“Manning is one of the most respected engineers and producers in music history — Led Zeppelin III, the first two Big Star records, Al Green, ZZ Top, the Staple Singers, Albert King, Shakira, Lenny Kravitz, and literally over 100 others have benefitted from his work in either or both capacities.”
—Tom Jurek, All Music Guide
In addition to owning and running the world-famous Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas, Terry Manning’s career has spanned decades where he has consistently partnered with the uppermost echelon of the music world’s elite. Recently, Manning stepped forward as a recording artist himself, in walking to the other side of the glass for his new album, Heaven Knows.
Terry Manning began a multifaceted career as a teenager…first in El Paso, and shortly thereafter in Memphis…in several art forms at the same time.
After “undergoing treatment” from his first music mentor (Bobby Fuller of "I Fought The Law" fame), Manning relocated to Memphis, where he furthered his musical education in both the University of Memphis' music program, and in the private sector (Stax Records, home of soul music, and Ardent Studios, the preeminent Memphis studio of the time), while also playing in a couple of well known Mid-South area bands.
The Memphis area at that time was a cauldron of incredible talent in several art forms, not the least of which was photography. Manning was leader of a group of talented musical personages who were also deeply invested in photography, and which soon led to Manning's friendship with William Eggleston. Such friends as John Fry (founder of Ardent Studios, and co-founder of the first instance of Ardent Records with Fred Smith [founder of Federal Express] and of the second instance with Manning), Sid Selvidge, Robert Williams, and Chris Bell (founder and guitarist/vocalist of pop group Big Star), joined with Manning's interests in both photography and music.
As Terry Manning's music career started to flourish, he also became closer friends with Eggleston; the two would sometimes share each others' darkrooms, spending many hours into the long nights bringing their photographic visions to life. Musical artists either already in Memphis (Booker T. Jones, Isaac Hayes, Steve Cropper, Al Green) or those making the trek there (Ike & Tina Turner, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, The Staple Singers, Otis Redding) came to employ Manning's musical talents on their recordings. But Terry was never far from his trusty Leica IIIf, and spent as many late nights in the darkroom as in the studio.
Through his Stax Records connections, especially Al Bell, Manning also often encountered renowned Memphis photographer Ernest C. Withers.
But the photographic scene was never more vivid than around the William Eggleston household. Both Eggleston and Manning were constantly shooting photos, developing, printing, and conversing about photographic style (eg, both were enamored with Henri Cartier-Bresson), equipment, methods of printing, etc. In addition, other photographers often stopped by, such talented FOE (Friends of Eggleston) as Lee Friedlander, William Christenberry, and more, making a lasting impression on the young Manning.
As much as the photographic world of Memphis was flourishing, so much more was the musical, and Manning was torn between the two. But music was paying a salary, and as more demanded Manning's time and talent, he was pulled inevitably towards that oeuvre. However music success, as welcome as it was, left Manning with an inner desire to return to things he had originally intended to do, namely recording his own songs, continuing his musical composition, AND concentrating more fully on his "other first love" of photography.
Finally, after years of crafting musical successes for others, Manning did return to his musical roots, aligning with Blake Morgan of ECR Music Group to release his first album in years in 2013 (the “highly successful West Texas Skyline”) as well as his newest and most original album, "Heaven Knows" in 2015.
But now it was time for another other main component of Manning's artistic vision…the photographic.
Manning's photographic work, while "inspired" by his prime influences (Cartier-Bresson, Eggleston, et al) is his own, derivative of none…it is the world as he views it, captured on image. Some is older (from the ‘60s onward), some is newer. Some is black and white, some colour. Some is analogue film, some digital. The medium is unimportant to Manning; it is the vision that counts. And, Manning has been able to photograph several of his musical compatriots. As he says, "I almost never remembered to shoot photos in the recording sessions I've been fortunate to be involved in. Music and photography are often mentally mutually exclusive to me…I accomplish whichever goal I am embarking on, and am often unable to focus on the other with the intensity I prefer." However Manning was often hired to shoot…at music festivals, for album covers, for newspapers such as NME (New Musical Express in London); and there are the occasional photos from recording sessions.
Another exciting aspect is that Manning, by working at Stax, was exposed to such luminaries as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Sens. Robert and Edward Kennedy, and others…and in fact was able to photograph Dr. King arriving in Memphis on April 3, 1968, some of the very last photos ever taken of the great man, on the day before the tragedy that ended his life. A number of these photos are included in upcoming exhibitions, and will now be seen publicly for the very first time.
As Terry Manning prepares for the rest of 2016, a year he sees as, "Just getting started!", he is looking forward to releasing not only a new album in June by his group 3@Sea of "jazz meets exotic electronica" instrumentals [“Planets" on ECR Music Group] as well as of his symphonic compositions, he is dedicated to spending "as much time as possible" on his photographic endeavors, which will include several forthcoming Gallery shows and books.
The future, even if it is "just getting started," looks clear, bright, and eminently viewable.