I love guitars! Banjos, mandolins, violins, viola de gambas! Not only do I get to photograph the musicians that make music on these amazing stringed creations, but I also get to work with the especially talented, thoughtful and gifted folks that design and build the instruments that allow musicians to make the noise that we call MUSIC! I recently had the opportunity to document a few of the latest guitars from Pennsylvania luthier Matt Artinger and some stunning banjos from Beltsville, Maryland based Kevin Enoch! Not only are these amazingly beautiful bits of musical eye candy, but they all sound as good as they look.
My personal favorite- “The Tokyo Rosie” but, then again, it would be! I got to lend a small hand in the design of this one- Billy Gibbons, eat your heart out! ( now I just need some folks to play with- )
Fifty years ago, in 1963, the world was a decidely different place. The Cold War was hot. Viet Nam was a little known part of French Indochina, Marilyn Monroe had only been dead for a year, and our charismatic young president, John F. Kennedy, was soon to be assassinated. The Beatles had not yet appeared on Ed Sullivan, and the British Invasion was something that was taught in American history classes. Onto this stage, a small, low powered AM radio station in Wheaton, Maryland ushered in the sound of country and bluegrass music, giving voice to a string band known as The Kentuckians. Featuring Red Allen on vocals and guitar, Frank Wakefield on mandolin, Pete Kuykendal on banjo and Tom Morgan on bass, these bluegrass virtuosos were captured live on tape during their many radio performances and now, fifty years later, the fabulous music these talented musicians created a half century ago will again be heard on a new release on the Patuxent Music label, based in Rockville, Maryland. The surviving members of the band recently got together for a roundtable interview and reunion to share stories and memories in the Patuxent studios.
Tom Morgan, Frank Wakefield, Red Allen and Pete Kuykendal in 1963- ( photo by Keith )
Tom Morgan, Frank Wakefield & Pete Kuykendal today ( photo copyright Michael G. Stewart)
Stay tuned for the new CD release on Patuxent Music
On December 29, 2012 the music world lost a true gentleman and a guiding light in bluegrass. A unique innovator, Mike Auldridge helped to re-define the role of the dobro in bluegrass and country music and brought a new sound and style to the musical world. I had listened to Mike and the influential band he helped to found, The Seldom Scene, for years, but it was only late in his life that I had the opportunity to work with him. He was a kind, sensitive and courtly man, and his sound and influence will be greatly missed. MIKE AULDRIDGE Truly a Legend
At Lisner Auditorium with fellow National Endowment of the Arts Heritage Fellow winner Andy Statman on mandolin, Mike Auldridge ( center ) and dobro wiz Rob Ickes (r)
Sometimes I have to admit, I’m a lucky guy. Ever since I was a wee lad, all I ever wanted to do was make pictures, to create images. Now, here I am, an ocassionally cranky, bald headed curmudgeon, the mutant love child of Michael Stipe and the Pillsbury Dough Boy, cranking out CD and album covers for a living. 2012 was a good and productive year, with a wide range of musical styles and diverse personalities to collaborate with, and my hope is that 2013 will be no different! Not to complain, but since I am the Cover King, and hopes are that I pass the target number of 300 CDs in print sometime by mid-year, my New Year’s wish is a few more visually daring clients, a couple of really off the wall bands and projects to put me over the top. Maybe some vinyl? Something really, really out there! It will be 2013 you know. So, at year’s end, I want to thank everyone for their support, and the continued opportunity to create, create, create and remember, don’t forget that Image is Everything. (Thanks to Steve for a allowing me to steal a great line)
A great year for Ginny Carr and the Uptown Vocal Jazz Quartet-
What could be more musically diverse? A Japanese-American bluegrass mandolin player & traditional Sefardic music?
My dear friend, the great N.Y. jazz guitarist Gene Bertoncini allowed me to finally do a diner cover- The best of my worlds. ….and a beautiful girl on the cover, too.
You’ll never get the blues by listening to the fabulous Deanna Bogart
Ain’t that Marcy Marxer cute? And she can play ANY stringed instrument. We really groove on tenor guitar around here.
The Stonemans are the keepers of the Traditional Flame
Since 1982, the National Endowment for the Arts has been honoring artists and artisans who have distinguished themselves in perpetuating the finest in the rich tapestry that makes up American traditional culture with The National Heritage Fellowships. Be it Lynne Yoshiko Nakasone, bringing the graceful movement of Okinawan dance from Hawaii, or Andy Statman mesmerizing the ears with the sounds of klezmer clarinet and bluegrass mandolin from Brooklyn, or perhaps the dog sled and snowshoe designs of Paul and Darlene Bergren from Minot, North Dakota, or maybe the joyous sounds of Texas conjunto accordion from Grammy winning Flaco Jimenez might be more up your alley, all this and more was presented by host Nick Spitzer at Lisner Auditorium in Washington, D.C. last night. It has been my good fortune to be a part of this event for almost 20 years, working with the wonderful folks at the National Endowment and The National Council for the Traditional Arts in helping to create an archive of images from both the awards ceremony and the concert that presents the Fellows to the world at large. To learn more about the NEA & the Heritage Fellows, click on the links, and remember- ANYONE may nominate a deserving artist for this award, so be on the lookout in YOUR community for someone who helps to embody the best in the melting pot that is American traditional culture.
Lynne Yoshiko Nakasone – the hands and accordion of Flaco Jimenez
Master Shipwright Harold A. Burnham – Andy Statman – Dogsled Builders Paul and Darlene Bergren with son Terry Bergren
The basket designs of Molly Jeannette Neptune Parker – The Rev. Tarrence Paschall – Lisa Nakandakari
The concert Finale – & Dobro Master, Mike Auldridge
We all know that the world revolves around a guitar, right? The ultimate synthesis between form and function? The sweet sensual curves that remind us of the female form? Well, we all know that beautiful women come in all shapes and sizes, and if we take a moment to clear our 6 string obsessed minds we’ll see that maybe, just maybe, there is beauty beyond the guitar. That round little honey with the gracefully slender neck belongs to ……. the banjo. Banjo? In these forward thinking times we know that a musician like Bela Fleck can transport this ancient folk instrument to the reaches of the musical galaxy, and in the hands of a master artist like Kevin Enoch the banjo itself becomes not only a creator of magnificent sound, but a work of art able to stand on its own. Kevin’s mastery of inlay and engraving graces his instruments like a Durer etching, and along with collaborator Pete Ross their imagination and skill combines to move this venerable, and oft maligned instrument from the Appalachian hills to the concert hall and gallery wall. A canvas in 5 strings.
1965- Cautiously looking up and down the shop’s aisles, an inquisitive 10 year old boy quickly makes his way to the back of the local Peoples Drug Store. Back by the pharmacy is the display rack where the LPs and 45s are for sale, and the rumor around Kenilworth Elementary School is that a record has come in that is, well, hot! Really cool! Dirty! “Whipped Cream” by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass. A naked lady covered in whipped cream, on display in the record section for all impressionable young American boys to see! I was hooked!
It wasn’t long before I was blowing all my hard earned paper route money on music. It was the glorious era of the 45, but I was intrigued by the LPs, long playing 33 1/3 albums, encased in glorious and innovative packaging- The album cover! Fast forward a few years, and after Confirmation classes, I’d find myself rushing to the local Ben Franklin to get my sweaty hands on The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s, or Robert Crumb’s classic art for Big Brother & The Holding Company, or Alton Kelly and Stanley Mouses’s psychedelic masterpieces for The Grateful Dead. I was buying for the covers as much as the music, and sometimes venturing into the complete unknown, for an unheard of band, but WOW! What a cover! The amazing thing was, the music was always as good as the packaging. You could judge the book by the cover. This was an art form. I knew that I had to do this. It was time to create.
Much water has passed under the proverbial bridge. Gone are the record stores, gone are the major labels, gone are the enlightened art directors, gone are the 12 inch canvases of the classic covers of old. (although vinyl IS making a come-back) Thankfully, that 10 year old boy did go on to fulfill his dream, and I now have over 250 album and CD covers in my portfolio, either as a photographer, an artist or designer- and in many cases all three. And with a great roster featuring many of my musical heroes. Jazz-Bluegrass- Classical- Blues- even Polka! But after 30 plus years, I’m still waiting to do that iconic rock cover. C’mon guys, crank up the Marshall and give me a call. Operators are standing by.
Featured below are some of the packages I’ve created in 2011.
Fine local jazz talent- Photography & Design by Michael G. Stewart
Photography by Michael G. Stewart, Design by the Labels
Photography by Michael G. Stewart Design by Rip Bang Pictures
Photography and Design by Michael G. Stewart
Photography and Design by Michael G. Stewart A big year for jazz guitar