the Backroom

Celebrating Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup

by Chris Murray on March 27, 2024  |  3 Comments »

Tomorrow is the 50th Anniversary of the great blues man Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup‘s passing. This portrait of Arthur was taken by Dick Waterman, who recently passed on, and is included in the book I edited of Waterman’s photographs and stories, Between Midnight and Day: The Last Unpublished Blues Archive.


Arthur Crudup, Melbourne, Australia, 1970. Photograph by Dick Waterman.

Big Boy Crudup’s songs influenced me growing up, as I first heard “That’s All Right, Mama,” “My Baby Left Me,” and “So Glad You’re Mine” as recorded by Elvis Presley in the mid-1950s. Those songs changed my life. This post from The Back Room is a tribute to Big Boy Crudup, who influenced both Dick Waterman and Elvis Presley.

On April 24th, Govinda Gallery Director, Chris Murray, will be giving an illustrated talk about Elvis Presley in 1956 at Jenn Crovato‘s 1310 Kitchen at the Georgetown Inn, in Washington, DC. Copies of Elvis at 21 (Insight Editions, 2023) will be available at the event.

Category: Blog, The Back Room   

George Hurrell, The National Portrait Gallery, and Govinda Gallery

by Chris Murray on March 19, 2024  |  2 Comments »

The National Portrait Gallery just opened an exhibition of the legendary Hollywood celebrity glamour portrait photographer, George Hurrell. Ann M. Shumard, Senior Curator of Photographs at the National Portrait Gallery writes that, “During the 1930s and early 1940s, George Hurrell reigned supreme as Hollywood’s preeminent portrait photographer. His timeless images helped define the public personas of some of the “Golden Ages’s” most glamorous figures.”

Govinda Gallery presented the last exhibition of George Hurrell’s photographs while he was alive. It was an extraordinary exhibition that featured, among others, portraits of Humphrey Bogart, Greta Garbo, Jane Russell, John Barrymore, Johnny Weissmuller, James Cagney, Joan Crawford, Anna May Wong, and many others.

Below is the Govinda Gallery invitation card from Hurrell’s exhibition at Govinda in 1992.


Original signed prints of George Hurrell’s stunning photographs are available through Govinda Gallery. Here is a sampling of a few of them. The National Portrait Gallery Exhibition continues until January 5th, 2025.


Greta Garbo, 1930.


Dorothy Lamour, 1930.


Ramon Navarro, 1930.


Jane Russell, 1941.


Hedy Lamarr, 1938.


Robert Taylor, 1936.


Douglas Fairbanks Jr., 1933.


Johnny Weissmuller, 1932.


Gary Cooper, 1937.

Category: Blog, The Back Room   

Richard Lewis…A Reflection with Love

by Chris Murray on March 5, 2024  |  3 Comments »


I first got to know Richard Lewis as a rare book collector of musical titles at Govinda Gallery, and then as his collaborator on Reflections from Hell: Richard Lewis’ Guide On How Not To Live. It was my great pleasure to edit Reflections from Hell, write the preface and to bring it to publication with powerHouse Books. Working on that book together Richard and I became great friends.


Drawing by Carl Titolo.


The last time I was with Richard in person, with his wonderful wife Joyce just last year in Los Angeles, he gave me a framed drawing taken off the wall of his home by the artist Carl Titolo. Carl’s drawings accompany Richard’s ‘Refections’ in his powerHouse book. The drawing he gave me had been inscribed by Carl to Richard in February 2003. It said “Richard…Thanks for the empty wall! Carl.” Richard was an avid collector of Titolo’s art, as is Richard’s friend Larry David. The inscription reflected the fact that Richard had bought everything off the walls of Titolo’s studio! It meant so much to me that Richard gave me that drawing.  Carl had passed on only a few years earlier.


Chris Murray and Richard Lewis in Los Angeles.


I wrote in my preface to Reflections from Hell:  “I won’t soon forget Lewis’ words combined with Titolo’s works on paper. The collaboration immediately engaged me in a way that was intimate and personal while at the same time existential and universal. Their work together is a contemporary personification of creative angst from which we can laugh at the dilemmas of life we all face.”


Richard Lewis and Carl Titolo, Chicago, 2015.



Richard Lewis was one of the kindest people I have ever known. What a blessing to have him in my life. Saddened as I was at news of my dear friend passing on, I am comforted by the legacy he leaves for us all. Richard Lewis… a comedic genius, a devoted husband and a true friend.


Richard and Joyce.

“I love you.”


Richard absorbed in his Reflections, Chicago, 2015.


Available from powerHouse Books


“You will be in awe of how his synapses fire, how he observes life around him, how his brain sorts and compiles all the images it takes in. You might also notice how kind and sweet and generous he is.”

-Larry David, from his foreword to Reflections from Hell: Richard Lewis’ Guide On How Not To Live.


All photographs by Carlotta Hester.

Category: Blog, The Back Room   

Black is Beautiful Book Launch with LaMonte McLemore and Friends in Las Vegas

by Chris Murray on February 27, 2024  |  3 Comments »

Black is Beautiful, featuring LaMonte McLemore‘s JET photographs is scheduled to be published today by powerHouse Books.


Black is Beautiful book cover.


It was my great pleasure and honor to collaborate these last few years with LaMonte McLemore in making this book. LaMonte, a founding member of The 5th Dimension vocal group also spent four decades taking photographs for JET Magazine’s “Beauty of the Week” feature.


The 5th Dimension.


Working with scans made by LaMonte and his friend, Le Roy Graham, from the original color slides, and with essays by Sylvia Flanagan, Jayne Kennedy, Mickalene Thomas, and myself, Black is Beautiful documents the important legacy that JET Magazine’s photographs for its “Beauty of the Week” feature left on Black women and culture.

Mickalene Thomas writes in her essay, “During a tumultuous time in American History and the Civil Rights Movement, LaMonte McLemore’s work for JET and EBONY magazines served as a radical depiction of the Black female body as both effortlessly beautiful and exceedingly powerful.”

Just last month, LaMonte’s beautiful wife, Mieko, hosted a party to celebrate LaMonte and Black is Beautiful in Las Vegas at M Resort Spa Casino. Mieko organized a cocktail party and a sit-down dinner for 200 friends of LaMonte. Mieko asked me to give an audio/visual presentation for Black is Beautiful to LaMonte’s friends. It was a truly amazing evening celebrating LaMonte and his artistry. Enjoy these photos from that event.


Chris Murray enjoying his first look at Black is Beautiful in Las Vegas.


Friends of LaMonte at the M Resort.


Preparing for the evening celebration of LaMonte McLemore.


Elanda Carter, a Beauty of the Week featured in Black is Beautiful. Photo by LaMonte McLemore.


Checking out the audio/visual system before the dinner.


Chris Murray with Mieko McLemore.


Claudia Jordan, JET Beauty of the Week.


Chris Murray greeting LaMonte McLemore at the entrance to the cocktail and dinner party.


M.C. for the evening, Merald “Bubba” Knight Jr. with Bill Overton getting things started.


Chris Murray greeting Sylvia Flanagan, former Senior Editor at Johnson Publishing Company, who contributed an essay to Black is Beautiful.


Sylvia Flanagan, 1987. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Sun Times.


Jayne Kennedy, Chris Murray, and Carlotta Hester getting together at the dinner.


Jayne Kennedy on the cover of JET Magazine, celebrating the New Year in 1975.


Jayne Kennedy with Bobby Brooks Wilson, Jackie Wilson‘s son.


Mieko McLemore with Bobby Brooks Wilson’s wife, Gladys.


Sylvia Flanagan with Bobby Brooks Wilson.


Twins Andreini and Andreina McPhearson shot by LaMonte McLemore for JET Magazine.


Left to right, Sylvia Flanagan, Chris Murray, LaMonte and Mieko McLemore, Jayne Kennedy, and Le Roy Graham.


Destiny, a Beauty of the Week featured in Black is Beautiful. Photo by LaMonte McLemore.


Sylvia Flanagan, Jayne Kennedy, and Chris Murray with LaMonte’s fellow 5th Dimension band members, from left to right, Florence LaRue, Billy Davis Jr., and Marilyn McCoo.


JET Beauty of the Week Kathleen Bradley enjoying LaMonte’s photo of her in Black is Beautiful with Chris Murray and Jayne Kennedy.


An outtake from Lynette Roddy‘s “Beauty of the Week” feature. Photo by LaMonte McLemore.


Le Roy Graham chatting with Sylvia Flanagan while his wife, Linda, talks with Carlotta Hester.


Chris Murray with Sonny Porter, founder and president of Future Agency and Production Company.


Chris Murray with LaMonte’s daughter and JET Beauty of the Week, Ciara McLemore.


Ciara McLemore and her mother, Lisa Starnes, wearing the same bathing suit in JET’s Beauty of the Week.


Black is Beautiful.


Special thanks to Fabiola Castro at Govinda Gallery and Carlotta Hester for her photos.

Category: Blog, The Back Room   

Havana Part III: Viñales Valley, Experimental Graphics Workshop, Fabrica de Arte, and La Guarida

by Chris Murray on February 21, 2024  |  2 Comments »

After the launch of David Fenton‘s SHOTS Exhibition, we drove to Viñales Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Pinar Del Rio, just a two hour drive from Havana. It is surely one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to in my life. We had a lovely lunch at Restaurante Buena Vista overlooking the valley.


Things to do in Pinar del Río and Viñales - Horizon Guides

Viñales Valley, Pinar del Rio, UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Restaurante Buena Vista, Viñales.


After lunch, we went to visit the Cuban ‘outsider artist’ Noel Diaz and the extraordinary park he built featuring his art, Proyecto Raices. I have visited Noel’s environment a number of times, an amazing exhibition space, studio, coffee plantation, and home, all rolled into one. Everyone was blown away by his artistry.


Carlotta Hester and David Fenton at Proyecto Raices (Project Roots).







Chris Murray with Noel Diaz on the road by his home in Viñales.


After returning from Viñales, we went to visit Taller Experimental de la Grafica de la Habana, the extraordinary artists’ print making workshop and atelier in Old Havana. It is open to the public and features artists working at the studio in a large open space that visitors can also enjoy. It is a remarkable artistic environment. I met the dynamic artist A. Sagarra and was delighted to buy one of his works.


Taller Experimental de la Grafica de la Habana.


Cuban artist A. Sagarra at the Taller Experimental de la Grafica.


Mater Caritatis In Pluetibus Maris Ambulavit by A. Sagarra.


The next evening, I was excited to bring David, Sylvie, Fabiola, Thorne, and Carlotta to the extraordinary Havana art center, Fabrica de Arte Cubano. David Fenton was giving an audio/visual presentation of his photographs from the SHOTS exhibition at Fabrica de Arte Cubano. We went to meet Nelson Ramirez, the director of the Contemporary Art Center Wifredo Lam and the Havana Biennial, who was to introduce David Fenton to the audience at Fabrica. But first, we had a wonderful meal at El Concinero, which is directly next door to Fabrica.


El Concinero.


Fabrica de Arte Cubano.


David Fenton gave an engaging talk that evening at Fabrica de Arte Cubano. Fabiola Castro, Govinda Gallery assistant to the director, translated Fenton’s talk to the Cuban audience. Fenton said of this photo with Nelson Mandela that he “helped organized Mandela’s first US tour and assisted him during the 1994 presidential election in Africa.”



Our last evening, we went to my favorite restaurant in Havana, La Guarida, and had a meal under the stars on their beautiful balcony. It was a great ending to a great journey in Cuba.


Fabiola Castro with collector Thorne Sirbak on La Guardia’s balcony.


The Govinda Gallery Gang at the stairway to La Guarida.


Govinda Gallery Director, Chris Murray, with La Guarida’s concierge.


Category: Blog, The Back Room   

Havana Part II: Roberto Salas and Submarino Amarillo

by Chris Murray on February 16, 2024  |  1 Comment »

After the opening of the SHOTS exhibition, I took David Fenton and his wife Sylvie Erb along with Carlotta Hester and Fabiola Castro to visit the home of one of Cuba’s greatest photographers of all time, Roberto Salas. Salas was one of the five ‘epic’ photographers of Cuba…the five who documented the Cuban revolution. I hosted an exhibition of Salas’ photographs at Govinda Gallery in June 2003 . Roberto is a dear friend who I learned so much from about photography and Cuba. He is an eyewitness to history.


Showing David Fenton some of Roberto Salas’ photographs at his home.


Che, 1964. Photo by Roberto Salas.


David enjoying one of the many books on Roberto Salas’ photography.


Enero, 1959. Photo by Roberto Salas.


Chris Murray enjoying Salas’ photo of Fidel Castro harvesting sugar cane.


Despacho, 2:45AM, 2002. Photo by Roberto Salas.


Chris Murray and Carlotta Hester enjoying Roberto’s company.


Habana, 2:30AM, 1965, Fidel on the Mound. Photo by Roberto Salas.


My dear friend Guille Vilar took us to Havana’s amazing rock venue, Submarino Amarillo. The interior walls are covered with lyrics from Beatles songs. As always, there was a superb band performing the evening we were there. Guille started Submarino Amarillo with his friend, Abel Prieto, who was Cuba’s Minister of Culture. It may just be my favorite rock club in the world.


The entrance to Submarino Amarillo.


The band performing that evening.


Guille telling us about the rock music scene in Cuba.


She has one job: Guard John Lennon's glasses | CNN

Across the street from the Submarino Amarillo is a wonderful sculpture of John Lennon sitting on a bench.


Former Minister of Culture, Abel Prieto, with Govinda Gallery Director Chris Murray, November 27, 2023.


Roberto Salas’ photographs are available through Govinda Gallery.


Category: Blog, The Back Room   

Havana Part I: David Fenton’s SHOTS Exhibition at the Contemporary Art Center Wifredo Lam Just Finished

by Chris Murray on February 14, 2024  |  1 Comment »

David Fenton‘s exhibition SHOTS was a resounding success in Havana. It was a beautiful evening for the exhibition opening and everyone who came enjoyed making new friends. It was another remarkable exhibition in the series of cultural exchanges Govinda Gallery has enjoyed with Cuba since the first collaboration there, La Revolución del Rock & Roll, in 2002.


The view from Parque Central Hotel of the Capitol.


Govinda Gallery Director Chris Murray, David Fenton and his wife Sylvie Erb in Parque Central Hotel lobby.


Marea Negra exhibition and Cuba va Conmigo Festival inaugurate | Radio Cadena Agramonte

Contemporary Art Center Wifredo Lam, Old Havana.


Wifredo Lam Contemporary Art Center turns 40 - Prensa Latina

Interior courtyard of the Contemporary Art Center Wifredo Lam.


David Fenton at the Art Center Wifredo Lam gallery.


David Fenton and Sylvie Erb relaxing before the opening.


Chris Murray at the Art Center Wifredo Lam with David Fenton’s new book, The Activist’s Media Handbook.


Govinda Gallery Assistant to the Director, Fabiola Castro.


David Fenton meeting a fan of his exhibition with Nelson Ramirez, Director of the Contemporary Art Center Wifredo Lam and the Havana Biennial, and Govinda Gallery Director Chris Murray.


David Fenton giving a tour of his exhibition while Nelson Ramirez translates.


The crowd at the opening of David Fenton’s exhibition, SHOTS.


Chris Murray talking about Ada Ferrer‘s Pulitzer Prize winning book Cuba: An American History


Chris Murray with Cuban media personality Guille Vilar, artist Sandor González Vilar, and his companion at the exhibition opening.


Emilio, Edimary, and their son with Washington artist, Carlotta Hester, at the exhibition opening. Carlotta enjoyed her own exhibition of prints, Viaje Elemental, at the Galería de la Biblioteca Rubén Martínez Villena in 2005.


Luis Gomez with his wife and daughter and Carlotta Hester.


Sylvie Erb and Cuban jewelry designer Jennifer Rico at Restaurante 5 Sentidos in Old Havana celebrating the SHOTS opening.


Celebrating on the streets of Havana after dinner. Left to right: Carlotta Hester, Jennifer Rico, Nelson Ramirez, Thorne Sirbak, Chris Murray, and Fabiola Castro.


David Fenton’s photographs are available through Govinda Gallery.


All photos by Carlotta Hester.

Category: Blog, The Back Room   

Dick Waterman 1935-2024

by Chris Murray on January 31, 2024  |  3 Comments »

Finally! There's A Book on World Renowned Blues Promoter and Local Photographer Dick Waterman – The Local Voice

Dick Waterman © Bruce Newman, 2003

Dick Waterman passed away a few days ago on January 26. Dick was at the heart of Govinda Gallery with his remarkable Blues photographs and stories. I was honored to compile them in our book Between Midnight and Day: The Last Unpublished Blues Archive (Insight Editions, 2004). Dick Waterman’s photographs and stories are a national treasure.


Buddy Guy, Cambridge, 1968. Photo by Dick Waterman


Son House, Liberty Bell, Philadelphia, 1965. Photo by Dick Waterman.


Mississippi John Hurt and Skip James, Newport Folk Festival, 1964. Photo by Dick Waterman.


Between Midnight and Day: The Last Unpublished Blues Archive (Insight Editions, 2004).


Finally! There's A Book on World Renowned Blues Promoter and Local Photographer Dick Waterman – The Local Voice

Dick Waterman and Bonnie Raitt.

Category: Blog, The Back Room   

Happy 80th Keith Richards!

by Chris Murray on December 18, 2023  |  Comments Off on Happy 80th Keith Richards!

Keith 1981, vintage photograph by Michael Halsband

Govinda Gallery first exhibited Michael Halsband’s photographs in 1982 not long after this brilliant portrait of Keith was taken. That exhibition at Govinda, “Michael Halsband, Portrait Photography,” opened on April 23rd, 1982.

Michael introduced me to Keith on his birthday in 1981 backstage after a Stones gig in Hampton Roads Virginia. Michael was the tour photographer. When I met Keith I told him it would be my birthday in an hour as my birthday is December 19th. Keith gave me that great smile of his and said “Yeah Chris, you me and Bobby Keys!”. Bobby, the great sax player for the Stones and friend of Keith was nearby and has the same birthday as Keith. Keith is a generous spirit and took the sugar guitar on the top of his birthday cake and gave it to me! God bless Keith.

Category: Blog, The Back Room   

Happy Birthday, Alfred Wertheimer!

by Chris Murray on November 16, 2023  |  2 Comments »

Alfred Wertheimer would be 94 today. He took the finest photos ever of a rock star… they happen to be of Elvis Presley in 1956. It was my great pleasure to be the editor of Alfred’s four books of his photographs of Elvis Presley, as well as my collaborating with Alfred as the curator of over 20 museum exhibitions of his work. Rock on Alfred!

Alfred Wertheimer at his Grammy Museum exhibition, January 2010, Los Angeles.

With his RCA portable transistor 7 radio blasting away in the back of a local cab from the train station, Elvis is about to leave for the Hotel Jefferson, where he was staying. He had two performances that day, at the Mosque Theater that afternoon and evening. Richmond, VA. June 30, 1956. Photo by Alfred Wertheimer.

From left to right: Govinda Gallery Director Chris Murray, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Alfred Wertheimer. Celebrating the launch of Alfred Wertheimer’s exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC at a party at Halcyon House in Georgetown, hosted by John Dreyfuss and Govinda Gallery Director, Chris Murray, October 22, 2010. Photo by Vivienne Foster.

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