How Henry Diltz went from banjo player for the Modern Folk Quartet in the early Sixties to one of the most important music photographers of all time is no mere accident. But it actually sort of started that way. Traveling with fellow musicians and friends, Diltz first picked up a camera in 1966 and began creating slideshows for everyone to enjoy. Since then, the photographer’s images have graced more than 200 album covers, not to mention books, magazines and galleries throughout the world. From stunning stage shots of Chuck Berry, Crosby, Stills and Nash and the Rolling Stones, to warm, candid images of Paul McCartney, James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, Diltz has captured some of music’s most familiar faces in some extraordinarily intimate moments, all without a single lesson in photography. “My old friend, Harrison Ford — who I knew when he was just a carpenter before he became an actor — he said, ‘Henry, you have a framing jones,'” Diltz tells Rolling Stone Country. “I don’t know much about book-learning photography. To me, it was just about the eye, filling the frame in a pleasing way.”
In 2001, Diltz and his partners, Peter Blachley and Rich Horowitz, founded the Morrison Hotel Gallery in New York City’s SoHo district. The gallery takes its name from the legendary 1970 Doors album, the cover of which was slyly shot by Diltz after the Los Angeles hotel’s owner had already denied the group permission to shoot there.
While the bulk of Diltz’s photos capture undisputed rock royalty, the Laurel Canyon scene toward which his lens was pointed also helped shape contemporary country music. These days, you might just spot the affable, pony-tailed 76 year old snapping photos at a show on one of the most talked-about country tours of the year. A longtime friend of Garth Brooks, Diltz accompanied the musician on more than a dozen of his shows last year, and was on hand in 1997 when Brooks was shooting a TV special and touring in Ireland. That’s just one of the memories Diltz shares with Rolling Stone Country in this exclusive photo gallery that spans five decades and features some of country and rock’s most important (and photogenic) figures.