clark thomas photographs / nashville


old and still fun
My negative file extends back to 1966
when I was in the 10th grade.

Looking back can be inspiring — ‘pulling old negs’ from the archive...

Josh Graves in DC

Josh Graves & Matthew Levine

July 1974

Forty Years...? Seems almost like yesterday!

Had a question from Dick Levine, about a photo I made of his son Matthew, some 40 years ago.

He said... “the photo’s in a Steve Price book about bluegrass music, called ‘Old As The Hills.’ How long does a photographer keep his negatives? Because I want the photo you made of the renowned dobro player, Josh Graves, showing a young fan a few licks. That young fan was my son as an eight year old, and he will be 50 this summer. I’d like to give him a nice print of that image.”

So I responded, “Have many photos of Graves, mostly performing, yet don't see a young person with him. Can you send a scan, so I’ll know what to look for? Shot Josh in Washington, D.C. too. Could the photo have been made there?

Dick replies, “The photo was taken at the Smithsonian Festival on the Mall in Washington, and shows Josh Graves from the front with a view of my son with the back of his head, a 3/4 view but definitely recognizable. Was not taken on stage.”

With that info the negatives were easy to find, and those above are just two of maybe ten frames. I'm 61 and his son is 50 suggesting I was 19 when I made the photo? Could that be right?

Dick loved seeing the proofs: “Wow! I'm impressed. We like #23. and #26. Let me know how much I owe you and I'll send a check. I would like one 8 X10 print of each. (signed?)”

And he added: “I remember the workshop Josh Graves was conducting. He was saying that when he was a kid he would follow an older dobro player around to learn something. While he was talking he noticed my son sitting in the front row absorbing everything he was saying. After the workshop was over my son came to me and said, "He wants to meet you, dad.” Josh just wanted to say hello, and obviously history was repeating itself.”

“I really appreciate any trouble you went to. I guess photographers should always hold on to their negatives (we hope that digital signals don't disappear with time). The pictures arrived in fine shape, and we are extremely pleased with everything. I love telling this story of the old photo, and my son is extremely pleased. Thank you again for your trouble. -Dick Levine” [4/2012]

from WIKI: Graves originally joined the Foggy Mountain Boys as a bass player but he got together with Earl Scruggs to develop a new style of dobro-picking based on Earl's three-finger syncopated banjo style. After only one month on bass, Graves switched to the dobro and it soon became a defining feature of the bluegrass sound. Graves played fast and loud but also created extremely sensitive melodic backing to bluesy ballads and slower gospel numbers. Josh Graves is credited as being a major influence on many leading resophonic guitar players, including Jerry Douglas, Mike Auldridge, and Phil Leadbetter among them.

Update from Dick: I guess my math is wrong. Matt was born in 1962, so he must have been 12 in 1974, and the picture was taken 38 years ago. All this is immaterial. It still is a good story and I enjoy telling it when I show people the picture (which is hanging in the foyer of our home). He always was small for his age.

Hurry Back...

Hurry Back Market

Hurry Back Market, Elliston Place

June 1976

Discovered this photo yesterday while looking for something in my achive. Knew I’d made black & white photos of “Hurry Back” over the years, but it was a surprise to find this color shot. Wish I knew the full story about the market. Maybe someone will send me some facts or stories? I first experienced the place in the summer of 1969 when I came to Vanderbilt. It was right next door to the Exit/Inn on Elliston Place, two blocks down from Elliston Apartments where I lived for 15 years. No telling how many hundreds of times I stopped in there. Added an earlier view from 1973 to the colorFree page. Interesting to compare the two. [7/20] -C.

Pat Nolan offered a fun perspective... “One of its owners, John Rotier of Rotier’s Restaurant fame was a very good friend of my father. So I got a job working there on Saturday nights while I was in high school (1967-68 as I remember) sacking groceries, beer and ice. I think I made about $12 per night working from 6 p.m. to midnight.”

And Travis Burch wrote: “During my 1967-1971 Vandy tenure the guy behind the counter was Roger. Roger was lenient on fake id’s before 1970 when the drinking age was lowered from 21 to 18 when I turned 21. Roger ended each transaction with a not so cheerful, “Thank you and Hurry Back.”


I was just two when my dad made this photo, so it predates my own photo archive by 13 years—but it’s such a fun and classic photo I wanted to give it some attention. The early 1950’s style inspired the “OutFront” portraits I’m doing now in front of people’s homes at a special lower rate, just because I think everyone really ought to have a photograph like this. [4/16] -C.

family photo from 1953

Thomas family, 1953

My dad made this with a Graflex Speed Graphic camera

The “old & fun” idea for this page started with the photo below. Someone wanted a print and asked if I still had the negative... which reminded me that I have a huge collection of images dating WAY back, even well before I came to Nashville in 1969. Many are from the music industry, and others are just portraits of Nashville families, and of kids who are no longer kids! And at least a few of these photos deserve to be uncovered. So that's what I'm going to do... “give myself an incentive” to pull one or two old photos per month, and in some cases, I may shoot something new of the same people, or of the same location. Should be fun...! -C.

Father’s of Bluegrass

The Legends of Bluegrass

Mac Wiseman, Jim & Jessie MacReynolds, Bill Monroe & Ralph Stanley



We do not see things as things as they are.
We see things as we are. - Morrie Camhi