Obituary

Guy Webster: Photographer who captured Jim Morrison, the Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel

The man behind many of the most famous covers of the era

21 April 2019 - 00:00 By The daily telegraph


Guy Webster, who has died aged 79, was a photographer who shot album covers for dozens of rock acts of the 1960s, including the Rolling Stones, the Doors, the Beach Boys, The Mamas & The Papas and Simon and Garfunkel.
While he was studying photography in Pasadena, California, a friend at Columbia Records asked him to shoot a cover for the Rip Chords. Their 1964 LP, Three Window Coupe, featuring band members as surfer dudes admiring a bikini-clad girl, evoked the sun-drenched beach culture of California and won Webster a contract with the Dunhill label.
His first professional cover was Barry McGuire's Eve of Destruction in 1965, featuring the singer emerging from a manhole.
He next worked with The Mamas & The Papas, the first of several commissions for the band who, as they spent much of their time stoned, were not the easiest of customers. For their 1966 debut album, If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, he turned up at their house in Los Angeles to find it thick with smoke. Band members were so high they could barely stand, so he persuaded them to squeeze themselves into the bathtub. He found out later that he had included a lavatory in the picture, which might have made the album unsaleable in chain stores.
So Lou Adler, the president of Dunhill Records, came up with the idea of a sticker reading "Including California Dreamin'", which could be peeled off to reveal the offending sanitary ware.
The album rose to the top of the charts and made Webster. "Within one year, I was making money," he said. "Within two years, I was rich. Suddenly I was a celebrity."
Webster would go on to shoot many of the most famous covers of the era for The Doors, Simon and Garfunkel and The Rolling Stones.
He preferred to work outside the studio. For The Mamas & The Papas' Deliver (1967), he persuaded the band, who were not getting along, to jump fully clothed into his swimming pool. "The mood improved," he recalled.
By the end of the decade he was working for magazines around the world and expanding into Hollywood. "The secret to success," he said, "is to work seven days a week and never take a vacation."
Webster is survived by his wife, Leone James, four daughters and a son.
1939-2019
- © Telegraph Media Group Limited 2019

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