EARL LEAF (1905-1980)
Sometimes referred to as "The World's Oldest Teenager" (a title also shared by the legendary DJ and singer Rufus Thomas), Leaf was a well-established photojournalist who settled in LA in the 1940s. Starting out as part of the Hollywood paparazzi of the era his colorful personality shone through and the stars of the 50s loved to pose for Earl – including Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis and others at the red carpet events around town.
He became a favorite photographer of The Beach Boys shooting them in a reportage style around LA numerous times; including a concert at the Hollywood Bowl (October 1963 – with Al Jardine joining the band on stage for the first time), in the same year a shoot at the UCLA campus and in March 1966 at Pacific Ocean Park where he joined in a day of fun with the band. Perhaps most famous for capturing the band on their first visit to Europe in November 1964, he showed them some of the sights of London, Paris, and Rome as he was considered quite the ‘man of the world’. Such was his impact on the band that a short fun conversation is included with Earl leaf on the on The Beach Boys Today! LP from 1965, the last track on the album, “Bull Session With ‘Big Daddy'” is actually a portion of a group interview where he’s talking to them about their recent European tour. Earl is “Big Daddy” on that track. To support his ‘oldest teenager’ status he was the main photographer behind the Capitol “Teen Set” in-house magazine which devoted an entire issue to the group.
Prior to becoming a photographer, Earl had a colorful career as a cowboy, sailor, actor, guitarist and politician, joining the Nevada legislature in the 1930s. In 1936 he traveled to China to manage the United Press Association offices there and interviewed and photographed Communist Party Leader Mao Zedong behind enemy lines during the Sino-Japanese war of 1938. During World War II Leaf served with the OSS (precursor to the CIA) before coming to Los Angeles to pursue his career as a celebrity photographer. While with Capitol Records, he also photographed the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Kinks, and the Mamas & the Papas.