When the great music of history is made on stage, there’s usually someone there to capture it. For the past forty years, one such person capturing soul-searing images of rock, blues & folk artists is Kirk West. He’s a well-known personality on the jamband music scene after spending over 20 years as the “Tour Mystic” for the Allman Brothers Band. Kirk is first and foremost a music lover and that led him to his career as a professional photographer. Beginning at age 18 with his first concert shoot of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Kirk has built an archive of over 100,000 images spanning 40+ years covering a wide range of music icons.
West was also the founder of Hittin the Note magazine, the official archivist for the Allman Brothers Band and creator of The Allman Brothers Band Museum at the Big House in Macon, Georgia where all of his Allman Brothers Band (ABB) memorabilia is now on display and open to the public. Kirk also directed the critically- acclaimed documentary Please Call Home, that covers the early years of the Allman Brothers Band while they lived at the Big House and he produced all of the ABB archival CD releases and was the associate producer of the Dreams box set that became the impetus for the revival of the ABB in the late 80’s.
What many people do not realize is that he had a very lucrative and exciting career before he ventured into the world of touring with the ABB. In fact it was his career as a professional photographer that led him to work with the Allmans. He befriended them over the years and when a problem arose with their assistant tour manager, he was asked to fill in. By the next tour they asked him to stay on. That essentially ended his career as a working professional photographer and started his life on the road, however, during his tenure with the ABB Kirk shot 10 Allman Brothers Band LP, CD or DVD covers, as well as numerous picture sleeves for the group’s records.
While lovers of music photography may have seen other images of some of the artists Kirk has captured over the years, his photographs had, until 2012, never been seen by anyone other than his close circle of friends. With exhibits in Chicago, Macon, GA, Jackson, MS and at the Gathering of the Vibes and Lockn Music Festivals his work is finally getting the attention and accolades it deserves. These exhibits included a few Allman Brothers Band photos but he has never before mounted a show that will predominately feature the ABB and extended family bands and players.
With the ABB returning once again to the Upper West side of NYC to celebrate their 45th anniversary at the Beacon Theatre, it is fitting that Kirk show his extensive collection of photographs right in the Beacon Theatre neighborhood. The exhibit is be open daily from 5:00 to 10:00 PM in the Citrus restaurant (212-595-0500) at 320 Amsterdam @ 75th St. starting on March 7 and running until March 29.
In the fall of 1968, Kirk moved from Iowa to Chicago to follow his passion for music, specifically Chicago Blues. He was soon a regular at the legendary joints found on the North and the South Sides of the city where he befriended and photographed many of the greatest blues artists including Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Willie Dixon, Buddy Guy, Bobby Blue Bland, Son Seals and Fenton Robinson and many others.
By 1977 he was a contract photographer for the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun Times, the Chicago Reader and the Illinois Entertainer. There were many days he could be found shooting away in the photo pit at three concerts an evening. It was there that he honed his visceral, in-the-moment style, putting his highly personal touch on thousands of images covering an enormous variety of music styles and personalities. He was able to shoot rock bands that have become the iconic stars of a generation; the Allman Brothers Band, the Grateful Dead, the Rolling Stones, the Police, Bruce Springsteen, the Who, Marshall Tucker, Tom Waits, Bob Marley and countless others. He shot dozens of album covers for an assortment of record labels. In the late 70’s and early 80’s he journeyed to Nashville where he was able to photograph the best of country music’s stars, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers, Carl Perkins, George Jones and many others.
To see some of the other artists photographed by Kirk West, visit his website at www.kirkwestphotography.com.