The Detroit photographer captured an era

Wilson Lindsey was a 16-year-old Detroiter and aspiring photographer when he embarked on a whirlwind a few years into the rock blast of the ’60s.

Lindsey, now a 75-year-old Northville resident, eventually pursued a career in the recording business. But for an exciting few years, he and his lens have been on the front lines capturing shows and stars in Detroit.

With the Detroit Free Press increasingly devoting serious coverage to pop and rock music, Lindsey became a regular freelancer for the paper. Today, looking back on those early years, Lindsey has delved into her photographic archive to celebrate some of her work, including never-before-published images.

Working with the Freep, Lindsey found himself alongside some of the biggest names of the day as they toured the region. The Beatles. The rolling stones. Jimi Hendrix. WHO. Cream. The faces. There was also the hometown stuff, including the Motown photo shoots.

The Beatles attend their press conference in Detroit on September 6, 1964.

“I was phenomenally lucky, I think,” he says of landing a freelance job at such a young age. “I got into these missions and really enjoyed it. I worked hard on it and thought I was pretty decent. So it went well. But it was also a lot of pure luck. “

As a precocious teenager who also had his eye on a music career – he played with a Detroit band called The Train – Lindsey said he could be flaky and self-absorbed at this time.

“I was really immature. But I loved what I was doing and I got to meet people who were really my idols,” he says. was a great gig.”

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Wilson Lindsey at 75, left, and early in his career, right.

Lindsey, who caught the photography bug when her grandfather gave her an old Argus 35mm camera, landed her first professional job across the Detroit River. An avid wrestler, he pestered promoter Johnny Doyle into letting him film tapes of matches in Windsor. Doyle eventually relented, and Lindsey’s photos of regional wrestling stars like Bobo Brazil and the Sheik made their way into promoters’ event schedules.

The Free Press caught wind of Lindsey after it published a handful of these promotional images, and the paper asked the high schooler to follow boxer Cassius Clay – eventual Muhammed Ali – on a visit ahead of his heavyweight championship fight heavyweights of 1964 with Sonny Liston.

Muhammad Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, pictured in Detroit promoting his first fight with Sonny Liston in 1964.

“I was lucky enough to hang out with him for three days,” Lindsey recalls. “They gave me full access to photograph it and just hang out. It was amazing, and now I was totally hooked.

Musically, it was a time of transition for big-city newspapers like the Free Press. Since the dawn of the rock ‘n’ roll era a decade earlier, pop music had been covered largely as a teenybopper curiosity. The stars and their music were often treated with a kind of bewilderment, even disdain, by the cigar-biting journalists assigned to this task.

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