Art Meripol, a resident of Hoover’s Green Valley community, shot hundreds of rock, blues, jazz and country concerts in the 1970s and 1980s as a photographer for various newspapers in Arkansas and Texas and as a freelancer.
He photographed music artists such as B.B. King, Tom Petty, Willie Nelson, Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Merle Haggard, KISS, Ray Charles, Tina Turner, Jon Bon Jovi, AC/DC and Fats Domino.
But at the end of the 1980s, Meripol took a job as a travel photographer for Southern Living magazine and had to quit shooting all the concerts. For decades, the negatives and slides of his photos sat in his attic until a few years ago when he “rediscovered” them and digitally scanned all the old film.
Friends told him he should compile a book with the photos, he said. He doesn’t think he has enough for a book, but in January and February, some of Meripol’s best shots will be on display in his first ever photography exhibit at Aldridge Gardens.
Meripol’s exhibit opens Tuesday, Jan. 10, and will be open to the public through March 3. Admission is free.
The exhibit includes 38 images and includes 18 24X36 prints and 20 17X22 prints. In addition, Meripol has a portfolio of about 50 more 11×14 prints people can thumb through, he said. All the photos are available for sale, and Meripol said he can arrange to have different sizes made as well.
Meripol started shooting concerts in 1973 and did so until 1990, he said. He had to get approval from the record companies to shoot and usually was in the pit right up next to the stage for the first three songs of the concerts, he said.
One of the exceptions was when he shot the first Farm Aid concert at Memorial Stadium on the University of Illinois campus in 1985, when he covered the event for United Press International and was one of four photographers allowed on the side edge of the stage for the entire event, he said.
He got to see a lot of interesting things over the years, he said. “I had some wild experiences that were really a lot of fun.”
His favorite concert was Bruce Springsteen in Memphis in 1984 when Springsteen was on his “Born in the U.S.A.” tour in 1984, he said.
“He performed four hours solid,” Meripol said. “I’ve never seen anybody so powerfully perform. It was like going to church.”
His last concert to shoot was Stevie Ray Vaughan at Oak Mountain Amphitheater in Pelham in 1990. One of his photos of Vaughan at that concert was selected for the cover of a biography on Vaughan.
A photo Meripol shot of Haggard was selected to be the memorial photo for the singer for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame after Haggard died in 2016.
Meripol still does freelance photography but doesn’t do concerts anymore, he said. At age 68, he wouldn’t want to stand that long or stay up late for the concerts, he said. But he cherishes the memories. “It was a blast, and I loved it.”
Meripol’s exhibit will be on display 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday at Aldridge Gardens unless the house or gardens is closed for a private rental event. There also will be a public reception with Meripol on Feb. 16 from 5 to 7 p.m.