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The Rockin Roll Hall of Fame in Heaven
Just claimed a couple of Good Guys
Len Barry and Baron Wolman
By Jack Coll
Two people of note associated with the music industry passed away recently, Len Barry and Baron Wolman. Barry passed away on November 5, from bone marrow cancer, he was 78 years old and Wolman passed away on November 2, of complications from ALS, he was 83.
Len Barry was born and raised in Philadelphia, he grew up in West Philly and attended Overbrook High School where he became a part of a doo-wop group called The Brookstones in the late 1950’s. By 1960, the band changed its name to The Dovells and was signed by Parkway Records. In 1961 the Dovells reached the # 2 position on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart with “Bristol Stomp,” selling more than a million copies.
In 1962, the Dovells placed three more songs in the top 40 including “You Can’t Sit Down,” which reached # 3 on the charts, during this time the Dovells went on a national tour with James Brown. Barry was the lead-singer on all the Dovells hits before leaving the group in late 1963 to pursue a solo career.
Barry’s biggest hit as a solo act came in the fall of 1965 with the # 2 hit, “1-2-3,” it was kept out of the top spot by the Supremes “I Hear A Symphony.” He followed “1-2-3” with “Like A Baby” and “Somewhere,” a popular song from “West Side Story.”
I always liked Len Barry, I purchased his records back in the mid 1960’s, being married to Hy Lit’s sister I’m sure helped him get air-time on WIBG radio back in the day. I attended several “Oldies” Show during the 1990’s and saw Len Barry perform in 1993, 1994, but the show I’ll always hold close to my heart was a 1996 Atlantic City Show.
So if I remember this correctly, Bob Frost and I were in Atlantic City, (I forget the casino) to see a concert by Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. Mitch Ryder was this really cool guy when we were young and I was excited to see him for the first time. So I think Mitch was on his second or third song when he says “Is there anyone out there who can sing.” So a number of people in the audience raised their hands including myself, thinking he wanted the audience to sing along with one of his hits. (Remember “Sock It To Me-Baby!,” ‘Jenny Take A Ride,” and of course “Devil With A Blue Dress On.”)
Within a minute a guy shows up at our seats and says to me, “Let’s Go,” I looked at him and said, “Let’s Go Where?” The guy said “you raised you hand and said you could sing,” and I said, “Yea, I can sing,” (Like S#!t,) but I didn’t say that to him, but I did get up and follow the guy to the stage.
It turned out that Mitch needed a back-up singer for a couple of songs. So when I get up on stage Mitch calls me to center stage and has me sing along with him on his microphone I think “Devil With A Blue Dress On.” He tells me I sound pretty good and guilds me to a back-up microphone and say’s you’ll be singing with Len Barry. I hadn’t noticed Len singing back-up but sure enough it was him. I was a little shell-shocked, (Actually a lot shell-shocked). I don’t remember if I sang one or two songs with Len but I do remember singing back-up for “Jenny Take A Ride,” you know, “Jenny Jenny Jenny won’t you come along with me, Jenny Jenny woo Jenny Jenny.” (In case you’re wondering, I killed it.) What a Memory.
Then there was Baron Wolman, best known for his work in the late 1960’s for the music magazine “Rolling Stone, becoming the magazine’s first chief photographer from 1967-1970. When Wolman was 30 years old he met Cal Berkeley and Jann Wenner who were starting up a music periodical along with Ralph Gleason. Wolman agreed to work for the new periodical, “Rolling Stone”, and work for free. But he insisted that he retain ownership of all the photographs he took for Rolling Stone, giving the magazine unlimited use of the images. Wolman began working for Rolling Stone from it very first issue, and continued for another three years. Because of Wolman’s virtually unlimited access to his subjects, his photographs of Janis Joplin, the Rolling Stones, Frank Zappa, the Who, Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez, Iggy Pop, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, Phil Spector, Jim Morrison, Ike & Tina Turner, Peter Rowan and many other musicians were the graphic centerpieces of Rolling Stone’s layout.
When Wolman left the Rolling Stone Magazine in 1970 he went on to create his own company starting his own fashion magazine. In 1974, Wolman spent a year with the Oakland Raiders football team, using his full-access status to photographically document the entire 1974 season. The result was “Oakland Raiders: The Good Guys,” published in 1975. In 2011 Wolman released an auto-biographical, image-heavy book, “Baron Wolman: Every Picture Tells a Story, The Rolling Stone Years.”
It was around this time that I met Baron, (along with my son Brian) it was at one of Scott Segelbaum’s “Rock-Art Shows” that Baron was a guest of Scott’s and had many of his Rolling Stone Magazine cover photographs on displayed. (Proudly framed by Coll’s Custom Framing) I found Baron to be a kind, gentle soul with lots of stories to tell about how and where he took many of his cover photos for Rolling Stone in the early years. He talked about how back then you didn’t need a CIA pass to get access to them, you simply called Janis or Jimi on the phone and let them know that he was stopping by for a set of photographs for the magazine. He talked about his Woodstock experience and the photographs of him sitting on the stage at Woodstock for the up –close and personnel photographs.
We talked and talked, but I was short on time and had to leave the show early. Baron signed a book for me, and I noted that next time Scott had him back in town perhaps we would go out to dinner, we all agreed but Baron never came back to the Philadelphia area, perhaps a missed opportunity for me to really sit down with one of the great Rock’n Roll photographers of our time.
I’ll miss these two guys, it’s not like we were close friends or anything, but we had a moment, life is made up of these little moments, and every once in a while, when someone mentions their names, or something reminds me of them, perhaps hearing a short segment of “1-2-3,” or hearing the “Bristol Stomp,” seeing one of Baron’s famous pictures of Janis or Jimi, I’ll get a little warm feeling in my heart because I had those moments.
With all the people I’ve met in my life, I have a lot of small warm moments, it’s good for the soul, Hey guys, Thanks for the Memories.
Photographs shown in this article include:
Jack and Brian Coll with Baron Wolman back in 2012 at a Rock Art Show
The front cover of Baron Wolman’s book, a photograph Baron took of Jimi Hendrix at the Fillmore West in 1968
The back cover of Baron’s book showing Baron sitting on stage at Woodstock with Carlos Santana playing in the background, the photo was taken by Bill Graham, 1969
Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane posed for Baron in her Girl Scout vest while Janis Joplin performed in a make-shift stage in her bedroom and sang to Baron, he called the photo a concert for one.