Remembering Rolling Stone’s magazine first chief photographer

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I’ve made presentations over the last two decades at a seminar called “Creativity and Madness – the Psychology of Art and Artists. As I left the stage several years ago, a woman asked me if I’d like to make a presentation with her ex-husband, Baron Wolman. I did not recognize the name.


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Turned out Baron was the first chief photographer of Rolling Stone magazine. He lived in Haight Ashbury during the “Summer of Love”, and had photographed Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Grace Slick, Johnny Cash, The Who, Led Zeppelin and Neil Young. He had even spent a year photographing the Oakland Raiders.

Wolman’s gift was to catch rare candid shots of the artist’s true humanity. He photographed immensely talented artists, but was able to de-mystify their larger-than-life status and find a true quality of beauty.

While photographing Hendrix, Wolman realized he was anticipating what he was doing. If he waited to catch the shot in the viewfinder of his camera, it would be long gone. Wolman also found himself in such synch with the performer that he realized while Jimi was playing his guitar, Wolman wasn’t “playing” his Nikon.

It took a year to put together our presentation, and there were many emails and phone calls, so I got to know Baron Wolman to some extent.

Our presentation was a success, and whenever I was in Santa Fe, I made it a point to have dinner with him. He had this charisma with women, even while having dinner, female waitstaff would flirt with him.

The last time I saw him, he was in his late seventies. He had a very attractive 25-year-old girlfriend in tow. I was not surprised.

When I asked him what on Earth was his secret, he said, “Respect.”

And whenever I saw him with someone or I brought someone, he was the real deal.


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It’s my guess that having a piece of Rolling Stone didn’t hurt. Originally, founder and publisher Jann Wenner wanted Baron to invest in the fledgling magazine. Instead a deal. Rolling Stone got Wolman’s photos for free and with unlimited use. But they were his to sell, and he got stock in the magazine.

I learned so much from him, but mostly about aging. I expressed how some rock stars play past their prime, and play dives they’d normally avoid like the plague. Rick Nelson played a dilapidated Holiday Inn in San Bernardino, and Steppenwolf played in a small casino somewhere between Arizona and New Mexico.

But Wolman didn’t miss a beat. “The venue’s not important, they’re still rockin’ and I hope when you get their age you are too,” he told me.

What I noticed most was his empathy, his excitement and his compassion.

We had a conversation about my having been a roadie and about working around other musicians and how they can really be narcissistic jerks.

Yet Baron had a different take.

“You are correct. My affection for the musicians did indeed transcend their individual personalities. My ‘love’ for them was, and is, more of a ‘thank you’, a deep appreciation for the beauty of their music,” he said.

“A world without music is a world without colour, without flavour. Through their music each musician in his or her way, transforms our lives. For their ‘gifts’ I love them and want my pictures to celebrate them to reflect the best image they have of themselves. To give them something beautiful in return.”

Baron Wolman was always generous, always picked up dinner. And when we did our presentation, he gave me an autographed copy of an iconic picture of Hendrix.

I was saddened when I showed my grandson Baron’s website.

When Bryson said, “Grandpa, he passed on Nov. 21”, I’ve been thinking about him ever since.

Keep rockin’ my friend, that’s what you do best.

Greg Scharf was born in Sarnia and lives in Southern California

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