Not long ago on the Skydog Facebook page, run by Mark Vormittag, it was brought to light that a number of previously uncredited photographs were the work of one of the members, Kathy Hurley. She has an amazing link to the Allman Brothers Band and has taken a number of fantastic shots that I’m very happy she is finally getting credit for.
I emailed her to see how she was able to get those great shots and to see if she would tell her story and connection to the Allman Brothers Band.
J: Let me start with where you grew up and how did you end up getting
into photography? What kind of equipment were you shooting with and
do you still have any of it?
K: This I find particularly hilarious and here’s why – I was born in Nagoya, Japan in 1950 and grew up in the Philadelphia area. I always had a passion for art and my brother sent me Asahi Pentax’s from Japan when he was there in the Navy.
I used those cameras until one was stolen backstage at a concert at Carnegie Hall and another backstage at the closing of the Fillmore East. Both were at Allman Brother’s gigs. I have a older Bell & Howell – now Canon and multiple lenses. I’ve dug it out of storage and need to get it cleaned and ready to go again. I have multiple lenses and now mainly do landscape and wildlife photos.
J: When did you get in touch with the ABB and do you recall how many of
their shows you may have covered?
K: I first met ABB when they did a concert at Bucks County Community College in Newtown, PA. That was October 25, 1970. Spirit was a no show as a band member got sick, so it was just ABB.
The concert rocked and the band had a 3 day layover in New Hope, PA. I got to meet the band as I was on the committee for the concert and we all just hung out for the 3 days. My friend hooked up with Gregg – I’m not telling about me, but we had a blast taking them around the area and having a great time.
After the concert in October of 1970 at Bucks Co. Community College, the band hung out for 3 days in the area. The next night, we were all together at the hotel having dinner – about 25 of us including band, roadies, assorted musicians and admirers. It got pretty raucous and later on, Duane decided he was going to do the magicians’ pull the tablecloth off the table and leave all the dinnerware in place trick. You can probably guess how that turned out.
It cemented some great friendships and the opportunity to continue to be invited to shows up until abound 1997 or so. Went to a LOT of shows between that first concert and the end of 1971.
My friend and I moved to Atlanta for a couple months, but I ended up moving back as my father got sick. Multiple trips to Macon to “hang out”. Crazy times.
J: The cameras you had stolen at the closing of the Fillmore and Carnegie Hall are obviously gone but did you get any photos from those shows from the cameras that you still had?
K:I only have a couple shots left. Only a couple that I can “prove”, anyway.
J: You mentioned to me that the negatives have been gone through over the
years by the band and roadies and I wondered how much do you still
have and what condition are they in?
K: I still have a few. About 175 have been digitized and shared with the Big House Museum, Mark Vormittag, and Sabrina Cristler for them to use to validate ownership and share. There are several “contact sheets” that I can use to digitize some more.
J: What kind of restorative process are you going through with them now
and are you planning on anything further with them? (I can tell you
that the ABB fan base would love to see you do something with them for
K: Well, I will blame you, but I need to find a good “restorer” to work with what I still have. I’m sure the quality can be improved and they will look much better.
J: I should probably also ask, how did everything come about with your
photographs and you finally being credited for your work? I mean that
the Skidmore photo has been out for a while and used for the Song of
the South dvd cover and is pretty famous photograph. I’m sure you know this from being in the group but getting the info right is so important and I’m glad that you were credited publically for your work.
K: That’s a good question. Those photos are 47 years old. I often thought the Skidmore photo was mine and finally found it on my contact sheets to prove it. All these years, nobody knew. So, I am working on getting some advice about all that. Who knew???? The photo of Duane at the Atlantic City gig is a pretty well used image too. I’m very happy to be recognized.
J: It was mentioned on the site that Duane traded you a couple shirts for a Jacket that he really liked and that Dixie gave it back to you after the wake. You must have been close with the group for her to give it back after he passed. Did you spend much time with them after Duane passed and then after Berry?
K: Yes, Duane was hilarious and probably one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I was at the Skidmore gig and woke up to Duane and Gregg in my room (still have no idea how they got in) playing Little Martha on acoustic guitars. Duane saw my jacket and really, really wanted it. Ran off to grab a couple Indian shirts and a t-shirt to trade. Sadly I have never seen a picture of him in it. Stayed at his and Dixie’s house during his funeral and she gave it back to me. I’m sending it to the Big House Museum to display.
J: Of course I have to ask if you still have those shirts as well? haha
K: Sadly, no. I wore them until they fell apart.
J: Did you attend the Painters Mill show and then stay in town during that time Duane passed?
K: The Painter’s Mill show was Oct 17 in Baltimore, MD. Hung out with the band that night and was home outside Philly the next evening.
J: Did you attend the wake or just stay at the house during that time to help Dixie? People don’t like to talk about Duane’s passing, and understandably so, but I was curious if it hit the entire community of Macon and or if they didn’t realize the weight of Duane’s and the ABB’s contributions.
K: I heard about Duane’s accident on Oct 29/30th and left for Macon on 10/31. Went to the Big House first and it was a zoo. Obviously everyone was horribly upset and “medicating” to take away the feeling of unbelievable loss. People were coming in from all over and trying to help each other with the pain. I stayed at Dixie’s with her on Oct 31 and Nov 1…. Duane’s wake was Nov 1. I headed back home on Nov 2nd.
The next show where I saw the band was at CW Post College on Long Island on Nov 22nd. I think it was their first gig since the funeral and everyone was still shocked, but making music – especially the music they played with Duane – which helped. Right after on Nov 25th was a Carnegie Hall (NYC) concert and Nov 26th at the Ritz Theatre on Staten Island. By then, everyone seemed to be accepting the fact that they would go on without him, but feeling his energy as they were on stage. He was gone…..but not gone. He was the angel in the wings.
J: I’m looking back at this 47 years later and I realize that they hadn’t quite taken off until Filmore East came out and after Duane was already gone. Obviously Greggs passing was different in that, while we didn’t all fully understand the gravity of his health, his health issues hinted that something serious could be wrong. With Duane it was so sudden and tragic while with Gregg, he’d built 50+ years of legacy that drew people from all over the world to Macon to pay their respects and say good bye.
K: Yes, it was the suddenness of Duane’s (and then, Berry’s) passing that hit so hard, just as they were reaching the pinnacle. I’m not sure if anyone ever fully recovered, but just carried on. It was like a light that went out in the music world. Besides, Duane and Berry were two of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. A little crazy, but never hurtful, never aloof, just regular guys. I totally treasure my experiences with them all.
The subject of any friend passing is a tough one to broach and especially one that affected so many with his gift of music. I greatly appreciate Kathy’s willingness to share her story and photographs with me. I will continue to check in with her to see how the restoration process is going and if she’s able to share any other new photos that the fans may have yet to see.