N.H. Photographer “Wild Bill” Melton Dies In Car Crash
May 05, 2006
By Daryl Lang
Photographer Bill Melton, a Louisiana-born world traveler who ran a studio in Manchester, N.H., under the name Wild Bill, died Wednesday at age 53.
Melton, who lived just outside of Boston, died as a result of a traffic accident, according to the Union Leader newspaper in Manchester.
Melton specialized in advertising and travel photography, and visited countries around the world for his clients. Among his ads was a long-running Schweppes campaign starring animals including monkeys and leopards. He had also done a series of jobs for schools and museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Born in Lake Charles, La., Melton had strong connections to his native state even after 22 years in New England. He was a founder of CoastAid, an organization that seeks to protect the Gulf Coast from erosion. Melton was also in the process of organizing a photo auction for Hurricane Katrina relief.
He had also recently been working on the pilot episode of a TV cooking show, in which Melton cooked Cajun-style food with notable chefs in Boston.
“His real strength was people,” says close friend Marty Lapham, senior vice president of Lapham / Miller Associates, an ad agency in Manchester.
Lapham, who often hired Melton for ad shoots, says Melton stood out for his casual appearance at meetings where others were dressed in suits.
“I’d bring in this guy with his long hair and a pony tail,” Lapham says, causing some clients to worry. “When they got in and saw him work, they didn’t worry anymore.”
Lapham’s agency helped Bill cultivate his “Wild Bill” nickname as his professional identity. “He was just this bigger-than-life human being,” Lapham says.
Dan Young, Melton’s longtime studio manager, says he enjoyed traveling with Melton, and fondly remembers a road trip through Singapore and Malaysia on an assignment for a high-tech client.
“He had such a great way to make people smile,” Young says. “There was absolutely no one he couldn’t get along with.”
Another friend, photography consultant Ian Summers, remembers Melton for his generous nature. “He was one of the most giving people I knew,” Summers says.
Michael Fruge, a friend and fellow photographer, credits Melton with helping him start his own photo business in Lake Charles. He says Melton had a lot of energy and often worked long hours.
“If you knew the guy, he seemed indestructible,” Fruge says.
Melton is survived by his mother, Della (Binion) Melton, a daughter, Carmelita M. Melton, and a brother, Jim Melton. Arrangements are being handled in Manchester by Phaneuf Funeral Home, which will have calling hours on Saturday from 3 to 7 p.m. A funeral and burial will take place in Lake Charles. Memorial gifts may be made to CoastAid. More information and many of Melton’s photos are online at wildbillstudios.com.5 comments