Up Close and Personal with Southern Music Legends
Before he shot for Southern Living, photographer Art Meripol photographed Southern rock icons at their peak.
Access was easy when I started shooting concerts in about 1973. When I joined the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock, which had a writer interested in concert reviews, I had to figure out how to get credentials. Going through venues didn’t work. Back then the only valid credential came directly from the record companies. At first I had to send them requests on letterhead and then follow up with a clip of the review. But very quickly they got to know me, and all I had to do was call the New York or LA office and say hey, it’s me, and so-and-so is coming. Once I got to that point I really started shooting more shows. It didn’t matter if it was for review or not. It was live music, and I flat-out loved shooting live music. I became a fan of a lot of bands I didn’t think I’d like. Hearing them live, seeing how they worked for their audience made me a fan.
Back then, I was usually the only shooter at a show. I almost never saw another photographer. Now it seems like everyone with a camera is shooting, and the audience is waving their phones in the air. In general, the rule back then was “first three songs.” After that I had to put the cameras away. The publicists argued that if you couldn’t get it in the first three songs then you didn’t belong. And after about 3 songs many artists start to get a bit “messy.” I shot a lot of club shows as well as arenas. I shot in South Texas and around Arkansas. I went to Memphis a lot and even shot the first Farm Aid Concert for UPI (United Press International).
Nowadays my hair is shorter and bedtime earlier. Here are a few of my favorites.