Brad Bradley

Jim Laughead died in 1979.  His son-in-law and business partner purchased Laughead Photographers and changed the name to Bradley Photography.  An online search found seventeen people named James Bradley in the Dallas area.  Only one was named James T. Bradley and was about the right age, so I sent a letter and he returned a typewritten letter of his own within a week.  Already having been tipped off by Gil Brandt about my inquiry, he accepted my request to call to discuss his role in producing photographs for Post.

My first phone call with Brad Bradley occurred in February 2009. What follows is an e-mail detailing my conversation with Mr. Bradley that I sent to fellow collector David Charles, with whom I’d been corresponding about Post cereal football cards for several years.  This section of e-mail is being displayed verbatim as it provides background on Laughead Photographers.

What a fine man Brad Bradley is!  He talked to me for over 35 minutes and genuinely seemed glad to share what he could.  We started out with their yearly routine on the picture taking circuit.  He said their first big job was at LSU in 1952.  After that, they would go to Florida to spring training in February and take pictures for Topps baseball cards during the 1950s and 60s.  He said he, his wife and Mr. Laughead would go.  After they got done in Florida, his wife would go back to Dallas and they would start back north and west stopping at places like Alabama, Auburn, Southern Mississippi, Ole Miss and Mississippi to take spring football photos as publicity shots for the upcoming season in the fall.  Then they would double back to the east as the month of March wore on to places like Clemson, South Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest.  As the weather started getting warmer and the schools north and west began spring practice, they would go to places like Oklahoma and Kansas, winding up at Illinois and Purdue.

He talked about taking Billy Wade’s picture at Vanderbilt and Dan Reeves at South Carolina.  He mentioned coaches like Frank Howard at Clemson, Bobby Dodd at Georgia Tech.  He said they first met Bear Bryant when he was with Kentucky at the Cotton Bowl.  When asked if Bryant was as tough as he was portrayed in the Junction Boys movie, he said he was but that he was a lot like Bob Knight and that his players all respected him and were glad they played for him when they got done with college football.  I asked him if he had done Joe Namath’s picture at Alabama and he said he was great to work with and even did a Christmas card with him one year.  He talked about some of the players from Texas schools, like Forrest Gregg and Doak Walker. 

Eventually we got around to taking the pros pictures starting in July at training camps.  We talked about the Cowboys camps that he referred to in the letter.  He talked about taking pictures in Green Bay.  The pictures would have been taken on the practice fields east of Lambeau.  He talked about Vikings camp at Bemidji, Minnesota and Norm Van Brocklin being the coach when they first went there.  He said Bud Grant moved training camp to Mankato when he started.  Bemidji is on Lake Bemidji and it sure looks like a lake in the background of some of the Vikings photos like the one of Bill Lapham. 

Finally we got around to how Post got the pictures.  Mr. Bradley and Mr. Laughead sold prints to each team.  Based on proofs, the team would order what they wanted.  The team would then use them as they saw fit, including providing them to Post.  He also mentioned at that time there was a company in Philadelphia that would copy pictures and redistribute them.  He said they didn’t copyright the pictures back then and probably could have made more money if they had.  He specifically said the Packers, Bears and Colts were places where the public relations people would have distributed the pictures to Post.  He said that he and Mr. Laughead split territory in 1962 for a while and that between them they took all the pictures for the Tang team photo send away promotion.  Bradley went east and Laughead went west.  He specifically mentioned that he remembered Gino Marchetti not being in the Colts photo—and he isn’t—but he couldn’t remember why not.  Mr. Bradley took the photo of the 1962 Packers where they are all goofing around.  (Note: In the September 11, 1962 Green Bay Press-Gazette, photographer Russ Kriwanek was credited with taking the Packers photo in which the team was mugging the camera. The "straight" team photo taken by Kriwanek appeared a few days later in the Sunday, September 16th issue. The players are in the same positions as the Tang photo, but facial expressions and camera positioning indicate it is not the Tang picture.) He said that generally he took most of the portrait type shots and Mr. Laughead did the trademark “action” shots.  We talked a little bit about how many players they took (all of them that were available at the time they did a shoot) and that they would take a few shots of each.  I mentioned that I didn’t know how Post determined who got in the set and that was when we talked about how Post got the pictures from the team’s PR people.  In the course of that exchange, I mentioned Ron Kramer not being in the set.  He said he knew he had a negative and would look for it.  He said I should call him again another time.