born Robert James Ritchie) and a genuine appreciation of his roots, his fellow musicians, his family and the audience that has supported him for “a few years now.” No longer exactly a kid, this guy blew me away with his newest signature song “I’m (bleeping) Forty” that brought the audience to a new level of excitement. Wasn’t easy getting pictures, but (IMHO) well worth the ride!

Returning to the scene two days later, a couple of ladies begged me to shoot “great pictures” of up-and-coming country heartthrobs Rob Blackledge and Noll Billings (aka Blackjack Billy), opening for the Doobie Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Promising to do my best, I scanned the stage for explosives and set up shop. Still nervous from the volatile flames prior to Blackjack Billy, I clicked away, enjoying their “deep rooted country sound” while acknowledging that the boys were indeed, extremely photogenic.

The pair exited, making way for the Doobie Brothers (“Takin’ it to the Streets,” “You Belong to Me,” “What a Fool Believes”). Yet another sold-out crowd danced the night away to hit upon hit as I worked the camera to the best of my ability. Before headliners Lynyrd Skynyrd took over, the legendary group made clear why they were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame (in 1994) as the audience cheered the “American Rock” sound of encores like “Listen to the Music.”

No strangers to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Lynyrd Skynyrd (inducted in 2006) formed in 1964 (I was 10) and they look it. (Come to think of it, so do I.) Loud, raucous and sounding pretty good, I decided to let my camera do the talking, since they were not only interesting to hear live (I had earplugs) but pretty cool to photograph, having been around the block once or twice. With the aid of theatrical lighting, smoke and strobes, I have somehow managed (I hope) to capture the essence of these musical experiences. As I fold up the tripod (these days, I call myself a photojournalist) I muse on whether the camera is forever an extension of me, or if in reality... I am a camera?