About the Collection - The Backstory

If you have seen Cameron Crowe’s movie “Almost Famous” then you already know the story.

In every major city in America in the late 1960's or early 1970's there was at least one teenager who made a regional name for himself by photographing rock concerts. In Houston, Texas, there were two such teenagers who overlapped one another.

Larry Lent

From a very young age Larry Lent was drawn to celebrities; stars of stage, television and the silver screen were his magnets. Whenever anyone who was even remotely connected with the entertainment industry came to Houston, Larry would find a way to interview and photograph them for his school paper or other teen publications.

Born in 1951, Larry was just the right age to appreciate the newest celebrity that arose in the 1960's – the rock star. Larry was drawn to musicians like a moth to a flame. From 1967 until he hung up his cameras, there was no one that Larry had not interviewed or photographed.

One cannot discuss Larry Lent without also mentioning Oscar Gutierrez, a talented local photographer who photographed shows as a hobby and frequently served as Larry’s aide de camp (or perhaps vice versa). Between 1970 and 1973, Larry and Oscar would shoot side by side or sometimes share the same camera. Oscar’s shots of Alice Cooper from 1971 and 1973 are mindblowing! Oscar has been invaluable in providing RockinHouston.com access to his work as well as Larry’s images and the website would not be the same without him.

Larry often talked about compiling a book to be titled “A Decade of Decadence” that would feature his interviews and photos. Larry died in 2000 before he could complete that project. Virtually all of the images on this website from 1967 through 1974 (as well as a few images from later years) were taken by (or frequently feature) Larry Lent in an attempt to allow Larry to posthumously complete his book.

Bruce Kessler

For more than 30 years, Bruce Kessler photographed virtually every major rock concert to play Houston. Bruce began his concert photography career in the early 1970's when ticket holders could easily bring cameras to concerts. Bruce would buy a ticket and shoot from his seat until he crossed paths with Larry Lent at a concert in 1974. From that point on, Bruce learned all about access. Having never heard of a backstage pass – let alone a photo pass – Bruce quickly learned from Larry how to gain better access to the front of the stage by impressing concert promoters or road managers with his photo portfolio. With time, Bruce had made a name for himself so that he was regularly granted photo credentials. Over the years, Bruce shot for his school papers, local music magazines, record companies and radio stations. Bruce went on to be the house photographer for the Agora Ballroom and eventually the house photographer for the Summit. The biggest privilege that Bruce received was to be the staff photographer for Houston-based Pace Concerts and its successive incarnations. In 2006, Bruce decided that the party was over and that it was time to turn out the lights (although an occasional flicker sometimes was seen in later years)!

Other Photographers

Over the years, other photographers appeared in the concert photo pit. Two worth mentioning are James Townsend and Ray Fetterman.

James Townsend

   Bruce and James Townsend met in early 1975. During the years that he shot, Jimmy had a unique talent at capturing extraordinary close ups under the most difficult of lighting conditions as well as getting offstage shots that no one believed possible until he produced printed proof. His mid 70's images of Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull and the Rolling Stones are exceptional. A few of Jimmy’s images are included on the website in his memory.

Harry “Ray” Fetterman, Jr.

Ray Fetterman was the only true professional photographer of the lot as he shot for one of Houston’s daily newspapers. Ray was most active in the mid 1970's and excelled with his images of female performers such as Heart, Linda Ronstadt and Fleetwood Mac. Ray helped Bruce acquire much of his photo equipment and generously gave pointers on its use.

Bruce, Jimmy, Larry and Ray all shared a friendly rivalry. They would often share rides to a concert or meet for a meal after a show. If one had a problem with their photo credentials, another would always help out. It was not uncommon for them to work together in the darkroom printing their most recent concert pictures and debating who got the better shot.

One by one, Jimmy, Larry and Ray each stopped shooting.

Jimmy passed away in 1995. Larry passed away in 2000. Bruce assisted both of their estates in identifying, sorting and ultimately selling their photo collections. Each of their estates allowed Bruce to retain some of the images in memory of their friendship. If you own any of their slides or negatives, now you know a bit of their story.

Ray passed away in 1997. A photo of Willie Nelson from the late 1970s is the only one of Ray's images that has been located. (Thanks to Tia Loveland for making it available).

Why the Website

After decades of keeping a very tight lid on his work, Bruce finally decided to make his photographs available when his son asked him what he was supposed to do with all of the pictures and memorabilia when Bruce was gone. Recalling the excitement of sorting through the Townsend and Lent collections and all of the memories that their work brought back, Bruce realized that it would be a shame to let all of the accumulated images and memorabilia go to waste and that it was finally time to share them. Having never exhibited any of his work, this website serves as a massive online photo exhibition recalling Houston’s concert history.

With that in mind, RockinHouston.com hopes you enjoy the show.