Thank You Herbie Herbert – a SF Music Icon

There is little doubt that I would not have the success I have had without a fortuitous meeting in 1975 with rock entrepreneur Herbie Herbert.

At that time, I was friends with the late Doug Rauch. Doug was Santana’s bass player, and I occasionally helped him with photography. He invited me as his guest on New Year’s Eve at Winterland. I was awestruck. I was a young guy from Cleveland (only 22!), and I’d never dreamed that I might be on a guest list at Winterland. I went up to the Will Call window and said my name (with a small part of me expecting that it wouldn’t be on the list). The concert was Journey’s very first show, opening for Malo, Sapo, and Santana. I’d brought along my Hasselblad with some borrowed lenses to shoot Santana for Doug. When Journey came out, my friend Rick and I noticed that two of the members were Neal Schon and Gregg Rolie from Santana. So I thought, “What the hell, I’ll take a few shots.” That decision changed my life!

I took a shot of Neal that was stunning! The following week, Doug dropped by the lab where I worked and I showed him my shots. He took one look at the Neal Schon shot and immediately proceeded to drag me to meet Herbie Herbert, the band’s manager. Herbie looked at the pic and called out to Neal. They ordered a bunch of 11″x14″ prints, and I was now in heaven. Herbie must have seen some glimmer of talent that day and asked if I wanted to shoot their upcoming shows. I was their photographer for the years that followed, even doing a small Midwest tour. I remember shooting them at Great American Music Hall when my hair caught on fire! This relationship with Herbie has been very special to me. He and Journey stalwarts John and Jackie Villaneuva introduced me to the Columbia Records people, which opened more doors, and my photography career really took off.

In my opinion, Herbie Herbert was Journey’s Brian Epstein. His tireless Tazmanian Devil approach and intuitive eye–adding Aynsley Dunbar, Steve Perry, and Jonathan Cain over the years–created the monster success that Journey still enjoys. Herbie’s behind-the-scenes work with so many San Francisco institutions is legendary. The Bammies were a labor of love for him and BAM publisher Dennis Erokan, and through their hard work, it became one of the coolest events of the year, bringing the greatest musicians together to perform and hang. Boy, do I miss The Bammies.

These memories were triggered by something that happened last week: Herbie came out of retirement and brought this phenomenal band, Zen Road Pilots, to my studio. More on them later.

So anyway….if I ever do my photography book, one of the only people I will dedicate it to besides my family will be Herbie Herbert.

Thanks, Sy!


Pat Johnson Studios
140 South Park
San Francisco, CA 94107