Rare Steely Dan live photos from 1972
A teenage photojournalist captured what may be the earliest known images of a Steely Dan performance.
Shortly after the release of their debut album, Can’t Buy a Thrill, Steely Dan played a basement bar in Milwaukee called Humpin’ Hanna’s. According to available records, their performance on November 21, 1972, was just the 20th show of the fledgling band’s maiden tour.
Earlier dates had seen Steely Dan opening for the likes of the Kinks, James Gang, Loudon Wainwright III, and Taj Mahal. But on this night they were out on their own, headlining a cramped subterranean Midwest club whose name sounded like a cut-rate skin flick. (Is it any wonder Walter Becker and Donald Fagen wanted off the road?) Three days before the gig, their first single, “Do It Again,” had entered the Billboard Hot 100 at the chart’s tail end, beginning a slow climb to its eventual peak at number six.
In the audience that Tuesday evening was another shaggy young creative on the rise. Rich Zimmermann wore his hair long and always had a camera strap around his neck. Then a senior in high school, the budding photojournalist was on assignment from the Bugle American, a weekly counterculture newspaper distributed in Wisconsin.
The photos Zimmermann emerged with may well be the earliest known shots of Steely Dan performing live. For more than 50 years, the images remained little seen—until now. Zimmermann granted Expanding Dan permission to publish the pictures he took that fateful night.