​Capturing an era of rock nobility on film

An album of some of music's finest moments can take the form of pictures as well as songs. Anthony Mason has proof:

On a porch in Silver Lake, Calif., singer Paige Califano poses for photographer Henry Diltz.

The shoot for her first solo record will be just one of his more than 200 album covers.


It's been almost 50 years since Diltz first picked up a camera. He shot The Mamas & The Papas, the Eagles, and Jackson Browne for their album covers . . . Paul and Linda McCartney for a Life magazine cover . . . a young Michael Jackson . . . an old B.B. King.

The archive in his bungalow in North Hollywood holds some 400,000 photographs, alphabetized from "A" (for America) to "Z" (for Zappa).

It's almost impossible to illustrate a history of American music in the late Sixties and Seventies without Diltz's pictures.

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Correspondent Anthony Mason visits the archive of photographer Henry Diltz.
CBS News

Diltz showed Mason a shot of Crosby, Stills & Nash, used for their first album cover. "That was just a little old shack with a couch in front of it in West Hollywood," he said. "We took the picture and it turned out they were sitting in the wrong order -- they'd named [the group] a few days later. So we went back to re-shoot the picture, and the house was gone. They'd torn it down, yeah. It was a pile of sticks in the back of the lot."

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Henry Diltz's photographs have graced more than 200 rock albums.
Warner Brothers Records

In 1969, Diltz was hired to shoot some black-and-white publicity shots of James Taylor, but he liked the light and colors that day:

"So I said, 'Don't move, James.' And I got my color camera, took a couple of shots just for myself. And then that became the cover of 'Sweet Baby James.'"

In 1966 Diltz -- a musician himself -- was traveling with his band, the Modern Folk Quartet. At a stop in Michigan he bought a secondhand camera for fun. "That's when I picked up a camera on the road, by accident," he said.

He loved the pictures he took so much, he started having slideshows for his musician friends.

One day Stephen Stills invited him to his band's sound check at a club in Redondo Beach:

"As I was shooting this big mural on the back of the club, thinking that'll be great for the slideshow, they come walking out the back door," he recalled. "And I said, 'Hey, you guys. Just stand there for a minute.'

"A couple days later Teen Set magazine called and said, 'We hear you have a picture of the Buffalo Springfield. We'd like to run that in our magazine, and we'll pay you $100.' I went, 'Oh my God!'"

That's how it started.

Diltz, an Army brat who grew up overseas and went to college in Hawaii, had settled in Laurel Canyon.

"Laurel Canyon, nowadays -- I mean, it's kind of a mythical place, isn't it?" he said. "Like Camelot or something."

In the late Sixties it would become the epicenter of American music.

"Denny Doherty, from The Mama & the Papas, lived up at the top of this hill, and so did Carole King; Mickey Dolenz and Joni Mitchell were at the bottom of this hill."