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Dick Waterman, Promoter and Photographer of the Blues, Dies at 88

Dick Waterman, Promoter and Photographer of the Blues, Dies at 88


Dick Waterman, a beacon on the planet of blues who as a promoter, expertise manager and photographer helped revive the careers of a technology of storied purveyors of that bedrock American artwork kind whereas lyrically documenting their journeys together with his digicam, died on Jan. 26 in Oxford, Miss. He was 88.

His niece Theodora Saal stated the trigger was coronary heart failure. A local of Massachusetts, he had lived in Oxford for practically 4 a long time.

Through his firm, Avalon Productions, which was thought of the primary administration and reserving company devoted primarily to Black blues artists, Mr. Waterman supplied overdue publicity — and revenue — to early blues luminaries like Mississippi John Hurt, Son House and Skip James.

He additionally shepherded the careers of a youthful blues cohort, together with Buddy Guy and Otis Rush, in addition to one younger white artist, the singer-songwriter and future Grammy Award winner Bonnie Raitt.

“Dick Waterman simply often is the most educated man on the historical past of blues,” the music author Don Wilcock wrote in 2019 on the web site American Blues Scene. Mr. Waterman, he added, “sought out the originators of the style, pulled them out of ‘retirement’ and introduced them to a people viewers that to that time thought of blues to be a footnote within the American musical historical past.”

As a manager and promoter, Mr. Waterman each reaped the rewards of the blues revival of the Sixties and helped usher it alongside. That motion was fueled not simply by stars of the electrical blues like B.B. King and Muddy Waters, but in addition by a technology of white devotees just like the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and lots of others.

To Mr. Waterman, even essentially the most conventional rural blues was excess of a relic from a misplaced period — some extent echoed by Ms. Raitt within the preface to his 2003 pictures compilation, “Between Midnight and Day: The Last Unpublished Blues Archive.”

“While so many largely white, middle-class Blues aficionados appear to obsess about solely the precise Blues recordings,” Ms. Raitt wrote, “huddling round their hallowed 78s, talking in hushed tones about this or that obscure tune, the residing, respiration scions of the music stroll amongst us.”

“Often forgotten,” she continued, “uncared for and lengthy occupied in jobs aside from music — farmer, porter, you title it — having given up on the concept of recognition or making a residing in music, abruptly their lives are remodeled by being ‘rediscovered’ throughout the heralded Folk/Blues revival of the mid-Sixties.”

Despite being from Massachusetts, Mr. Waterman ultimately established roots within the wealthy musical soil of Mississippi, settling in Oxford. “Every Southern city,” he stated in a 2003 interview with Smithsonian journal, “has to have a crackpot eccentric Yankee.”

Richard Allen Waterman was born on July 14, 1935, in Plymouth, Mass., the youthful of two kids of Isadore Waterman, a household doctor, and Hattie (Resnick) Waterman, who managed the house.

After a stint as a cryptographer within the Army, he enrolled in Boston University to check journalism. In the early Sixties, he labored as a sportswriter and photographer for newspapers in Florida and the Northeast.

A music lover from an early age, he turned enmeshed within the people scenes in Cambridge, Mass., and Greenwich Village in New York.

He was overlaying the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island in 1963 for The Broadside of Boston, a people publication, when he witnessed the ability of the blues in a efficiency by Mississippi John Hurt, who briefly recorded within the Twenties earlier than returning to work as a sharecropper.

“I by no means noticed something prefer it,” Mr. Waterman was quoted as saying within the 2019 guide “Dick Waterman: A Life within the Blues,” by Tammy L. Turner. “A bit previous Black man with an acoustic guitar went out in entrance of 15,000 folks and introduced all of them up on the porch with him. He was magic.”

His profession turned after he heard that Son House, a storied blues musician who had vanished from public view a long time earlier, is likely to be alive.

He and two fellow blues aficionados, Phil Spiro and Nick Perls, went on an prolonged scouting mission and located Mr. House residing in Rochester, N.Y., retired after years of working as a railroad porter. They coaxed him to select up his guitar as soon as once more, and earlier than lengthy Mr. Waterman was serving as his manager and securing him a contract with Columbia Records.

Mr. Waterman knew one thing of the enterprise. In addition to his journalism pursuits, he had labored for Manny Greenhill, who managed people singers like Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and Joan Baez within the Sixties.

He began his personal company in 1965. “I fashioned Avalon to seek out work for the previous bluesmen as a result of they had been the final ones employed with leftover {dollars},” Mr. Waterman was quoted as saying in Dr. Turner’s biography. “I wasn’t going to face for that. I hated that.

As white artists discovered platinum success with their very own tackle the blues, Mr. Waterman took concern with the concept that they had been pillaging a hallowed Black style. “It was extra white individuals who felt younger English youngsters are getting wealthy on Black folks’s cash, and they’d go to the bluesmen and they’d plant the seed of negativity,” he stated in an interview with the music author Bob Gersztyn.

In truth, Mr. Waterman argued, most Black artists he knew welcomed the publicity — and the ensuing income. “The concept that individuals had been getting ripped off, all of that’s about copyright and publishing,” he added. “That’s the place the actual cash is, and plenty of Black folks bought actually, actually wealthy off of white folks doing their materials.”

As his older shoppers retired or died, Mr. Waterman shifted his consideration to managing Ms. Raitt’s flourishing profession throughout the Seventies.

He settled in Mississippi within the mid-Nineteen Eighties and wrote a column for an area newspaper earlier than shifting to pictures. He chronicled highly effective moments onstage and intimate moments off with blues artists like Bobby Rush, Champion Jack Dupree and Hubert Sumlin, in addition to musical luminaries like Ray Charles, Willie Nelson and Mavis Staples.

He is survived by his spouse, Cinda Waterman, and his sister, Rollene Saal.

In the Smithsonian interview, Mr. Waterman dismissed his a long time of lens work as “not more than a passion.” In the identical article, his pal Wiliam R. Ferris, a folklorist and a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, stated that Mr. Waterman was being a tad too modest: “That’s like Faulkner saying that he was a farmer, not a author.”

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