Press Pass, is a collection of up-close and personal Rock & Roll and Country Music superstar
photographs and concert reviews from the pages of The Tampa Times during the Golden Age of the Tampa Music Scene between October of 1969 and September of 1974. Musician Rick Norcross was the music writer and reviewer for The Tampa Times, a 70,000 circulation afternoon daily newspaper in the 13th largest market in America. Tampa was a major venue for touring music stars of the day and Norcross had free rein to cover any non-classical performance in small clubs, concert halls, stadiums and rock festivals in central Florida and southern Georgia during those very special years of music.
Though Norcross was hired to write reviews, interviews and
feature stories about the music scene, he quickly realized it would be to his advantage to shoot his own photographs at the concerts he was reviewing. Given his access and the time he spent in the presence of the stars he was covering, he was in a unique position to capture up-close and personal images himself to accompany his stories, rather than depend on the pictures taken by the newspaper’s photo department. When he put a photo assignment in for a concert, the paper sent a photographer who, all too often, would shoot for 15 minutes and then moved on to other assignments. So Norcross bought his own camera equipment and film and the Tampa Times ran the photos with his stories and reviews on an unpaid basis. Per his agreement with Tampa Times’ Managing Editor and mentor, H. Doyle Harvill, Norcross retained sole ownership and all rights to the photographs.
Over his five years with the newspaper, Norcross interviewed and
photographed many of the most famous artists of the century – Elvis, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Johnny Cash, Elton John, The Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones, Leon Russell, The Byrds, Merle Haggard, Chuck Berry, Eric Clapton and hundreds of others. With front row, on-stage and back stage access to these artists, access unheard of in today’s atmosphere of super-strict celebrity security, these images are rare indeed. Newspapers routinely retained ownership of staff photographs. A staggering number of daily newspapers have gone dark these days, and the majority, if not all, concert photos in their files were thrown away when their buildings were cleaned out. So now, these superstar photos from the pages of The Tampa Times are rarer still.
These images have been seen twice in gallery shows and only in Vermont since they were taken
some 50 years ago at mainly Tampa venues, including Curtis-Hixon Hall, Tampa Stadium, Fort Homer Hesterly Armory, the Tampa Jai Alai Fronton and the old Florida State Fairgrounds. Others were shot at the Atlanta Rock Festival, the Sportatorium in West Palm Beach and at the Palm Beach Rock
Festival, as well as the Bayfront Center in St. Petersburgh and at The Old Plantation, the home of George Jones & Tammy Wynette in Lakeland. The cumulative audience count of those who saw these shows between 1969 and 1974 would easily run into 500,000 fans. Over 175,000 people
attended the Tampa Stadium shows alone.
Now these photographs emerge to document the spirit and the unbridled energy of rock and roll stars caught at the peak of their careers, many of whom have long since passed away and many who are still rocking, buoyed by the quality of these seminal performances.
Norcross is the first to admit that Rock & Roll Journalism is all about being at the right place at the right time with the right camera gear. His very first Tampa Times music assignment, on November 16, 1969, was to cover a concert held in Tampa’s Curtis-Hixon Hall, headlined by Janis Joplin and B.B. King. Norcross was “armed” with his father’s WW II era Leica M-3 range finder camera. Janis Joplin’s show took a turn for the unexpected when many hundreds of young fans rushed toward the stage, much to the chagrin of the Tampa police doing concert security. When police officers attempted to move the crowd back, Joplin said to the police,”Get out of my show. If you’ll just move, I promise we won’t hurt anybody.” And then to the crowd, she said, “You got to remember, it’s up to us. We start f***ing with each other, it’s f***ing over.” Due to the disruption and the ensuing attempts to reseat the crowd, Janis Joplin only performed seven songs that night before being hustled off-stage and out
the back door where she was promptly arrested by Tampa police and charged with two counts of
The incident and Norcross’ concert photos of Janis Joplin were picked up by the Associated Press and run in newspapers across the country. One of his photos of Joplin also ran in Time Magazine.
A promising start for a first night of “rock journalism.” The “Press Pass” concert photographs and
reviews tell so many wonderful stories of those “glory days” of Tampa’s fledgling music scene.
Press Pass photographs were printed from the original negatives, meticulously restored by the late Bill Forsythe at PhotoGarden of South Burlington, Vermont expressly for gallery shows. The Press Pass collection features over 100 original photographs and more than 34 concert reviews by Norcross, Press Pass is an opportunity to relive the Tampa concert experience of the late ‘60s and early 70s, thought by many to be the Golden Age of American Rock & Roll and Country Music.
The Press Pass Tampa collection is loaded on a 16 GB USB 2.0 Flash Drive which holds over 100 original photos and 34 reviews of the artists pictured. Press Pass is priced at $35, which includes
postage & handling. Photographs in the Press Pass collection are available for purchase suitable for framing. Prints are available in sizes 11 X 17, 15 X 21 and 18 X 24.
Press Pass is available in Tampa exclusively at Mojo Books & Records, 2540 E. Fowler Avenue,
Tampa, FL 33612 (813)971-9717. To order Press Pass on-line, visit www.PressPassTampa. com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHAT OTHERS SAY
“Congrats on such a wonderful array of photos taken during, what I believe, was the greatest era for rock concerts and album rock. That Elvis photo, for instance, is definitive. Selling the collection on a memory stick is an interesting, current and easier way to get the work out there. I get it. These stars you’ve captured belong to the world, so that’s all that really matters. So should your images. You also have many genres represented in the collection. To me, the story accompanying the photos add so much depth and context. You sure as hell have a heavyweight roster of names on that list. A good bit of diversity also: Chuck Berry, Tina Turner, Bo Didley. Some big time country stars also, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash. When it comes to music, I pretty much live in the past. I’m sure there are others like me out there who would enjoy this trip back in time.”
…Bob Kealing, Emmy Award-winning journalist and author of “Calling Me Home: Gram Parsons and the Roots of
Country Rock” and “Elvis Ignited,“ Orlando, FL
“I was so moved by this extraordinary collection of photographs of so many of the musicians making the music that shaped me and so many others. Included with this collection is the back story of how Rick Norcross came to take these wonderfully intimate photographs. Press Pass is a singularly unique collection that captures a really important period in American Music History. I believe there is no other collection like this in the world.”
… Lisa Marchetti, Musician, Burlington, VT
“The Rick Norcross Rock & Roll exhibit at Burlington City Arts is a rare opportunity to see his work from those fertile years. The collection features shots both tranquil and kinetic. Some offer a glimpse of these iconic artists in quiet, unguarded moments of backstage repose. Others capture the raw action of the performance. In stark black and white, these
photographs are no less colorful as they crackle with the energy of their subjects.”
…Jim Sabataso, Arts Correspondent, Rutland Herald, The Barre Times-Argus, Rutland, VT