The first time Bob Gruen received a photo pass was in July 1965, for the Newport Folk Festival.
He took pictures of Donovan and Joan Baez, but not of Buffy Sainte-Marie. He saw her singing backstage, and since Bob knew the words, he mouthed them. Buffy then invited her admirer to join in, but he was too awestruck to do so, or even to get a photo.
In 1971, Gruen faced a different sort of problem. He wondered how to photograph someone sitting at the piano. Fortunately, his subject--the former Reg Dwight--moved about and interacted with his audience.
Another time, a piano player showed up on the Starship . . . a surprise for Elton, who initially just wanted to go to sleep. After a publicist kept insisting that he check out the musician on board the plane, Elton went back to the cocktail lounge, where Stevie Wonder regaled him with a rendition of Crocodile Rock.
Bob also photographed Elton with John Lennon. He talks about this as well as the aforementioned incidents in his new book, Right Place, Right Time: The Life of a Rock & Roll Photographer. There's a great deal, in fact, about Lennon and Yoko Ono, who became good friends. For a while, they even lived around the corner from the New Yorker.
Among others the photographer got to know well were Ike and Tina Turner (he once went grocery shopping with her and hung out at their home), Joe Strummer and David Johansen. This wasn't the case with Bob Dylan, who wasn't always amenable to being photographed.
Right Place, Right Time, with blurbs from Dylan's son Jakob, Debbie Harry, Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, and Billie Joe Armstrong, is to be published on October 20.