​Capturing an era of rock nobility on film

His photographs, often displayed at the Morrison Hotel Gallery (which he co-owns) and featured at an exhibition at the Grammy Museum this past fall, were really just pictures of friends, like Mama Cass of The Mamas & The Papas.

"Sometimes we called her the Gertrude Stein of Laurel Canyon," said Diltz, "Because she knew how to put people together, you know? She introduced Graham Nash to Stills and Crosby -- she sorta knew they needed the third voice."

Diltz's camera captured a famous picnic in Mama Cass' backyard: "She invited Eric Clapton to come and meet some friends, 'cause he didn't know anybody," he recalled. "And she invited David Crosby, who brought his young protégé, Joni Mitchell, who sat and played her entire first album before anyone had heard it before."

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Joni Mitchell, David Crosby and Eric Clapton, photographed by Henry Diltz at a picnic organized by Cass Elliott, Feb. 25, 1968, in Laurel Canyon. Courtesy Henry Diltz

He also photographed Mitchell leaning out the window of her "very, very, very fine" house.

As word got around about his work, Diltz got a phone call from The Doors:

In 1969, he took lead singer Jim Morrison and the band to a rundown hotel, named the Morrison Hotel, in downtown L.A. "This is the hotel that Ray Manzarek, the keyboard player, had seen just driving by, randomly."

"Did you position them?" asked Mason.

"No, no. I didn't. 'Cause we came out here and I thought, 'Well, I'll have them stand here like under the sign.' I said, 'Run in there.' And they just hit those spots perfect."

He took one roll of film, no lights: "I never knew how to use lights. God's light, that's all I knew, you know?"

He said, "Of all the album covers I've done, that is the one that people all ages seem to know.

"Yeah, boy, that was a great day."

Henry being Henry, he had to take a picture. At seventy-six, Henry Diltz is still shooting whatever catches his eye.

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Henry Diltz photographs Anthony Mason at the site of the old Morrison Hotel,. on South Hope Street in Los Angeles. CBS News


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