Lonnie Turner is living the dream. A Louisville native and resident of the Highlands, Turner, age 59, was engaged in the then-burgeoning punk scene here, attending early The Endtables shows and spending time in Bloomington for college, where he followed the growing scene there. For decades, he split his time between his professional obligation as a number cruncher, mostly working in manufacturing, and with his wife and lifelong partner, Diane. The two have no children, tending to their cats and their passion for exploration.
Now retired from Berry Plastics, his last full-time work, Turner has returned to the music he loves, dedicating his time to documenting through pictures the music of the city. Using one of his three Canon cameras, a G10, an SX700HS, which he has since replaced with an SX730HS and the occasional turn at the iPhone, Turner serves as the unofficial documentarian of the Louisville music scene, spanning genres and styles.
“The goal is just to share with anyone who enjoys them,” Turner says.
He reckons that he has caught about 1,100 performances with around 340 different local acts, taking the time to document each and every show whenever possible.
“Nearly all the music photos I’ve shot to date, some 5000+, are in a variety of FB albums. All the ones taken in town, which includes bands from elsewhere who played here, are titled ‘Music In Louisville’ appended with a year, part 1-2, etc. It’s all free for the enjoyment of anyone or for use by the artists if they want,” says Turner.
That attention to detail has not gone unnoticed by the local music scene. For Jenni Cochran, singer for Frederick the Younger, Turner is a welcome presence who makes the scene just a little better than he found it.
“Lonnie is a really cool guy. It’s pretty incredible that he takes time to come to all these shows and takes pictures for the bands. He’s a staple figure in the music community,” says Cochran.
An Eye for Music
Concurrent to his interest in music, Turner has held a long fascination with film. A close friend introduced him to photography but intimidated him with his talent. Content to view his friend’s pictures, Turner’s opinion took a turn after tragedy struck.
He explains, “A friend was a music fan and a really fine photographer with sophisticated equipment, had a darkroom prior to digital—the whole bit. We’d hang out and pour over his latest trove of concert shots, and I knew I’d never be as good as him. But he passed away so I figured, OK, either I start shooting or there’s nothing.”
Motivated to capture the music that he loved, freezing moments in time, Turner developed a process, practicing over and over, week after week with the bands he most admired. He works to include shots not only of the full band but of every member, taking care to point out the collaborative nature of music, that no constituent piece is unnoticed.
“Whenever practical I always try to get at least one clear shot showing all the musicians on the stage together. I’ll also try to get the drummer in particular. They are the hardest. I used to say if they can’t find Bin Laden he’s probably a drummer, always blocked by a singer, cymbal or guitar neck,” he says.
Louisville’s musical culture is a rich tapestry of options, from garage rock to punk to indie, in terms of rock music, with plenty of metal, hip-hop, R&B, and country out there waiting for you. Finding a good entry point into the local scene is no small task and the challenge that Turner found himself presented with getting back into the local scene. Gone were the bands and musicians of his youth, by and large, leaving him with little in the way of prior experience as a guiding light, especially given Turner’s taste in music.
“The single biggest break for me was attending Cropped Out Music Festival in 2013. There was an Endtables reunion that hooked me, but I went for the whole weekend to see what’s new. The first band, who opened the festival I think, was White Reaper so you can imagine. There were several local bands on the roster that weekend. Then after the festival, I started to go see the ones I liked best and each time saw a couple of other bands on the bill new to me, repeat the process, so on and so on,” says Turner.
His photography grew from there. The Cropped Out Festival is heavy on local acts, allowing Turner a veritable buffet of Louisville talent to choose from. He took notes and started branching out.
He explains, “I started following events on FB for a number of venues around town. Since Cropped Out it’s tempting to play it safe and go see the same few dozen acts all the time. But serendipity has been a good friend, so often I’ll skip shows with ‘known quantities’ to get exposure to the unknown. It’s not a total shot in the dark, you can find at least snippets of music from almost any act on the web to see if you’re in the mood.”
In the Future, the Past
Now Turner divides his time between shows and spending time with Diane. He plans to remain a face in the crowd archiving the local music scene as long as he can.
“I’m a bit like Rip Van Winkle. After retiring that was no longer a constraint so I am back while my energy holds out,” says Turner. “We’re both retired so going to frequent shows detracts little from all the time we have together anymore. Unfortunately, over the years all my friends who were into punk/new trends in music back in the day either drifted away from it, moved away, or died. I’m solo at shows.”
He adds, “Diane hasn’t gone to a club show in years as she goes to bed relatively early. She’s also said young people don’t want to see older people in clubs. I’ve not experienced ageism, but it is true I seldom see other 60ish people.”
Turner may be solo, but he’s never alone. “Everyone is just enjoying their shared love for music,” he says.