Terry Manning's best known for the records he's made as a music engineer and producer working with artists like the Staples Singers, ZZ Top, and Led Zeppelin. Before cofounding the storied Compass Point recording studio in the Bahamas, Manning spent time in Memphis, working with both Stax and Ardent studios, and he can spin terrific yarns about things like dating Stevie Nicks before she was Stevie Nicks or the time he walked into Chips Moman's American Studios on Danny Thomas to discover grown men chasing a rat around the room. Manning's also a dedicated photographer and has been since the 1960s. "It's as much a part of my mind or soul as music," he says.
Manning's back in Memphis this week to perform a concert at the Hard Rock Cafe on Beale and more intimate shows at Stax and in "Elvis' Living Room" on Audubon, in conjunction with Rhodes College's Mike Curb Institute for Music. He will also open his photography exhibit "Scientific Evidence of Life on Earth During Two Millennia" at Stax. The exhibit showcases Manning's urban landscapes alongside portraits of people he's known and worked with, ranging from British soul diva Dusty Springfield to civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr.
"Stax was such an island of racial harmony," Manning says, recalling how he took a series of 13 extreme close-ups of MLK on the day before he was assassinated. Manning had just purchased a brand new wine-red Ford Fairlane with some assistance from Ardent Studios founder, John Fry. Stax's operations director Al Bell called one morning hoping Manning might drive his new car to the airport to help transport King and his entourage to the Lorraine Motel.
Terry Manning's photography exhibit at the Stax Museum through June 30th. opening reception March 12th from 6-8 p.m. Free.