Henry Diltz, “the Rock ‘n Roll Photographer,” wowed us with part one of his conversation with our host, Cirina Catania. And the stories haven’t stopped! He continues speaking about his amazing life and the fascinating work he has done – looking through his lens to get a unique perspective of the life and times of some of the world’s most famous musicians.

He created photographic essays during Woodstock, covered The Monterey Pop Festival, The Doors, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Jimi Hendrix and scores of other legendary artists. These are hilarious stories you don’t want to miss!

Jimmy Hendrix photographed by Henry Diltz at Woodstock in 1969 playing the Star Spangled Banner

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For more about our host, filmmaker, tech maven and co-founder of the Sundance Film Festival, Cirina Catania, visit cirinacatania.com.

If you enjoy our podcast, please subscribe and tell all your friends about us! We love our listeners. And, if you have ideas for segments, write to OWCRadio@catania.us. Cirina is always up for new ideas!

In This Episode

  • 00:49 – Henry reminisces how he took the picture of James Taylor sitting on the running board of a truck.
  • 04:39 – Henry shares how The Doors’ album cover for The Morrison Hotel came about.
  • 09:09 – Cirina and Henry talk about astrology signs, Chinese animals, and life path numbers.
  • 12:13 – Henry talks about Bruce Springsteen and how he took a picture of him.
  • 13:59 – Henry shares his experiences as a photographer and musician during Woodstock in 1969.
  • 24:01 – Henry talks about his transition from an analog camera to a digital camera.
  • 30:34 – Henry explains how the universe made a path to where he lives a happy life.
  • 33:21 – Cirina asks Henry what are his plans for the future and what are the things that he hasn’t done yet.
  • 40:10 – Cirina and Henry encourage listeners to check out Morrison Hotel Gallery’s website to find his and other photographers’ pictures.

Jump to Links and Resources


In part one of my interview with Henry Diltz, the rock and roll photographer, he told us stories that some people are telling me they have to listen to the episode two or three times. In part two, we continue some of these fascinating stories and I start out by asking him about one of my favorite pictures of his—young James Taylor sitting on the running board of the vintage truck. Stand by. This is going to be fun.

It’s time for OWC Radio. Tech talk with creatives, conversations with hosts Cirina Catania.

I have another favorite picture and it’s James Taylor sitting on the running board of the truck.


Remember that one?

I do. Often these pictures, I say, many of them start with a phone call in my kitchen in Laurel Canyon where I had a little office in the corner. The phone rang and it was Peter Asher, a guy I knew in the music business. He said, “Henry, I’ve got this young songwriter here from England, and we need publicity photos. Could you come over and take some publicity photos?” “Sure,” I said. “That’s no big deal.”

Publicity photos meant black and white. This was ’69. You couldn’t really use color in newspaper ads and stuff. I knew that meant black and white. I went to Peter’s house in Hollywood, knocked on the door, walked in, and he said, “James is in the living room.”

I walked in and there was this guy on the other side of the room sitting with his back to a big window under the piano. He was behind the piano with his back through the window playing the guitar and he was fingerpicking ‘Oh! Susanna’ like a music box like I’d never heard. I’ll use the word ‘mesmerized’ again because I was. I went over and got down on my knees listening, just blown away. I said, “Could you play that again?” I think it’s the first thing I said to him. I took pictures of him sitting right there playing the guitar.

Then I said. “We should go out somewhere in God’s light where we can get some good shots.” Once again, I went to Cyrus Faryar’s house, my old friend from the Greensleeves Coffee House, the MSQ, and all that. He lived in a commune called The Farm. It was like a musical commune, a lot of musicians lived there. We went over there and there were little barns, sheds, and things, it made a nice wooden backdrop. We weren’t really talking very much. He was a quiet guy.

I didn’t realize until later he used heroin a bit. He dabbled on the dark side. He’s a big tall guy, and at one point there was a big post just about as tall as I was. He walked over to it and he leaned on it like this with his arms in front of him, crossed arms. I looked through my camera and it just filled that rectangular space so perfectly. It was the most beautiful serene picture. I thought to myself, I’ve got to get a color shot of this to show in my slide shows because I’m always thinking about what I want to show on the weekend.

I said, “Just stand there a minute, James,” and I reached down and got another camera, which had color film in it, not the black and white that was my assignment and took a few color shots. That became the cover of Sweet Baby James. Accidentally, Peter Asher saw it and showed it to the art director. That was one album I didn’t do with Gary Burton with just Warner Brothers Records. That became an accidental album cover. When that was done, we walked back out to the little driveway parking lot and there was an old truck, the old farm truck was sitting there with a running board.

We all gathered around just talking and James was sitting on the running board. Peter was there at one point. He’s sitting on the running board, and once again, I’m just taking pictures. The photo session was over, but it’s never over for me. It’s the pictures you take before the photo session or after the photo session. 

We did his little post publicity shots. They needed some headshots of him looking at the camera and looking cool. We got all those playing the guitar. Then we were just talking as friends and as other people were talking, I’m very quietly taking pictures. People won’t even notice. That’s the tiger in the bushes part.

You shot a lot of album covers. Obviously, everybody always asks you about The Doors, The Morrison Hotel. We have heard the story, but it’s such a classic story and there are some people listening who haven’t heard it. Can you tell us how that photo came about if you don’t mind?

Luckily, all these album covers have a story because if I were a studio photographer, I would say, “Come to my studio at 2 PM, stand in front of that great paper,” I’ll set up the flash and “Okay boys, smile.” This is December of ’69. We’ve done a Crosby, Stills & Nash album cover sitting on the old couch. 

The Doors called us and said, “We want you guys to do our album cover.” We went for a meeting at their little office clubhouse. We said, “Okay great. Have you got a title?” “No, we don’t have a title.” “Well, what do you want on the cover? Do you have an idea of what you want? What kind of photo?” “No, we don’t have any ideas.” 

We’re going, “Okay, so we’re going to start from scratch.” Gary’s thinking. Ray Manzarek, the keyboard player, speaks up at that point randomly. My wife, Dorothy, and I were driving through downtown LA the other day and we saw this old funky hotel. It said “Morrison Hotel” on the window. We went wow, we all perked up, that sounds amazing. We jumped right in their Volkswagen van and drove down there that afternoon.

Use your eyes and photograph whatever you see. Click To Tweet

There it was, a beautiful, huge window with red lettering Morrison Hotel in like a rainbow across the top. We said, “That is great. We got to take pictures here.” We went back a few days later with the group. The four of them and Gary and I, six of us, and we walked in the lobby. The lobby was totally empty. The Morrison Hotel was a flophouse. It was a transient hotel. It was where winos went to sleep it off and then go drink somewhere that evening. It said in the window, “Rooms, $2.50 and up.” That means $2.50 up to rent a cot for a few hours.

We walked in there and walked in the lobby. There was only one guy there, a young guy behind the desk. I said we’re just going to be over there taking some photos. He said no. “No, you can’t.” He got very animated. “You can’t take any pictures without the…” I said, “Why not?” “The owner, you got to get his permission. You cannot do anything like that.” Finally, I said, “So where is the owner?” “He’s not here. He doesn’t allow anybody.” The guy was really adamant. I said to my friends—the group and Gary— ”That guy says we can’t shoot in here.”

I said, “Let’s go outside. We can stand on the sidewalk, in front of that window.” They couldn’t stop us on the sidewalk, so we did. We walked out and as they were going to stand in front of that window, I noticed back through the window, in the back of the lobby a big light had gone on. I could see it under the lettering. I looked through the window and said, “That’s the elevator light. Look, that desk is empty. The guy left the desk and went up in the elevator. Quick, run in there, you guys.”

They did. They ran in and they hit those spots. Nobody said, “Okay, a little to the left. Jim, you get the middle.” No, the four of them sitting on the chairs that were there in the window. It was so symmetrical and perfect. I started clicking away up close, getting just them behind the glass, and from the side seeing the lettering go down the window. 

Gary Burton said one of the things that he always said to me, “Back up, back up. Get the whole thing.” We were a really good creative team. I got to use my eye and photograph whatever I saw. But he made that happen. He made the moment happen by getting people to the place. Then he would always say, “Just shoot everything that happens. Film is the cheapest part.” 

Exactly, that’s what I did anyway. I just saw everything I looked at, I wanted to take a picture of it. I photographed everything. He didn’t even need to say that. But he didn’t need to say, “Back up, back up. Get the whole window.” Same with Crosby, Stills & Nash and the couch. I was up close to them. “Back up, get the whole house,” he would say.

He was my teacher. We took that picture. One roll of film, it took five minutes and they ran out of there. The guy didn’t even know it. We’re out on the sidewalk next to the Volkswagen van in downtown LA and Jim says, “Let’s go get a drink.” Probably the only thing he said all day. He didn’t talk much. He was a poet. He was being mused. He liked to listen. He liked to watch people, nod his head, and wink his eye. He was kind of standoffish. I don’t know what his Chinese animal is. I got to look that up.

That would be interesting.

You get the astrology sign, the Chinese animal and the numerical, your life path number, what do they call that, cross-section a person. You can get an idea of the area of where their attention probably is.

I should look up my number 22.

Is your number 22?


Are you kidding me?


Well, you get your number by adding up all the digits of your birthday. You add them up until you get one number. But if that one number is an 11 at some point, you add them up and you get an 11 which becomes a two or you get a 22 which becomes a four, those are master numbers. If you have 11 or 22, those are master numbers. They’ll say that there’s a possibility that you could become an amazing person. You have a gift.

I’m working on it really hard.

Yes. You have the potential of being amazing. They say sometimes, it’s a little hard for some people because they know that they could do anything. If they don’t quite know how to do it, they can do anything. That scares them, makes them apprehensive of which way they should go because it’s all a possibility. But a 22 is very rare. I’ve read where they say it’s sort of Jesus-like. If you have a 22, you’re very, very lucky, very blessed. It’s a wonderful number.

When a photo session is over, it’s never over. It’s all about the pictures you take before the photo session or after the photo session.

I am blessed. Life is good to me.

Life is good.

It’s not done yet.

I have a friend, a musician. He named this publishing company How Lucky Are We.


For 20 years now, I’ve been saying how lucky are we?

My dad always used to say, who’s got it better than us?

There you go. When I used to go to visit my spiritual teacher, Betty Walton, before she walked into the next room, I would knock on the door. Once a week, we have an hour-and-a-half session. She was psychic and very spiritual and my teacher. She would open the door—a little white-haired lady, with a little white poodle. She’d say, “Hi, how are you?” Sometimes, I would say for instance. “I’m fine, Betty, but my car broke down and my girlfriend ran away. I can’t pay the rent.” She would look at me and smile and say, “Isn’t it great?”

No matter what you said, she would say, “Isn’t it great?” I swear, after 100 times of that, everything is great. What she was implying was isn’t it great that we’re alive and we have feelings? We can go through all of this BS. Life is great. Between how lucky are we and isn’t it great.

That’s wonderful.

It’s wonderful to keep those things in mind.

I’m looking at this list of everybody you’ve shot. I don’t even know who to ask you about. But there’s somebody that’s been in the news a lot lately who has been around for a long time, and that’s Bruce Springsteen. You’ve shot Bruce, right?

A little bit. Bruce was an east coast guy, of course, living in New Jersey. I was pretty much a west coast guy. I didn’t do San Francisco. Jim Marshall was the photographer up there who photographed The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Santana, all that. I was the Southern California guy of Laurel Canyon doing CSN, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Mama Cass, and those people, that school of music. 

Bruce, one time I went to San Francisco to a Columbia Record convention. The lighting guy Chip Monck, who was the lighting guy at Woodstock, Monterey Pop, and a dear friend of mine, wanted me to come up and photograph his lighting rig and document setting up. It took him a couple of days to set up this banquet room with lights and he built the stage for the record company that had a convention and had all their acts play. Kris Kristofferson, I can’t think of all the groups that were on that record label, a number of them, and this young guy, Bruce Springsteen.

I wasn’t really hired to shoot the music, but I was up on the balcony with the lighting crew looking down. I hadn’t heard of this guy. After these wonderful musicians have played, this guy came out wearing a little wife-beater t-shirt and big sunglasses, and a scruffy beard. I thought, I better take a few pictures and document it. I wasn’t really interested. He sang great, but who is he trying to be? I took about six pictures on a proof sheet roll. Then he became Bruce Springsteen.

That’s amazing.

I could’ve shot four rolls, but I didn’t. I shot six frames. Of course, I’ve photographed them in various concerts here and there. My dear friend, Danny Clinch is really his photographer, back on the east coast.

Live life to the fullest and start as soon as you can. You are blessed. Life is good to you. Click To Tweet

Talk about Woodstock.

Woodstock started with a phone call in my kitchen in Laurel Canyon. It was the aforementioned “Chip Monck.” The name was Edward Beresford Monck. People called him Chip. Chip called me and I knew him from folk days from lighting tours and things. He was a lighting guy, the best one around. He said, “Henry, I’m calling from New York. We’re going to have a huge concert out here in a few weeks. You should come out here. You should be here.”

I said, “Chip, I’ve heard there was going to be a big concert there, but I don’t know those people. I don’t know how to get a photo pass.” He said, “I’ll talk to the producer.” The next day, Michael Lang called me and said, “Chip says we need you. I’m sending you $500 and a plane ticket,” and that was it. 

I flew out there three weeks before the concert. They were just building the new stage there at the Oscars Farm at the bottom of this big green hillside of alfalfa. I spent a good part of three weeks walking around, photographing the building of the stage and the office, people on telephones, and all hippie carpenters hammering and sawing. In the afternoon, the girls from the office would come over with drinks and food, lunch. It was just like summer camp, Upstate New York, summer camp. 

I was having a great time and my job was just to wander around and observe everybody. The Hog Farm arrived from New Mexico a week before. They were setting up tents and things in the woods and setting up kitchens, building yurts out of just 2x4s and plastic and cloth, setting up teepees. It was so much to photograph. 

Every afternoon, Michael Lang would come over to the stage, he’d either be riding a horse or riding a motorcycle. One day he came driving a bulldozer. I photographed him and walked around with him and whoever he would talk to, Chip Monck or Bill Hanley, the sound guy. It was all very busy. Everybody’s busy building and getting ready. 

One day, I saw about 10 people sitting up at the top of the hill of that big alfalfa hill blowing in the breeze. The stage was like a wooden deck of an aircraft carrier. Then you had this green alfalfa blowing in the wind. It was so beautiful. It was a group of people sitting up there. I said, “What are those people doing out here in the country sitting there on the hillside?” I said, “Oh yeah, that’s right. I forgot. It’s going to be a concert because it was summer camp.”

Then the next day, there were thousands of people. The next day, there were hundreds of thousands of people. I could no longer drive my rented station wagon a mile down the back road to my boarding house. The little country roads were filled with cars parked on each side of the road, so there wasn’t room for a car in the middle. The middle was full of throngs of people walking towards the venue, the field, the big alfalfa field. 

Then by Friday, you’d stand on stage and it was just people. You couldn’t see the green alfalfa anymore, just a sea of faces. As far as the crest of the hill and all the way to the left and all the way to the right, just people. A sea of people.

Somebody, Saturday morning brought a copy of The New York Times and had an aerial photograph showing the little square in the middle where we were standing on the stage. We learned that all the roads were closed and no cars could drive. Wow, we said. We were in the center of the eye of the hurricane. 

I really spent most of my time on stage because, at that point, my assignment was to capture all that music in photos. I did walk out a little bit. I went to the Hog Farm a few times where I had friends. I wanted to see what they were doing. At one point late in the afternoon, I walked over there. I missed a few groups when they played. I missed Santana. I missed the Grateful Dead. But they were a Northern California group. I didn’t know them. 

I went to the Hog Farm and I was walking back. It was dark. I was way in the back of the crowd and I could hear Chip Monck’s voice on stage. He became the voice of Woodstock. They’ve forgotten to hire an emcee. At the last minute, Michael Lang said, “Chip, you get out there.” He had a beautiful voice like a DJ, “Ladies and gentleman, Crosby, Stills & Nash.” I went, “That’s my friend.” I just did their album cover a month before. A couple of months before I’ve done their first album cover on the couch. I thought I’ve got to get through 400,000 people.

Look at everything around you and take a picture of it.

We didn’t know how many people. It was a huge crowd. I got down. I walked through and around. I got down there. I missed the first couple of numbers because those were my friends that I knew so well. That was Woodstock. Then Jimi Hendrix was supposed to close the show on Sunday night. But everything was so backed up that he didn’t go on until dawn Monday morning. We were all kind of a little groggy. I caught a few hours’ sleep here and there in the back of my station wagon.

In fact, that morning, I woke up to hear Chip’s voice over the loudspeaker because they’ve been quiet for a while. People are kind of sleeping in the field. They were setting the stage up. He said, “Ladies and gentlemen, Jimi Hendrix.” I jumped out, grabbed my cameras, and ran up. I had, of course, the big all-access pass, ran up on stage, and stood behind an amplifier right next to Jimi Hendrix. I was 20feet away looking at him from the side of the stage. When they walked out, the Band of Gypsys. They all had these colorful bandannas. Wow, it was just mesmerizing before they played a note.

Then, of course, they played and I had seen Jimi at Monterey Pop a couple of years before. I’ve seen him at The Hollywood Bowl. His music was so amazing. Then the surprising thing was when all the other musicians stopped playing and he played the Star-Spangled Banner. Just a solo on the guitar. It echoed against the hillside and came back. He started putting in all the guns and airplanes and really made it the war song that it was. 

Later thinking about that, Francis Scott Key wrote that song overlooking Francis Scott Key as the British bombarded it from the sea, from their ships cannonballs, flares, and things in the air. He really brought it to life. I’ve said this before every time because we were all peace and love hippies all against the war. We hated the idea of being drafted and sent to a foreign country to shoot somebody we didn’t know. That was not peace, love, and world brotherhood. We were very much against the government and that sounded like the official song. 

Wait a minute, why is he playing that song? That’s their song. No, but wait, that’s our song. He’s reclaiming that for us. I choked up. It was an amazing feeling. It was an encampment of peace and love hippies. Everybody is smoking God’s herb, enjoying the music, living the life of brotherhood, helping each other out, sharing. 

There were no fights. There were no bad incidents. Everyone had a great time, which is the way Michael Lang envisioned it. Three days of peace and music, I think, or peace, love, and music. That’s what it was. Everyone on the lawn, listening to the greatest act of our time. It was such great, great music. Joe Cocker, it was so great to see him. We’d all heard of him writhing around, moving, and singing with the music and feeling the music in his body. That was so great.

Then Richie Havens was so amazing. He started the show that Friday afternoon when there were what turned out to be 450,000 people sitting there waiting. He walks out there and starts just singing. They said, “Go back, sing more.” The next act hadn’t arrived. They had to come in by helicopter because all the roads were closed. They said, “Go back out there Richie. Sing some more.” He sang every song he knew. He was something else. He has started singing Freedom, and he made up that amazing song right on the spot. Those were great moments. I was right there onstage photographing all of that.

That is the fly-on-the-wall. Sometimes, I think of myself as the little boy climbing under the circus tent. You climb under that circus tent, you get in for free, and you just get to watch everybody do their amazing thing. I love that. When I think of the path of my life, I am so glad that I picked up musical instruments—my mother played the piano. I took piano lessons when I was little. But I could play by ear, so when the piano teacher would show me what the note said, I would just play what she played. I didn’t read the notes.

I had music come inside me, and I’m so glad that I learned to play, become a musician, and join a group. Essentially, a choral group, which I’d sung at all my life, but with just four people. Instead of 20 people singing bass, 20 people singing alto, 20 people singing soprano or tenor, it was just one of us for each of those sections. That was a quartet. You get together with your friends and you sing these beautiful notes. 

If you sing your part alone, it makes no sense at all. It’s a crazy melody. When you put them all together it makes this very lush, chordal harmony that you can only do when you’re standing there with your dear friends. You have one key of the four keys to open up that door.

You’re still at it. You still perform as a musician. You still, from what you’ve told me, walk around. You always have this little camera with you, right?

I have a little pocket Canon. I started out on Nikons and then in 2005 when digital photography was starting in the 2000s. I always say, “No. I am a film guy. I wanted slides. I wanted transparencies for slideshows.” Then I shot a black and white lot because people needed black and white, but I didn’t care about it because really, I wanted to slide for a slideshow. When digital started I said, “I’ll never go digital. I’m a film guy for 40 years,” 45 years at that point.

Then one day, I picked up a friend’s Canon with a great big telephoto lens and I looked through it. I said, “Oh my God, this is focusing itself.” It sets the reading itself. I always had a little spot meter that I had to carry around and take a reading on someone’s face to see how to set those numbers on the camera so that it would look right. But these cameras, you don’t have to do any of that. You just aim it, and it takes a reading, it sets itself. It’s perfect, it’s right on, and you just push the button.

That was a magic machine to me. I started going digital. Now, I have 40 years of slides and negatives and 20 years of digital chips on the computer. We have to go back to the slides and the negatives and scan them to put them on the computer now, but digital photography is great. One of the greatest things is when you shoot transparencies and you’re working for somebody, they want the transparencies. Those are the pictures. There are no negatives. It’s just that slide.

If it’s a record cover and the record company needs to see a bunch of your transparencies, often you never get them back again. You’d forget, they lose them, or whatever. Especially, people who work for other companies lose all their pictures that way. Well with digital, you keep all the pictures and you give them all away. Every digital picture I’ve ever taken I have, even though all the clients who wanted the pictures got them. 

OWC is helping you scan your slides, right?

Yes, exactly. I think I’ve taken probably about a million photos approaching when I just started counting, and it’s got to be 300,000 digital photos maybe, something like that. I sometimes take a hundred a day just out fooling around looking at stuff. There were all these slides. They weren’t all digitized and there are no copies of them anywhere. My friend, who works with Larry at OWC said, “Henry, do you have copies of all these somewhere? Are these all safe somewhere?” I said, “No, that’s it. They’re just there on the wall.”

“Oh my God,” he said, “These need to be scanned to protect them to save them.” Then he talked to his friend, Larry, and said “Let’s do that.” Let’s get the equipment and save that guy’s archive. That is absolutely amazing. They did, they scanned every single picture that I took of musicians. That’s half the pictures I have. Half the pictures I have are music and people making music, that whole side of life.

The other half are the pictures of my coffee cup, my children, flowers, old trucks, fire hydrants, t-shirts, tattoos, graffiti, and just different things that I look for to photograph. If I see a good Mickey Mouse somewhere—I remember the first time I saw a Mexican kid have a soccer ball with Mickey Mouse on it and I took a close-up of it, a big round soccer ball in the middle of that rectangle had Mickey Mouse on it. Then I was in somebody’s garage and they had a sticker and it was Mickey Mouse giving the finger that said, “Hey, Iran.”–t was during the day of the Iran hostage crisis. “Up yours, Iran.” I said, oh my God, there’s another Mickey Mouse.

Now in my slideshow, I could show one Mickey Mouse, and then I could show another Mickey Mouse. Then when I got five Mickey Mouse, that started because when I photographed my friends all week long to show them pictures of them on the weekend. 

It’s like in the process of doing that week after week, month after month, you get half a dozen pictures of friends, maybe reading a book. Cyrus was always reading a book, and I took many pictures of him laying on the couch with a book. Here’s another friend, Jennifer. She’s reading a magazine. Okay. It was a way of editing my slideshow. I’d have four or five pictures of people reading. It’s the reading series. 

Then it was sleeping. Cyrus, again, is into this time and again, he was always taking a nap. He would be taking a nap, I would take a picture, and then I got other people sleeping, taking a nap. It was the napping series and then eating. I remember we went to Disneyland, somebody was about to take a big bite out of a hotdog with their mouth wide open. I went click, they didn’t even know it. Then I had the eating series, people with a fork up in the air and their mouth open. It was funny.

Then I think the next series was the toilet series because when I was on the road with The Lovin’ Spoonful in ‘66, Zal Yanovsky, the lead guitarist, was very animated and full of energy. He came bopping into my motel room and squirted lighter fluid on the mirror in the motel room and threw a match on it. It went zoom and just burnt the lighter fluid off the mirror and it was out. Then he went into the bathroom and squirted lighter fluid in the toilet and threw a match in it. I grabbed my camera, we flushed the toilet, and the flame shut up out of the toilet. I had a picture of the flaming toilet.

And then a little while later, I was invited by Whiskey a Go Go to do slideshows while the act was singing on stage. It would be a screen on either side of the stage and two protectors just showing random pictures. The Doors were on stage singing Light My Fire and by golly, that flaming toilet came upright on the screen next to Jim. I couldn’t believe it. I took a picture of it.

You have them performing and then your picture on, that’s awesome.

Yeah, but it was one of the first years that I was really photographing. Like I said, I don’t use lights. I didn’t start off photographing people in clubs and concerts really. It took a while to get to that. My camera couldn’t really do that very well. I was up on the balcony, but I did get a shot. You can see the flaming toilet and you can see Jim a little bit blurry and the door is on the stage.

Do you feel like it’s been your life that you’ve been in the right place at the right time with the right people and you’ve led a happy life? 

Well, some kind of right I suppose, it was my path anyway. Whatever my path was, I was photographing to the left and the right as I trod along the paths. These days, the universe has something to do with it. The universe figures this out. By saying that, you might mean that, hey, there’s karma involved, there are angels and spirit guides involved. I say, what a total accident. I walked into that second-hand store that morning and Cyrus said, “A camera, I’ll have one,” and I said, “Me too.” I wasn’t thinking about taking photographs in any way. I never thought about it, but I was interested in colors, and that’s from smoking God’s herb. 

Colors became alive to me. I even had colored pens. Sometimes in a little notebook, I would draw colors of things to get two colors together, red and yellow. I’d see someone with the red skirt and a yellow sweater and I’d say wow, that really makes my eyes do something. I’m going to draw that. Then when I got the camera, I could just push the button and grab that, snag that, grab any vision that interested me and much of it did. 

It was the framing of things. And then when you introduce the music part, the people, that’s another whole other element. It’s people and you’re framing the people but then you wait for that moment. When you’re photographing a fire hydrant, which I also have a huge series of, every city in the country has a different color. In LA, they’re all yellow. In San Francisco, they always were white with a light blue top, very pretty. In New York, they’re black and silver. 

Red, you think of a red fire hydrant, you don’t even see many red fire hydrants. But when I traveled around the country, especially with The Lovin’ Spoonful, every city we went to I would see a different color of a fire hydrant. I have hundreds of fire hydrants. That’s my fire hydrants series. I would show that to my friends and then the tattoo series. Back in the ‘60s, people would have a little tiny smiley face on their knee or something. I’d say, let me take a picture of that. 

Nowadays, my own son is a bass player and he’s covered with tattoos. Now it’s that way, then before it was like, what a sweet little tattoo on your arm. Do you mind if I take a picture? The same thing with t-shirts, there are so many beautiful t-shirts, but you can’t own them all, but I could take a picture of all of them. I own a huge collection of literally hundreds and hundreds of t-shirts, and of course, each one has a person in it doing something. That’s interesting. That becomes a series. I want to make books of all of these little series of things.

You really should. What’s next for you? What is something you haven’t done that you want to do?

I got to tell you, as you proceed along in a profession of photography, eventually, you get an archive. People said, “Henry, after 20 years or 30 years, you must have quite an archive.” Once again, I would say, “Archive, that sounds professional. I don’t think so. I got boxes of negatives, but I don’t know about this archive thing.” But sure enough in the 2000s, it turned out that I had a visual history of all that music. It was an archive. Friends of mine got together and said, “We should open up a little gallery and put your pictures on the wall.” 

We did that. We did little pop-ups for a year across the country in 2000, and then we opened up a little place in SoHo on the street with a window. We rented this place by the month. One day I was looking out the window with my partner, Peter Blachley. I said, “Look, Peter. We had a huge blow-up of the Morrison Hotel album cover in the window.” People would walk by in SoHo and stop and look at it. They’d walk by and glance and stop. Go back and look at it, and then they’d walk in the shop. It was like a magnet. 

I said, “Peter, look at that. But look at our window, it’s blank. We got no name on our window. Look at that wonderful lettering in that photo at the bottom of the window. Our window was completely empty.” He said, “I’m going to get a painter and we’re going to paint Morrison Hotel on our window, just to mirror that big photo.” It was a pure accident in that picture. We didn’t think, “Hey, let’s call our gallery…” but that happened of course. When we put that lettering on the window, it was then automatically the Morrison Hotel Gallery.

Whatever your path is, the universe has something to do with it. Click To Tweet

For a couple of years, it was only my pictures on the walls and then Peter said, “You know Henry, we should have a second photographer. Who of all your peers in the photo world would you like to have showing his pictures next to yours?” I said, “Jim Marshall,” because Jim Marshall was by then my friend. I’ve met him at Woodstock, Monterey Pop, and different places. He was the Northern California photographer. We put him in there and we had an opening on a weekend when it was the New York Photo Show. 

There were scads, hundreds of photographers in New York. We had a huge opening with 25 music photographers there. We took photos, hung out, and had a wonderful time. Then we added another. We had Bob Gruen in New York. We added Neal Preston in LA, Danny Clinch, and then Lynn Goldsmith. One by one, we had then English photographers. 

Nowadays, we have 135 photographers that we represent in the Morrison Hotel Gallery. We have one in New York in SoHo. We have one in LA at the Sunset Marquis Hotel, and one in Maui at Mick Fleetwood’s nightclub there on the ground floor, we have a photo gallery. It’s great. People want to see their heroes on the wall. 

I had a friend years ago buy a huge blow-up of Jerry Garcia for me, and he put it right above his mantle in his house in Laurel Canyon. He said, “You know Henry, every day when I get home from work, I open the front door, and that’s the first thing I see and it just puts me back.” It makes me feel so good. That’s what people want to put their musical heroes on the wall because music is such a huge part of our life. You think, what percentage, 50% of your life?

I had a lady say, “It’s 100% of my life because there’s music everywhere I go. Everything I do, I’m always listening to music. It’s the soundtrack of our lives, and of course, the songs we loved growing up put you right back there.” The love songs that have meaning in your life and all. Then you get these musicians playing this beautiful music. I’ve gone with Pete Seeger And The Weavers, then the Crimson Trio, then Crosby, Stills & Nash, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor. What amazing, mesmerizing music, Sweet Baby James. It’s like an anthem.

To me, I sang both of my little children to sleep singing Sweet Baby James. Desperado, oh my God, what a song, what an anthem. You hear Don Henley sing it and it’s just so beautiful. Then you hear Linda Ronstadt sing it and it brings tears to my eyes thinking about it, it really does. This music is such a huge part of our lives, and it’s such a huge part of my life too. I’m so happy. I guess it wasn’t an accident that I drifted into something that would put me there with that music. 

I went to college, I went to West Point, I went to college again singing at Coffeehouse, became a folk singer, became a photographer. I never had to get up early in the morning and go to a job. That was a lucky break. Is that karmic? I don’t know. I was born in America, what a wonderful thing that is. How lucky are we, right? Isn’t it great? We could be born in a place where we’re going to get terrorized, ransacked, and our children killed, and why is that? Karma.

It’s karma. We’ve all lived hundreds of lives. We’ve all been killed hundreds of times, but here we are in this lifetime in the Aquarian Age where we’re supposed to start thinking higher, thinking about higher vibration or higher frequency and by golly, I think we are. We just had a big storm in our country. It’s like the storm before the calm. We are going to be setting out in this Aquarian Age, learning new things, and it is going to be peace and love. We’re going to learn what it means to be a human being? 

It means we’re all a part of the same thing. We’re all a part of the same family. We’re all a little spark of the divine and we need to merge and feel that way about each other instead of having all this hate, war, and ugliness. We don’t want that. I think it’s going to change. It is going to change because it’s the Aquarian Age.

I think so too and I think you are an amazing gift to all of us. I’m so happy that I got to meet you and you still have a lot ahead of you. You’re not done yet.

I don’t mind. It’s all an adventure, and by the way, the adventure does continue. When I walk into the next room, I’m asking to stay. I mean, maybe 2, another 10 or 20 years would be good. They say we will be looking at 120 years of life pretty soon with all the stuff we’re learning about health. I take 25 vitamins and supplements every morning. I’m taking enzymes, amino acids, CoQ10, and Omega. I’m taking all of that stuff. Vitamin A, B, C, D, E.

You certainly have a lot of energy. Tell people where to go to learn more about you. You have henrydiltzphotography.com.

No. If you go there, it just leads you to the morrisonhotelgallery.com. That’s really where all my pictures are, morrisonhotelgallery.com, and you can see all of our 135 photographers’ pictures. You can put my name in, anybody’s name—Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, you’ll see pictures of them. 

I’m doing books. You said what now? What do I do now? Well, I was going to say after 55 years, let’s say 66—55 years I think something like that. It becomes books, galleries, and museums. I still take pictures. People ask me to. It’s mostly young people who need pictures. I’m not going on the road with David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen. It’s a young actor, a young musician. “Now, we got this group. Would you take a group shot of us?” They’re the ones who need them. That’s what I did in the ‘60s too. 

All those people I’ve photographed weren’t really world-famous when I photographed them. I’d say I photographed all my musician friends in Laurel Canyon, and one by one they became famous. How lucky for me?

Woodstock was three days of peace, love, and music.

I want to do books, I want to do galleries, I want to travel, and I want to see people. I want to just keep doing what I’m doing, only just more. Like I said, life is a chapter. I like to think of a couple of more chapters. I can take up five or six places I wouldn’t mind moving to and living, and maybe five or six ladies I’d like to marry. It’s an open book. Van Dyke Parks used to say this to me way back in the ‘60s. He’d say, “Henry, the world is our oyster. We just have to find the right sauce.” 

That’s it, I think. Lead a good life, meet people, realize that friends, our second chakra, are you and other people. They always say that’s bankers and sex. You need other people. It’s you and all the other people that are just like you. Their bodies are made up of these living cells. While they’re all alive and functioning really well and you eat to satisfy them, you take this menu of supplements to make your little cells, mitochondria, the little motors in each cell to make them happy and make them work really well.

Then you can enjoy good health and a good life. You have to pay attention to that and then you can walk around and your body a little bit longer. Then you drop your body, go into the next room, and start something even more amazing than life on earth. We’re down here physically learning about physical things, making choices, doing things, and reacting to each other. On the other side, we’ve gotten glimpses, we’ve all been there. We don’t really remember, but we’ve gotten glimpses of what it’s like. We know that it’s something to look forward to. 

Well, if you come to San Diego, we have to have a slideshow here. 

We’re going to do a west coast tour. I did a couple of tours with Pattie Boyd who was married to George Harrison and then with Mick Rock who shot a lot of English musicians and David Bowie. I did a slideshow with another musician. I do one hour and then the other person does the other. We have to do a west coast tour. Soon if we can. The big booking companies aren’t really booking until 2022. That’s when we know it will be open, knock on wood. 

Well, in the meantime, you can get everything done with the scanning, archiving, and you have Gary helping you over there, right?

Yeah. Gary is my scanning machine.

I’m looking forward to it all.

I think we’re there on the light together. Paramahansa Yogananda in his book, Autobiography of a Yogi, says that, when you meet a new person and you’re instantly drawn to them and you feel like you really know them, that’s somebody from a past life. Then I think, well, okay, I know a lot of people like that, but what about the guy in the corner store? What about the mailman? What about the FedEx guy who just comes and drops a box, maybe you knew him too.

Those were all our angels.

Maybe we all knew each other. 

It’s all great. It’s all good. Thank you for taking the time, Henry. It’s wonderful to get to know you and I know that you’re going to be very inspiring to a lot of people listening. We have to stay in touch. I’m going to be talking with Larry O’Connor, and the folks at OWC about what they’re doing with all your scanning because I’m fascinated with that workflow, keeping track of this huge library. We’ll do another interview with them about all of that. Please stay in touch and let us know when you start your tour.

Yeah. Let’s stay in touch. Let’s talk every month and make sure we know what’s going on. Call me anytime, text me, email me, or whatever. 

I will and you do the same. Take care. 

Okay, see you later. Thank you.



  1. Don’t be afraid to transition from an analog camera to a digital camera. Using digital cameras has a lot of advantages, especially in keeping copies of your pictures and sending copies to your clients.
  2. Take a photograph of everything around you. These captured moments will heighten your awareness of the good things in your life.
  3. Always be grateful. No matter what circumstances you face, keep in mind that you are blessed and life is good to you.
  4. Let the universe lead you to your path. There are angels and spirit guides that will help you uncover the destiny that the universe has in store for you.
  5. Delve into what it means to be a human being. All human beings are part of the same thing. Instead of having all this hate, war, and ugliness, everyone should love, comfort, and encourage one another like a family.
  6. Pay attention to your health. Having good health will lead to a good life.
  7. Meet people and make friends. As the saying goes, “No man is an island,” you need to be part of a community in order to thrive.
  8. Check out Morrison Hotel Gallery’s website to find Henry Diltz and other photographers’ pictures.

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