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Shutter sounds


For decades, local photographer Vernon Gowdy has shot rock concerts, images from which comprise his new book.

Stephen Carradini April 6th, 2011

Hanging out with Oklahoma City shutterbug Vernon Gowdy will get you a boatload of stories about near-mythical rock bands.

Picking up his new book, “Adventures of a Rock Photographer,” will get you stories and pictures from one of rock music’s most fertile periods: 1976-1986, with 165 of its 200 pages dedicated to 1977-1980.

To illustrate just how top-heavy the era was in good music, consider Gowdy’s first assignment as a photographer at the University of Oklahoma’s student newspaper, The Oklahoma Daily: the Sex Pistols at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa. Talk about iconic.

“I wanted to make a good impression,” Gowdy said.

Consider it made, and not just at OU. One of his shots from that evening turned up in Oklahoma History Center’s recent rock ’n’ roll exhibit, “Another Hot Oklahoma Night.”

But that’s not the only exposure Gowdy received for his work.

His photos turned up in magazines Creem and Rolling Stone, as well as his own publication, JAM.

While pictures of oft-photographed rock heroes Fleetwood Mac and The Who make impressive additions to “Adventures,” incredibly rare photographs lie within the book as well. Cameras weren’t allowed at performances of Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” but Gowdy got one in — exactly how is a tale best left for the book. Pink Floyd weren’t the only rock stars at the show, however.

“I saw David Lee Roth, holding his two tickets. Here’s David Lee Roth, and he’s looking for his seat,” Gowdy said.

Don’t worry, Van Halen fans: Although Gowdy didn’t take his picture then, he snapped plenty of them a year earlier at the Civic Center. They’re included, along with shots of Blondie, The Cars, Boston, Tom Petty, Commodores, Yes, Talking Heads, Muddy Waters and more.

The book’s cover features pre-Van Halen Sammy Hagar in what is Gowdy’s most famous picture. Caught outside of Gowdy’s Oklahoma stomping grounds at Texxas Jam II in the Cotton Bowl at Dallas, the photo captures Hagar in mid-leap, hair like a lion and rock grimace firmly in place.

The shot ended up in magazines and ads, adorning T-shirts and even gracing the cover of a Hagar single on 45 (“Piece of My Heart” from 1981’s “Standing Hampton” album). A quote from Hagar about that cover graces the foreword of the book.

“Adventures of a Rock Photographer” is available at vernongowdy.com and Amazon.com.

 
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