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New Who Documentary

Today saw the release of a new documentary on DVD: “Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who.” I saw a preview of it a few weeks ago (it’s good to be near the epicenter of the music biz); it’s terrific.

The film is completely different from “The Kids Are Alright.” “Kids…” is basically a collection of great song films and videos. “Amazing Journey” is a straight documentary; songs are only heard in bits. The emphasis is truly on their bio more than their music. Together, “Amazing Journey” and “The Kids Are Alright” complement each other beautifully. They go a long way to explaining why Who fans like me are so passionate about the group and its members.

I’d really hate to sound like a Best Buy shill, but Best Buy not only has the regular 2-disc “Amazing Journey” DVD but also has an exclusive 3-disc version as well. The third disc contains a 1979 (sorry, no Keith) Who concert performed in Chicago.

Anyone who knows my musical tastes knows that I’m a major Who fan. I was honored when The Who asked my permission to use one of my Who bootleg covers as the image on the “Odds and Sods” CD picture disc. “Who’s Zoo”, a TMQ bootleg for which I drew a full color cover, inspired John Entwistle to compile the “Odds and Sods” Who CD.

I met both Keith Moon and Roger Daltrey between sets in 1968 at the Shrine Exposition Hall in Los Angeles. It was the best concert I ever saw. Check out this line-up: The opening group was Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, followed by the original Steve Miller Band (with Boz Scaggs), followed by The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, followed by The Who!
And: each group played two sets that night!
And: The Who smashed their instruments at the end of their second set during “My Generation”!
And: it was two bucks in advance, three at the door!
And: the place was only two thirds full! You could dance to the music or easily get as close to the stage as you wanted. And I had no trouble whatsoever getting backstage to meet Arthur Brown and Roger Daltrey (I met Keith in the men’s room!). These were the days before going to a concert had become a scene, a “hip” thing to do with one’s friends; the only people who showed up at the concerts back then were there because they were hugely passionate about the music.

My favorite Who LP, “The Who Sell Out” (the mono version, please! The stereo version is a mere shadow of its mono brother) had just been released. After that show, I was never the same….and my ears rang for days…

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Bob Kuhn (1920 – 2007)

Bob Kuhn, a dear friend of mine and the reigning giant in the artistic depiction of wildlife, passed away on October1, 2007.

Bob Kuhn was the greatest wildlife painter of our time. With his passing, the art world lost more knowledge of that particular genre than exists in all of the other living wildlife artists combined.

It was fantasy master Frank Frazetta who introduced me to Bob’s work. I had asked Frank who his favorite animal artists were. He replied Bob Kuhn and Antoine Louis Barye. I was quite familiar with Barye’s sculptures but had only vaguely heard of Bob Kuhn. I promptly did my homework and was happily rewarded and introduced to a world of first class paintings that exhibited astounding draftsmanship, thrilling original color and impeccable design.

Bob’s work exhibited an impressionistic freedom, energy and gutsy looseness that was completely unlike the work of the vast majority of other wildlife painters. With a profound accumulation of knowledge gained from decades of intensive zoo and outdoor wildlife painting under the guidance of friends and mentors like Paul Bransom and Robert Lougheed, Bob could reveal more about the nature of an animal’s fur with a quick scumble than any of the legion of wildlife painters could who spent hours laboring over the depiction of every hair.

I first met Bob when I enrolled in his final wildlife painting workshop in Loveland, Colorado. I helped him to structure the workshop and we became fast friends. I loved the dry, sparkling wit that laced his conversations. Bob was generous with his knowledge and helpful to everyone. Like Frazetta, Bob’s only expression of disdain was for his imitators.

About a year after the workshop, Bob, a handful of the workshop members and I got together and plein air painted out in Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon, Arizona. I recall him sketching a fox on a napkin during one of our dinners together in Oak Creek. It looked as if he had drawn it from life.

After Sedona, schedules permitting, Bob and I would always try to get together when either of us was in the other’s state. I dedicated my first collection of animal drawings to Bob. Over the years I tracked down and built a complete collection of every single outdoors magazine (Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Argosy, etc.) for which Bob had done illustrations. These magazines provided a fascinating glimpse into Bob’s rapid development from illustrator to fine artist, or “easel painter” as he called it.

The last time I saw Bob was when I drove up to Santa Barbara to hear him speak at the opening celebration of a one man exhibition of his in Los Olivos. He insisted I sit next to him; we had the greatest time talking about art and animals and laughing about life in general. I told him I was planning a trip to Alaska and asked him what he liked best about Alaska, hoping to glean some insider scraps of wisdom in regards to Alaskan wildlife painting.

“THE FISHING!” he exclaimed, his eyes twinkling with pure delight.

The passing of Bob Kuhn leaves a huge hole in the world of art that I doubt will ever be filled; and an even bigger hole in the hearts of those of us who were lucky enough to know him.