Like many teens and twenty-somethings of that era, he did something about it. Forty years later, Minkin is regarded as one of the Bay Area’s preeminent music photographers, and on. Oct. 1 at the Sweetwater Music Hall, he’s holding a book signing for “The Music Never Stopped,” his latest photography book, this one entirely focused on Marin County’s music scene, particularly the unrelenting live music at Bob Weir’s Sweetwater and Phil Lesh’s Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael.
It all started in the summer of 1977, right after high school graduation, when Minkin found a “Summer of Love” 10-year anniversary pull-out map of San Francisco within Rolling Stone magazine, complete with locations where the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane had lived in the Haight-Ashbury area. Minkin was geeked to see it all in person, and he somehow convinced his father to book him a cheap round-trip flight to San Francisco.
“I just said to myself, ‘That’s it, I can’t take it anymore, I gotta get out there,” Minkin says.
He did just that, without any place to stay or a hotel reservation. Upon his arrival, a patient cab driver took him to a few hotels until he found one in the Marina district. He set off for Haight Street, found the Dead’s house on Ashbury, walked around Golden Gate Park and eventually spotted a flyer on a pole promoting the Jerry Garcia Band’s upcoming show on the Embarcadero, featuring Mill Valley’s Maria Muldaur.
Minkin had long been taking his camera with him to shows in New York and elsewhere, mostly to populate his personal scrapbooks. He did so at the Embarcadero concert as well, and was stunned at the results. “Those pictures I took that day were a monumental moment in my life,” he says.
Minkin reached out to a friend whose boyfriend was the publisher of Relix magazine, which published the photos and continues to publish Minkin’s work 40 years later. Minkin came back to San Francisco for the Grateful Dead’s New Year’s Eve shows at Winterland a few months later, this time with a better camera. Those shots convinced him that his concert photography could be more than just a hobby. Those shots occupy 10 pages of his first photography book, “Live Dead,” which came out in 2014.
Minkin didn’t immediately move to the Bay Area back then, as he attended the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, where he met his eventual wife, Anne Minkin, a wine ambassador for the Boissett Collection. They moved to the Bay Area in 1990, and the couple lives in Novato. Minkin has been as rooted in the Marin and Bay Area-wide music scene as any photographer over the past 40 years.
“I have thousands and thousands of photos going back more than 40 years now,” Minkin says. “It’s pretty overwhelming and you need to frame it to put it into context.”
In searching for a way to do so, Minkin kept coming back to those years after Garcia died in 1995, how the other members of the Grateful Dead moved onto other iterations and also spawned a legion of other bands that “didn’t necessarily play exactly like them but played with their same mentality and vibe,” Minkin says.
Minkin also thought hard about the fact that two Grateful Dead legends, Bob Weir and phil Lesh, opened their own music venues in Marin, the Sweetwater Music Hall and Terrapin Crossroads, respectively, around the same time five years ago. Along with an array of other venues, and the post-Garcia bloom of bands inspired by the Dead, Minkin kept coming back to the Grateful Dead song “The Music Never Stopped,” from their 1975 album Blues for Allah.
“The music really never stopped after Jerry’s death, and especially here in Marin,” Minkin says. “So I framed it around geography, and all of the venues in Marin that have hosted so many great concerts over the years.”
Marin is the thread, and the medium is the onslaught of great concerts from both Bay Area bands and those from all over the country.
It’s been a fantastic experience going through these thousands of photos – there have just been so many amazing shows here in Marin over the past 40 years,” Minkin says. “It’s just incredible.”
The 411: Bob Minkin hosts a book signing for “The Music Never Stopped,” his latest photography book, on Oct. 1 at 3pm at the Sweetwater Music Hall. The signing will be followed at 5pm by an all-ages performance from Sweetwater faves Moonalice. Coupled with Larry “the Hat” Lautzker’s 20th Annual Community Block Party that day featuring Jason Crosby, Jackie Greene and members of the Mother Hips, among others, it’s sure to be a blockbuster day of music in Mill Valley.