Robert Knight was the last man to photograph Stevie Ray Vaughan in concert before the guitar virtuoso’s untimely death. The final thing Vaughan said to him was, “You’ll know me when you hear me.” This is where the film Rock Prophecies begins, with Knight’s journey to find the next Stevie Ray.
The Las Vegas Hilton recently ran a special screening of the documentary about rock ’n’ roll photographer Robert Knight, who has a gallery in the North Tower of the Hilton.
Directed by John Chester (who directed and starred in the A&E series Random 1), the doc details Knight’s history of shooting a who’s who of rock royalty, including Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Elton John and Carlos Santana. Unfortunately, the film’s shooting style isn’t nearly as interesting as Knight’s pictures.
Prophecies also follows Knight’s favorite new acts (you could call them his discoveries) as helps them “make it.” The photographer’s first move was convincing the Australian rockers Sick Puppies to pack their bags, sell everything they own and try their luck in Los Angeles. The risk paid off as the Puppies have since enjoyed a stellar career. Their “All The Same” video (also known as “Free Hugs”) has earned them more than 65 million views on YouTube.
It’s unique to see this kind of relationship and it’s a nice starting point for the film, but Knight’s motivation is somewhat unclear. He has no financial stake in this or any other band, but there has to be more than just finding diamonds in the rough. Perhaps, it’s simply a new creative challenge for him.
With a newfound understanding of social media and networking learned from the Puppies, Knight finds a video of teenage guitar wiz Tyler Bryant. Believing he has found his next Vaughn, Knight acts as Bryant’s manager, helping him get endorsement deals, producer meetings and more.
The third major story line in Prophecies is Knight’s search for the resources to provide his ailing mother with round-the-clock medical care. The easy answer is to sell his photo collection, but it’s a solution he resists because Knight obviously cares that his art is only used to enhance music and musicians. His compassion, excitement and love of music are evident throughout the film.
Rock Prophecies is worthwhile viewing for rock-doc fans. While it doesn’t break any new ground in the genre, it is an interesting character study on one of rock music’s unsung warriors. With all the films that follow bands, it’s nice to see a piece that magnifies another aspect of the industry.
Now enjoying his own celebrity status, Knight presented a concert from Bryant and his band for the audience following the screening. Bryant proved his mettle and managed to win the ultra-polite crowd over with his ridiculous guitar skills, giving an energetic and fun performance. It’s easy to see why Knight became a believer in the 19-year-old star-in-the-making.