In 1971, Rod Stewart released an album called “Every Picture Tells a Story.” Fifty years later, as I prepare these “From the Crates” articles, I try to give you my picture of what segments of the entertainment world were like back in the ’70s and ’80s.

Backstage with the stars

I met the star of this article, photographer Rick Diamond, about 45 years ago.  We probably met backstage after a concert, or at a record label event such as a new album release party, a small private party with a star, or a major “throw down” with all of the rock-and-roll glamour and show business one could stand, for sure.  There were tons of backstage after-show parties with the artists.

Willie Nelson (L) and Rick Diamond
Willie Nelson and Rick Diamond (Photo courtesy of Rick Diamond)

Any radio station or record label that was hosting an event always needed a photographer.  I can honestly say that Rick Diamond is the best of the best.  He is not only known for his quality of work over the years, but for being a wonderful, amiable guy to be around. If anyone ever wanted to be a “name dropper” of the rock stars he’s been around or hung out with, Rick Diamond would shatter us all with the list of famous people he’s photographed.    

Rick started his career in 1970, while in the 10th grade. He photographed The Allman Brothers for a small newspaper and remembers he was paid $50.  He got his start with a couple of nice, 35-millimeter cameras that his father had won in a poker game while in the Army. 

Alex Cooley’s influence

Fast forward a few years into the 70s, and Rick moved to Atlanta.  Rick credits Atlanta concert promoter pioneer Alex Cooley for his successful break into the industry.  With Cooley’s Electric Ballroom, The Great Southeast Music Hall, and other hot and happening venues for live music in those days, Rick was working seven nights a week!

Rick guesses he photographed about 10,000 concerts in his career.  His number one rule: all access, or no photos. He always delivered. We’ve all seen those shots of musicians who sweat on themselves, the equipment, stage and fans as the players give their all on a song.  Rick was one of the guys who got those shots.

I’ve seen Rick at work numerous times over the years.  He’s a good, cool guy, always a pro. His personality and laid-back demeanor helped his career immensely. Major record labels began using you and when “big names” get used to having you around.  Rick still has the bond with major artists from those days that still exists today.  Most photographers never have this experience.

The Eagles & Irving Azoff

In the late 70’s after a three-night stint in the Omni, Rick and a record label exec were invited to join the band the Eagles following the final concert. They met them in an ambulance, which was a clever way to sneak away from a venue. The ambulance took them to one of the smaller airports in the area—Rick isn’t sure which one—and once there, they boarded the Eagles private plane and were “kidnapped” for a few days.

The first stop was in Birmingham, Ala. Bandleaders Don Henley and Glenn Frey were relaxed and cool with Rick being on the flight and were comfortable with him taking candid photos, Rick remembers.  They wound up in Cincinnati, Ohio. After that show, Rick was “allowed” to leave. 

An interesting side note about this show:  Rick remembers that the Eagles manager, Irving Azoff, would walk around a venue before a show to check it out.  In Cincinnati, he noticed groups of people pressed against the doors before showtime because they wanted to rush in to get the best seats at the general admission show.  Azoff sensed danger and announced that the Cincinnati show would be the Eagles’ final concert with general admission tickets. Not too much later, the Who played a sold-out, general admission show in Cincinnati and, while the band was doing a soundcheck, fans who had assembled early mistakenly thought the concert had started early and hundreds began to press their way in through the doors. Eleven people died of asphyxiation after being trampled. Scores of others had serious injuries.

More recently

Some other notable names Rick was close to in those days include Jon Bon Jovi, Michael Bolton, Mohammed Ali, Jacob Dylan of the Wallflowers, and more names I can “drop” on his behalf.  

With his industry connections, Rick was the photographer for the Grammy Awards for more than 20 years. He’s a well-known figure in Nashville after spending years photographing country artists. He’s photographed major sports figures, presidents and former presidents, actors, comedians, news anchors and other legends.

I had the privilege of looking through a few thousand of his photos, and I can’t count the number of times I said, “Oh wow!” If you’d like to view a few, you can do so on the Rick Diamond Photography Facebook Page.  

Retired in Atlanta

Rick retired in 2019. He lives in metro Atlanta. COVID-19 slowed his travel, like it did for the rest of us, but he’s anticipating laid-back road trips to see the country. Of course, he’ll take photographs. He may be retired, but he still lifts the camera when he wants to.

Every picture does tell a story.  What amazing stories Rick’s photos tell.

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Kelly McCoy

Kelly McCoy is a veteran broadcaster who worked for more than four decades at radio stations in the metro Atlanta market.