John Olson, “Rock promoter Bill Graham onstage before the final concert at Fillmore East, New York, January 1, 1971.” Chromogenic print, The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images. “Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution” is organized and circulated by the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, California. On view March 17–July 5, 2016 at The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco.
When I first became a member of the Bill Graham Presents in-house “Blue Coat“ security crew, friends would ask me if Bill Graham was really a living and breathing enigma? A presence no one could invade or define. Actually no, I would counter. You wouldn’t have to turn around to know he had entered the room; Bill filled the room without a word or movement; a man without guile or pretense. Yet, to know him, to be accepted and trusted by him, you would always have a friend, writes our travel and lifestyle editor Al Auger. – #Lifestyle #Music #Siliconeer @Siliconeer #BillGraham #RockandRoll
Success was a driving force, yet, he asked nothing more of you than to be straight and responsible. Graham was a driven and volatile human being in the business of concert promotion and band management, themselves wrapped in volatility and Duplicity. Like most men with a monumental passion, he was also a man of great sensitivity in his personal and professional relations. A two-way street, to be sure. He was a master in dealing with agents, venue management and others and he loved musicians and their crews. Decades-long friendships with the Grateful Dead members and crew, Carlos Santana, Mick Jagger, his employees and countless others, in and out of show business, were relationships for the ages.
But, rock and roll is as much about the people moving through the turnstiles as the larger-than-life figures blasting away on the stage. The people strolling the CJM halls were my target on my second visit to the Bill Graham memorial, if you will. I wasn’t disappointed as the stories were as colorful as were the storytellers. The first impression an enquiring reporter gets is the large number of visitors, mostly of senior status, who have no history or passion for rock and roll. But the awareness of Bill Graham’s impact on their social life and the Bay Area’s led them here to learn who this man was.
When you enter these chambers and, if you’re lucky, you will be greeted by one of the knowledgeable docents found everywhere. One told me meeting so many interesting Deadheads (fanatical Grateful Dead followers ) who return practically every day. She added one that does show up daily is a larger-than-life Deadhead known as “Mouse.” Jerry Garcia and his band members still live in this body of groupies is well-known. While working rock and roll shows is an emotional and physical force, Dead Heads are not only a happy mélange, but always giving. I think of my collection of gifted crystal and beads offered over the years of concerts.
My first visitor, we will call him John, confessed he has small history with rock and roll, but growing up in Chicago his first concert was a Bob Dylan event. “I remember at the show someone took his clothes off and streaked up to the front. (I remember it was on Madison Street, a big stadium.”
An attractive senior named “Pre,” related an intriguing tales of a sister who “…was a friend of Peter Coyote and traveled across America to ‘Turkey Roost,’ a farm in Philadelphia and owned by Peter Coyote’s father. She ended up living on the farm with two other couples and my niece was born there.” Pre continued with her story of living on Robert Crum’s farm. Crum was one of the most influential and well-known Hippy cartoonist of the time who created the icon “Keep on Truckin’” cartoon. “I traveled to (Robert’s) farm“, continued, “in Potter Valley near Ukiah and spent a weekend with Robert on his farm. I didn’t live in San Francisco (at the time), but saw a lot of concerts out of the area (such as) Santana and Country Joe MacDonald.”
When asked if she had any favorites, Pre answered “Not really. I was 17-18 at the time living in Palo Alto and I remember a concert in Redwood Estates with Hot Tuna. I had eyes for Marty Balin (a bright chuckle at the memory) and I remember a problem with the acoustics. When I was about 16 my older sister would come up from Los Angeles and she’d tell me stories of what was going on.”
The highlight interview came with a San Francisco couple enjoying life in the neighborhood years of 60 or so. Let’s call them Bill and Helen. She began her story: “I first worked with the Navy in Washington D.C. and would travel to New York and see the bands at Fillmore East.” At that point, Bill nudge Helen and told her to tell her story when she was at Woodstock. Helen obviously, by then, was an authentic rock and roll groupie. Her memory of Woodstock was encyclopedic, remembering mostly the performance of Fleetwood Mac. “There was music everywhere, either with the fans and, of course, on stage. It was my first experience dropping acid.”
The curators of the Jewish Museum in concert with the creators of the Bill Graham Rock and Roll Revolution have taken this human pageant of one man’s life to a wide-ranging introspection beyond the man. An almost nightly program of seminars, group discussions and two-way conversations add a encyclopedic dimension to the daily public display of Graham and the genre. A docent at the retrospective told me these evening gatherings are practically SRO every night. I wasn’t disappointed as the stories were as colorful as were the storytellers.
The curators of the Jewish Museum in concert with the creators of the Bill Graham Rock and Roll Revolution have taken this human pageantry of one man’s life to a wide-ranging introspection beyond the man. An almost nightly program of seminars, group discussions and two-way conversations add a encyclopedic dimension to the daily public display of Graham and the genre.
A docent at the retrospective told me these evening gatherings are practically SRO every night. Past programs have included The History of the Mime Troup; screening of Monterey Pop; Peter Coyote and David Talbot in conversation. Coming up are: Rabbi Langer & Bill Graham Menorah Project; Beyond the Fillmore and more. For full information on these and the retrospective go to thecjm.org Website.
ADMISSION: Adults, $12; Seniors, $10; Students, (w/valid ID) $10; Under 18-years, free; Members, free; Thursday (after 5 pm), $5. First Tuesday of month, Free; Discount for groups of 10 or more.