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William "PoPsie" Randolph

Popular Music Through the Camera Lens of William View Larger Image

Chartwell Booksellers is very pleased to present the first-ever New York retrospective devoted to the work of William "PoPsie" Randolph in conjunction with the publication of the book, POPSIE N.Y.

The 100,000 negatives that PoPsie Randolph left behind at his death in 1978 not only span the heyday of big bands and bebop, the emergence of R&B and doo-wop, the sudden explosion of rock & roll, the rise of Brill Building pop, the British invasion, Psychedelia and the growth of rock into a multibillion-dollar industry, they preserve all of this history with consummate art. Randolph spent his long and prolific career haunting the recording studios, the jam sessions, the concert halls and the nightclubs of this city, capturing the raucous postwar transformation of American Music - from swing and jazz to rhythm & blues and rock & roll.

Born William Sezenias to Greek immigrant parents in Manhattan in 1920, he dropped out of school in the eighth grade and, scuffling for money during the Depression, worked as a "towel boy" at a midtown bordello frequented by musicians. He found work briefly as Benny Goodman's "band boy" setting up the Goodman band's instruments onstage. In time he would become a manager, working first with Ina Ray Hutton and her All-Girl Band, then Woody Herman's Thundering Herd and finally, his idol, Benny Goodman.

It was Goodman who gave him his first camera (as a wedding present) and bankrolled him initially as a photographer. Long fascinated by photography, Randolph came in off the road in 1945, settled in the city with his new bride, a chorus girl from the George White "Scandals," and started shooting musicians. He was fast and reliable, and record companies and magazines kept him busy with publicity photo sessions, covering parties, concerts and club dates.

Like that other great nocturnal New York photographer, Weegee, PoPsie Randolph lived for his urban art. He was a quintessential New York hustler, hard-nosed and endlessly aggressive, subsisting largely on cheap hamburgers and pure adrenaline. He loved real talent, but he also loved the tinsel and the hype endemic to the music business, which he chronicled more vividly and more avidly than any other photographer of his era.

Please contact us for a complete list of images and prices.

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