A Treasure Trove of Houston – and Texas – Rock History

Rockin’ Houston is one of the best rock photography web sites ever.

You probably have a favorite place where you have seen many or most of your rock shows – a venue, or even a city. We were lucky to grow up in or near Houston – ever since the 1950s, the city has been a host for the greatest acts in rock history.

For example: when Paul McCartney played in Houston’s Minute Maid Park last week, he did not mention the times he’s played Houston before. It was his sixth visit to the Bayou City – the first was in 1965, at the Sam Houston Coliseum with that other band of his (not Wings). How many cities can say they once hosted the Beatles? So you see, rock fans in Houston consider themselves very privileged indeed.

Now along comes a new web site, RockinHouston.com, that celebrates Houston’s glorious rock history. Consisting of thousands of photographs taken by rock fans and professionals alike, the site brings to life the heyday of places like the Texas Opry House, Liberty Hall, the Houston Music Hall and other local rock meccas. There are shots from the Astrodome, the old Summit (now Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church), even some choice pics from other Texas cities (Sex Pistols at Randy’s Rodeo in San Antonio, 1978? Check.).

One of the many shots you’ll find on RockinHouston.com.

RockinHouston.com was created by Bruce Kessler, who shot photos at virtually every Houston rock concert since the early 1970s. He started as a fan who simply bought a ticket and took photos from his seat, but as he became more proficient he was able to gain closer access from local promoters. Soon Kessler was the official photographer for the Agora Ballroom and later, the house photographer for the Summit. He also went to work as a staff photog for Pace Concerts, which eventually got bought out by SFX then Clear Channel and so on.

Kessler hung up his cameras in 2005 but he eventually was asked to catalog and inventory the archives of fellow Houston photographers Larry Lent, Ray Fetterman and James Townsend, who between them shot many more concerts in the area. Like Kessler, Lent and Townsend started out as fans who eventually earned closer access – Fetterman was at one time a shooter for the now-defunct Houston Post.

All three have since died, and Kessler was asked to inventory Lent’s and Townsend’s files. He was authorized to keep a handful of photos as a token of friendship, and their work also appears on RockinHouston.com.

In a segment titled “Why the Website” Kessler said “Recalling the excitement of sorting through the Townsend and Lent collections and all of the memories that their work brought back, Bruce realized that it would be a shame to let all of the accumulated images and memorabilia go to waste and that it was finally time to share them. Having never exhibited any of his work, this website serves as a massive photo exhibition recalling Houston’s concert history.”

We asked Kessler if he could estimate how many photos he took over the years.  “After months of editing it feels like millions,” he replied, “but I am sure it is just in the tens of thousands … perhaps 30-ish (thousand).” He supposes one could count how many photos he’s uploaded to the site so far, but he adds “I am not even at the halfway point!”

Check out RockinHouston.com when you have a few hours – you won’t want to leave!

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