Author? Photographer..!

BRIAN SMITH was born in June 1943 and raised in Manchester, England. His musical interests were awakened by rock’n’roll in the mid-fifties – Elvis, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins (see photo below) and Duane Eddy – and through them he came to blues and folk music, mostly heard through Radio Luxembourg and AFN from Germany.
Brian started taking photos at live shows in 1962 with an old Ilford Sportsman camera, and gradually he gained access most areas to the big venues and small clubs in Manchester. Never going ‘professional’ nevertheless some of his first photos appearing in “R n B Scene” magazine in 1964 and he remained their official photographer throughout the magazine’s life – and even made it to the front cover on one occasion (see below).

Carl Perkins, Brian Smith, Sheffield City Hall May 14. 1964
Carl Perkins with Brian Smith, backstage at Sheffield City Hall on May 14th 1964

Towards the end of the decade Brian eased off on photography and concentrated on his day job at the tax offices in Manchester, but he still photographed many of the original blues artists as they visited the North West and has got to know some of them well. During the 1980s as the audio reissue market grew, labels began seeking his work out for album and CD sleeves. From then on his pictures appeared in just about every major blues mag in Britain, Europe, USA and Japan, as well as countless records and biographies, and even feature in The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and Martin Scorsese’s “The Blues”.
Despite this, Brian still prefers to be known as he was to club managers back in the sixties as “the fan with a camera”. He officially retired in July 2007, but found himself as busy as ever curating his archive, and the idea for a book of his work began to surface. Through talks with RPM Records A&R man Mark Stratford, Easy On The Eye became involved and the result is a fascinating collection of his most immediate material from the monochrome days of the early sixties.
Brain was married in 1968 to his “long suffering wife” (his description!) Shirley, and they live in Cheshire. They have four children.

R & B Scene cover issue 6 Screaming Jay Hawkins and Brian Smith
The cover of R & B Scene issue 6 in 1965 featured Screaming Jay Hawkins and a suitably terrified Brian Smith!

10 Responses

  1. A man with great vision and personality, good friend and true lover of good old rock and blues. I salute you my friend, glad to see that you are still enjoying the scene and having good health.

  2. Brian has followed his musical heart and his photographer’s eye all his life, and that is a good thing for the rest of us. I’m proud and happy to be a friend. Good on yer, Brian!

  3. Looking forward to this! Another chance to relive so many happy memories. I’m proud to have been a part of it.

    1. Thanks David. The book should be great. We have just finished the scanning of Brian’s negatives to make sure they are preserved for the future as well as the book.

  4. When ever I have been wanting photographs for R&B books Brian has never hesitated to give free rein of his vast collection of images. His natural instinct for composition is amazing. Brian is unquestionably Britain’s foremost Popular music photographer.

  5. I’ve been badgering Brian for years to get something like this organised – glad to see it has finally happened – good on yer mate…….

  6. June 1943 plus Manchester is quite some equation for me, since Helena Blehárová, who is frequently mentioned at my blog, ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ and who was born on 28th June 1943, in Žilina, in the North-West of present-day Slovakia appeared in Manchester on 7th June 1963 – therefore still just a teenager – at the Daily Mail International Jazz Festival. I’ve visited Žilina a couple of times and there’s a fascinating mural celebrating the music photographer, Dezo Hoffmann, who was also born in the city.

    It’s very interesting that Keith Rylatt appears to have been commenting here. I attended the launch of his book, ‘Hitsville! The Birth of Tamla Motown’ at Modus, House of Soul in my home town of Belper and I have a signed copy thereof!

    Oh…and I personally know another ‘Smith’ who is noteworthy for photographing musicians – Doug Smith, also the keyboard/harmonica player and vocalist with Godfrey’s Grit ‘n’ Soul Band, for whom I am the ‘resident dancer’.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *