KNON's Eric Schwartz Has a Goldmine of Classic Rock Photos
The Chambers Brothers on the set of "Scene 70," as captured by Jeffrey Kliman
"Where am I gonna end up? There's so much notoriety today, it's astounding," says retired photographer, Jeffrey Kliman. "It's worse than Andy Warhol's statement. You're gonna be famous for 15 minutes. Now you're gonna be famous for a nanosecond. Or three pixels."
Kliman's lens has been capturing small portions of monumental moments in rock and jazz history for decades. As of late, he's been reduced to taking gigs such as shooting school photos. It's work. Not quite the same as standing onstage with Johnny Winter, but it's work.
"I've known him my whole life, and I love this kind of shit," says volunteer DJ at KNON Radio, Eric Schwartz. "It was just the perfect situation where I could totally have a lot of fun and help a guy out."
Schwartz sits at his bedroom computer at his home in Dallas, rifling through stacks of contact sheets and old negatives, as his scanner zips through each delicate piece of analog history now being digitized for later use in aid of his uncle, Kliman.
Picking up a contact sheet dotted with a dozen images of a dark and gritty basement concert it's very easy to notice a few recognizable shots of a young Jimi Hendrix silhouette.
"He was right in his face while he was playing Noel Redding's bass upside down," says a very enthusiastic Schwartz. "Every time the scanner stops, I'm like, 'Oh my god.'"
Schwartz is the original Deadhead. His collection of Grateful Dead singles could outweigh any Deadhead's prized set of records within these city limits, or further. His Friday night spot on KNON is the longest-running Grateful Dead show in the free world, and is now in its 31st year.
But Schwartz is also an avid rock history enthusiast. For the last month his new hobby has kept him glued to his monitor, zooming in on grainy shots of a tattoo reading "Teddy" on a band member from an obscure New York band.
"I'm getting very forensic with this shit," says Schwartz, clicking image after image of stunning concert images. "You know, some people collect stamps."
Kliman, now 72, is retired and living on a fixed income. It was indeed desperate times that saw him resort to selling the sole tool of his trade, his camera. He reached out to Schwartz, knowing he was a living, breathing encyclopedia of all things Dead, who could be instrumental in selling some of his early, never-before seen shots of the Grateful Dead.
"For a Deadhead like me, I was like, 'Fuck yeah! I'll be happy to look at all of your Grateful Dead Filmore East from 1970,'" recalls Schwartz.
The collection of concert footage from a Grateful Dead performance is impressive in its own right, even to this somewhat unfamiliar Grateful Dead listener. From wide shots of a generous mix of fans and musicians onstage, to detailed close-ups of crowd members, void of any of the usual tye-dye brandishing ilk, it is a retelling of a free show in Central Park that breathes life into a pocket of history that hasn't been unearthed until now.
And as Schwartz's mouse clicks through each photo, he casually points out and names various musicians from Jefferson Airplane and the Dead. He even recognizes a girl in one photo who is married to a friend of his.
A young Eric Schwartz visiting his father at the radio station
Schwartz has been immersed in music and the appreciation of its history since his youth. He heard his first Grateful Dead record around the age of six or seven, thanks to his father, Steven Schwartz, a radio icon in New England, who helmed the jazz programming for WGBH Radio in Boston.
"I didn't hear them again for 15 years, but when I was six or seven years old in 1971 or whatever, I was listening to the Grateful Dead and Frank Zappa and Dan Hicks under his headphones," says Schwartz.
While his father has not been present throughout Schwartz's life, his influence can be felt in their music appreciation and brilliance through their shared medium, radio. They've even shared air time, albeit on completely different frequencies.
"We were both on the radio overlapped for about an hour on Friday nights for quite a few years," chuckles Schwartz. "Yeah, it was kind of cool. You know, if you still need to hear another Schwartz, you could go to GBH.org and listen to my dad for the next hour. He was on."
"He's been doing it forever, and I'm just amazed at how brilliant he is at it," says Kliman, speaking fondly of Schwartz. "Because you know, I know the business, I've worked in the business all my life. So I know the advertisement and the PR and the marketing. But this is a new market he's showing me, the digital thing."
Pops Staples in 1971
The stack of imagery from one man's journey through America's most poignant era of rock history gets whittled down at a slow and steady rate, as Schwartz's scanner runs hot, adding one photo at a time of around some 1,500 images or so to his hard drive. And Kliman's sharp memory retains a near matching amount of stories from that time period.
"My favorite story, I don't know how you want to write this, but they can't arrest me for it anymore," quips Kliman. "I got high with Johnny Winter.
"I went on location with him and the writer for Zygote," he continues. "That was the old days where a writer and a photographer went out together, and we sat there and Johnny broke out some lines of heroin because that's what he was into, him and Edgar.
"And he looked at the writer and he's like, 'Nah' and he looks at me and says, 'You get high don't you?' So I did, and shot some incredible pictures."
Some of Kliman's work of his time with Johnny Winter was sold around the time of his recent death at $4,000.
"The Johnny Winter stuff is incredible," says Schwartz, as he clicks through a few thumbnails. "And I'm not a huge Johnny Winter fan at all, you know, but I just appreciate this shit a lot."
"Yeah there was this band Toe Fat that opened for Johnny Winter and they put out one or two records in 1970, and it's really good," says Schwartz as he thumbs through a stack of contact sheets.
"And it's like all of a sudden I'm on YouTube listening to the entire Toe Fat album. And I've got to find out who Teddy is with the tattoo on his arm," he chuckles as he gathers up another stack. "I expect a full report. I've got my best people on it."
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