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    All In The Family: Charles Seton

    All In The Family

     


    Elton John, Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder, and the Grateful Dead. These are just a few of the folks photojournalist Charles Seton managed to capture in their prime. His photos of the Grateful Dead's performance at Northwestern on 11/1/73 are exceptional and his stories from that time, even better. Read all about it in this edition of ALL IN THE FAMILY.

    When did you first spark interest in photography? 

    A family friend lent me his Rolleiflex camera when I was about 12. I had  Instamatic cameras before then, but I wasn’t taking pictures to express myself yet.


    What were some of the first photos you took?

    I distinctly remember taking that Rolleiflex out to the double yellow line in the middle of a road near our house and getting down on the ground to take a picture of the double yellow line from ground level receding into the distance. That was the first time that I tried to make an interesting picture.  I was very lucky that it was not a particularly busy street, or my budding career could have ended right there!

     
    Tell us a little bit about becoming a rock photographer. How did you get access to photographing some of the biggest names in music?

    Chuck Seton, my father, was Bill Graham‘s lawyer in the 60s and 70s. One of the bands that Bill managed/booked/promoted was… the Grateful Dead. I had more to do with the Jefferson Airplane who were directly my father‘s clients, so I never met the Dead because my father was based in New York and Graham and the Dead were on the West Coast. So, indirectly, my father was one of the Dead‘s lawyers at one point. 

    Because my father was working with Bill Graham a lot at Fillmore East, when I was 15 years old, my father would “bring me to work“ to the Fillmore. He would go into Bill‘s office, and they would hand me a backstage pass. I would hang out with the Joshua Light Show. I was in HEAVEN with all of the state—of-the-art projection technology that they used - once Josh let me work one of those famous clock faces filled with colored oil and water behind a band during a performance!

    I was able to go to many shows at the Fillmore, but typically had to leave before the end of the show, because they went past my bedtime and, frankly, my father couldn’t stand all that loud music! We always would go next-door to Ratners and get their amazing fresh strawberry shortcake before the shows.

    The first performance that I photographed was Joe Cocker “Mad Dogs and Englishmen.” The pictures are pretty terrible, but I was hooked!

    I brought my cameras with me when I went to college and started attending rock concerts. I joined the Northwestern University (NU) yearbook staff and became their main performance photographer. Many big-name groups played at NU.

    Also at Northwestern, there was an incredible hippie coffeehouse named Amazingrace on campus. They started booking national names like Charles Mingus, Pat Metheny, Keith Jarrett, Buddy Rich, Randy Newman, Emmylou Harris, and I became their unofficial photographer. Amazingrace was the organization that booked and produced the Dead at the McGaw Hall concert. My understanding is that the Dead were paid $25,000 for the gig.

    Amazing Grace
    Artwork by James “JT” Thomas. Poster by Amazingrace, LLC. Copyright 1973. All
    Rights Reserved.

    Let's get into the Grateful Dead in 1973. What are your memories from the live performance at Northwestern on 11/1/73? 

    Apparently, the student body wanted to bring in The Dead for our Homecoming concert. We needed the Administration’s OK to do this, and the Dead were on a list of “undesirable bands,” so they rejected the idea. Since this was the Seventies, we decided to hold a Sit-In on the Plaza while they negotiated inside. I photographed this as a campus event for the Yearbook. For some of the inside perspective, I’m re-sending an email I sent you earlier. which includes reminiscences from some of the Amazingrace people who posted stories on their Facebook page. I can connect you with these folks if you want to get their permission to use their quotes. 

    The demonstration on the Administration Plaza was just a big ol’ Party - they brought in a PA system to play Grateful Dead music, and people made lots of signs (Including my favorite which said “GRATEFUL DEAD OR NOTHING - FUCK YOUR OTHER “BIG NAME GROUPS”!). 

    It was a real Happening - people hung out, danced and partied while negotiations were going on inside of the building. I remember the euphoria when someone came out and announced that we had succeeded. The concert was going to happen! 

    _____

    The setup for the concert was thrilling for a budding photojournalist. This was one of the first concerts using the proto Wall of Sound. None of us had ever seen anything quite like it (I have a photo of the stage setup as well)! They needed forklifts to place the stacks of speakers.

    We thought that the parachutes hung from the ceiling were to add atmosphere, but apparently they were a (failed) attempt to moderate the echo in this cavernous space. We felt like it was a mini version of Woodstock!

    _____

    The concert itself was massive. You could cut the air with a knife. There were several giant balloons bouncing around the audience. Every so often, one would make it onstage and they would kick it back into the crowd. The sound was terrible, but no one seemed to care - this was our very own Grateful Dead concert!

    I have photos of the aftermath - the place was totally trashed, but what a time we had!
     
    How has your career as a photographer extended beyond the Grateful Dead?
     
    I have been a Freelance Photographer, Videographer and Teacher for more than fifty years. It’s quite gratifying that photos I made when I was nineteen years old are deemed good enough to be included in this anniversary package. Incidentally, there’s plenty more of other bands where they came from!

    CHARLES SETON'S GRATEFUL DEAD
     
    First exposure to the Dead/first show:

    Fillmore East 1970

    Favorite Dead Song/Songs:

    “Unbroken Chain”

    Favorite live album:

    “Europe ’72”

    Favorite Dead Era/Years:

    ’67-’74
     
    Desert Island Dead:

    “American Beauty”

     
    Being A Dead Head Means…

    “Never having to say you’re sorry”? 

    Charles Seton

    Charles during his time as a Northwestern University yearbook photographer.

    Check out more of Charles' photography of the Grateful Dead here.

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All In The Family

 


Elton John, Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder, and the Grateful Dead. These are just a few of the folks photojournalist Charles Seton managed to capture in their prime. His photos of the Grateful Dead's performance at Northwestern on 11/1/73 are exceptional and his stories from that time, even better. Read all about it in this edition of ALL IN THE FAMILY.

When did you first spark interest in photography? 

A family friend lent me his Rolleiflex camera when I was about 12. I had  Instamatic cameras before then, but I wasn’t taking pictures to express myself yet.


What were some of the first photos you took?

I distinctly remember taking that Rolleiflex out to the double yellow line in the middle of a road near our house and getting down on the ground to take a picture of the double yellow line from ground level receding into the distance. That was the first time that I tried to make an interesting picture.  I was very lucky that it was not a particularly busy street, or my budding career could have ended right there!

 
Tell us a little bit about becoming a rock photographer. How did you get access to photographing some of the biggest names in music?

Chuck Seton, my father, was Bill Graham‘s lawyer in the 60s and 70s. One of the bands that Bill managed/booked/promoted was… the Grateful Dead. I had more to do with the Jefferson Airplane who were directly my father‘s clients, so I never met the Dead because my father was based in New York and Graham and the Dead were on the West Coast. So, indirectly, my father was one of the Dead‘s lawyers at one point. 

Because my father was working with Bill Graham a lot at Fillmore East, when I was 15 years old, my father would “bring me to work“ to the Fillmore. He would go into Bill‘s office, and they would hand me a backstage pass. I would hang out with the Joshua Light Show. I was in HEAVEN with all of the state—of-the-art projection technology that they used - once Josh let me work one of those famous clock faces filled with colored oil and water behind a band during a performance!

I was able to go to many shows at the Fillmore, but typically had to leave before the end of the show, because they went past my bedtime and, frankly, my father couldn’t stand all that loud music! We always would go next-door to Ratners and get their amazing fresh strawberry shortcake before the shows.

The first performance that I photographed was Joe Cocker “Mad Dogs and Englishmen.” The pictures are pretty terrible, but I was hooked!

I brought my cameras with me when I went to college and started attending rock concerts. I joined the Northwestern University (NU) yearbook staff and became their main performance photographer. Many big-name groups played at NU.

Also at Northwestern, there was an incredible hippie coffeehouse named Amazingrace on campus. They started booking national names like Charles Mingus, Pat Metheny, Keith Jarrett, Buddy Rich, Randy Newman, Emmylou Harris, and I became their unofficial photographer. Amazingrace was the organization that booked and produced the Dead at the McGaw Hall concert. My understanding is that the Dead were paid $25,000 for the gig.

Amazing Grace
Artwork by James “JT” Thomas. Poster by Amazingrace, LLC. Copyright 1973. All
Rights Reserved.

Let's get into the Grateful Dead in 1973. What are your memories from the live performance at Northwestern on 11/1/73? 

Apparently, the student body wanted to bring in The Dead for our Homecoming concert. We needed the Administration’s OK to do this, and the Dead were on a list of “undesirable bands,” so they rejected the idea. Since this was the Seventies, we decided to hold a Sit-In on the Plaza while they negotiated inside. I photographed this as a campus event for the Yearbook. For some of the inside perspective, I’m re-sending an email I sent you earlier. which includes reminiscences from some of the Amazingrace people who posted stories on their Facebook page. I can connect you with these folks if you want to get their permission to use their quotes. 

The demonstration on the Administration Plaza was just a big ol’ Party - they brought in a PA system to play Grateful Dead music, and people made lots of signs (Including my favorite which said “GRATEFUL DEAD OR NOTHING - FUCK YOUR OTHER “BIG NAME GROUPS”!). 

It was a real Happening - people hung out, danced and partied while negotiations were going on inside of the building. I remember the euphoria when someone came out and announced that we had succeeded. The concert was going to happen! 

_____

The setup for the concert was thrilling for a budding photojournalist. This was one of the first concerts using the proto Wall of Sound. None of us had ever seen anything quite like it (I have a photo of the stage setup as well)! They needed forklifts to place the stacks of speakers.

We thought that the parachutes hung from the ceiling were to add atmosphere, but apparently they were a (failed) attempt to moderate the echo in this cavernous space. We felt like it was a mini version of Woodstock!

_____

The concert itself was massive. You could cut the air with a knife. There were several giant balloons bouncing around the audience. Every so often, one would make it onstage and they would kick it back into the crowd. The sound was terrible, but no one seemed to care - this was our very own Grateful Dead concert!

I have photos of the aftermath - the place was totally trashed, but what a time we had!
 
How has your career as a photographer extended beyond the Grateful Dead?
 
I have been a Freelance Photographer, Videographer and Teacher for more than fifty years. It’s quite gratifying that photos I made when I was nineteen years old are deemed good enough to be included in this anniversary package. Incidentally, there’s plenty more of other bands where they came from!

CHARLES SETON'S GRATEFUL DEAD
 
First exposure to the Dead/first show:

Fillmore East 1970

Favorite Dead Song/Songs:

“Unbroken Chain”

Favorite live album:

“Europe ’72”

Favorite Dead Era/Years:

’67-’74
 
Desert Island Dead:

“American Beauty”

 
Being A Dead Head Means…

“Never having to say you’re sorry”? 

Charles Seton

Charles during his time as a Northwestern University yearbook photographer.

Check out more of Charles' photography of the Grateful Dead here.

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Elton John, Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder, and the Grateful Dead. These are just a few of the folks photojournalist Charlie Seton managed to capture in their prime. Read all about it in this edition of ALL IN THE FAMILY.
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