WATERLOO — Ask former Courier photographer Rick Chase which concert he most enjoyed shooting, and the answer is easy: Paul McCartney.
Chase photographed the Beatles legend at Ames’ Jack Trice Stadium in 1990. “It was the best organized concert I’ve ever covered. Still photographers were taken behind the scoreboard where Paul and Linda and his band stood behind barricades. We shot for five minutes, which is unusual for someone of that stature. He played to the camera like he always does, and that was cool,” recalled the recently retired photographer.
“We were out front of the stage to shoot the first two songs ... when Paul walked out on stage the crowd went crazy, screaming and yelling. You could feel that shock wave roll over you. It was incredible.”
A photograph of McCartney is one of more than 40 images and memorabilia featured in the Grout Museum’s newest exhibit, “Rick Chase Rock ’n’ Roll: Covering an Era.” The exhibit will be on display through Feb. 16.
The display also features photographs of Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, Destiny’s Child, the Beach Boys with Glen Campbell, Mitch Ryder, Harry Chapin and many more, including local bands and musicians. Some were shot on Courier assignments; others are from Chase’s personal collection.
Chase also included the first concert he ever photographed, the Dave Clark 5, in 1964, using his father’s Polaroid Land camera. The majority of other images in the show was shot with 35 mm and SRL (digital) cameras.
“In the early days, you could walk up to the stage with a camera, and no one would say anything for a few minutes. Then I’d sit down and pull the paper off the Polaroid image and put fixer on it. It reminds me of how much things have changed — technologically and otherwise — over the years,” Chase said.
His passion for photography lead to a journalism degree from Drake University in Des Moines, where he was photo editor of the Drake Times-Delphic and part-time photographer for The Associated Press. Since 1976, Chase was a staff photographer for both the Cedar Falls Record and The Courier.
An original member of the regionally popular West Des Moines band ECHOS 5 from 1965-72, Chase, who played rhythm guitar, was inducted into the Iowa Rock ’n’ Roll Music Association Hall of Fame in 1998.
Grout Curator Robin Venter heard about Chase’s love for rock ’n’ roll and his concert photography, both as a newspaper photographer and fan, and asked him about creating an exhibit.
“He was surprised, but was up to the challenge. I knew this would be a great exhibit that went beyond his talent for taking great photographs. The selection process was a collaboration between Rick, myself and University of Northern Iowa graphic art intern Stephanie Wharton.
"The exhibit date was scheduled a year in advance, and Rick began the work of pulling his photographs together and creating digital copies. We chose which prints would be displayed, and of course, Rick had the final say,” Venter explained.
Chase also produced photos of entertainers like Dolly Parton, Steve Martin, Doc Severinsen and Ray Charles, and Venter said the parameters of the show were expanded.
“Some were obvious, such as the iconic Steve Martin with an arrow through his head or Bruce Springstein rocking out, but there were many other prints that were just as good but with space constraints, we couldn’t include all of them,” Venter said.
Chase has picked up his guitar again in recent years, and brings his camera along to document the local music scene.
“It’s much harder to cover concerts now. The concert acts make it harder. You’re 50 yards away with everyone in front of you shooting bad video and using cell phone cameras. So I’ve switched my emphasis to the local scene. It’s neat because a lot of these musicians have never had pictures taken of their performances,” the photographer explained.
A 27-minute video in the ex hibit features these performers. In addition, Chase has included items from his rock ’n’ roll memorabilia collection.
“Photos should be shared and enjoyed. Get that stuff out of the basement and share it on Facebook and blogs, that’s what makes it fun,” he said.
Venter said the exhibit is playing to a large audience. “When you have entertainers like Mick Jagger who have been engaging folks for 50 years, you’re going to include a lot of people in the discussion and enjoyment of the exhibit,” Venter said. “It makes people smile and remember the good times.”
Chase said he was stunned when he saw the complete exhibit. “It’s really hard to describe, and to see people enjoying the photos and talk ing about being at one or more of the concerts, that’s the shared experience. The opening with all my family and friends was the best retirement party I could ever have.”