December 25, 2005

Legends: Mr. Bill Graham

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Bill Graham In our opinion, the influence of Bill Graham on the American music scene cannot be overestimated. Though we did not know him (we were, well, young), Bill had a huge hand in bringing all kinds of music to a new audience.

His concerts were legendary, as was his prowess and skill as a music promoter. On any one weekend, one might see, say, Otis Redding, Janis Joplin and who knows who else — all in a safe, seemingly violence-free atmosphere. Cream. The Who. Santana. Almost any band you care to name played Bill's venues — the Fillmore, Filmore West, Fillmore East, and the cavernous Winterland. A real musical education, that.

s a man of stature, of vision, one who could get the job done. One can't say that he started life the easy way. From billgrahamfoundation.org:

Bill Graham was born Wolfgang Grajonca, the child of Russian Jews who had moved to Berlin before his birth in 1931. … Bill and his sister were in France as part of a student exchange program when the German army invaded. With a group of 65 children and a Red Cross worker, they fled—and trekked to Marseilles and Toulouse, across the Pyrenees to Barcelona, Madrid and Lisbon, then on to Casablanca, Dakar, Bermuda, Cuba and, finally, New York. Bill was one of eleven who survived the trek …"

Bill did much to promote other artistic endeavors and, truly, poking around that site, we find snippets of interviews, as well as a list of awards he received.

"For three decades Bill Graham ruled live Rock & Roll. It wasn't simply that he was on a first name basis with just about every important rock star, he was one of the few people in the music business who could hold his own with any of them and who, in his own right, was their equal. Graham didn't simply stage thousands of rock concerts, that was business as usual for his skilled organization. He really earned his reputation by putting together extraordinary benefits and rock events on almost a yearly basis."
— Michael Goldberg, Rolling Stone, December,1991 (cite)

Sadly, Bill Graham passed away in a helicopter crash in 1991. His company, Bill Graham Presents, appears to be going strong still.

We can't say we knew ye, but we're thinking that Mr. Bill Graham did more to promote the American music scene than anyone we can remember. You know a real dude when you see one.

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