For perhaps the first time ever, someone else will present Bill Graham.
The legendary concert promoter is being honored at a museum exhibit at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles, with a collection of posters, photographs, and artifacts from Graham’s fascinating life. Graham is perhaps best known for promoting bands like the Grateful Dead, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, The Allman Brothers, and more, predominantly at his Fillmore venues in San Francisco and New York.
The exhibit, titled “Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution,” will feature some awesome memorabilia from Graham’s career. Jerry Garcia’s “Wolf” guitar Janis Joplin’s tambourine, Keith Richards’ leather boots (that Graham repaired with duct tape in 1981), and a microphone from the Fillmore East are just some noteworthy examples.
The exhibit will also showcase the spectacular struggles that Graham overcame throughout his life. Born in 1931 as Wulf Wolodia Grajonca in Berlin, he survived Auschwitz concentration camps and eventually found refuge in America. His sister and mother both died in the Holocaust.
After choosing his name from a phone book, he moved to San Francisco in the early 1960s and bore witness to the burgeoning counterculture movement. When a theater group (the San Francisco Mime Troupe) were denied permits by the city, Graham threw a benefit concert to help raise funds for the troupe. From then on, Graham went to promote some of the most legendary events of the time, including the US rendition of the Live Aid benefit.
“There was a lot more to Bill than the Fillmore and Winterland [where Graham produced subsequent shows] and associations with the whole pantheon of rock ‘n’ roll in that era,” said Skirball museum director Rabbi Robert Kirschner in an article in the LA Times. “He was also a visionary. He basically invented the whole idea of ‘rock theater,’ where you went to a concert for an immersion experience.”
The Bill Graham Civic Center in San Francisco also stands as a fitting tribute to the promoter, who was unfortunately killed in a plane crash in 1991. Kirschner actually presided over Graham’s funeral at the time.
The LA Times spotlight concludes with one final anecdote, mentioning the exhibit’s inclusion of an apple barrel with a sign “Take One or Two.” A permanent fixture at the old Fillmore, it turns out that the barrel holds a special significance to Graham. The museum discovered that, as a child, the French orphanage where Graham lived forced him and another boy to steal apples from a nearby farm.
“You learn how deep a person’s roots go and how powerful memory can be… and he was able to turn that into something positive and generous,” said Kirschner.
The exhibit opened today and runs through October 11th. For more info, you can head to the Skirball Center website.
[Via LA Times]