Monday, January 08, 2007

Happy Birthday Bill Graham, Elvis…Ziggy Stardust

...it’s the birthday of legendary concert promoter Bill Graham born Wolfgang Grajonca in Berlin, Germany in 1931. A Jew, he was forced to flee Berlin at the age of ten, crossing Europe primarily on foot to escape the rising shadow of the Nazi regime—he’d end up in a orphanage in NY and was adopted by an American couple who lived in the Bronx. Later, after serving in the Korean War he wound up in San Francisco, fell into promoting local live acts but the gig that put him on the map was actually a benefit concert to raise money for the Mime Troupe an act he was promoting whose members had gotten pinched and thrown in jail on obscenity charges by SF’s finest the concert featured Jefferson Airplane, the Fugs and the beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti…he’d later move on to bigger venues, most notable, the Fillmore where he promoted shows for the Grateful Dead (formerly the Warlocks) and made moves to begin his “Bill Graham Presents” concert series that would make the Fillmore a West Coast oasis for music of all genres as Graham promoted talent from across the musical spectrum that ranged from the Dead and Jefferson Airplane to Otis Redding, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Howling Wolf…Bill had a hand in launching the careers of rock ‘n roll luminaries like Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin and Carlos Santana and eventually he returned to the East Coast to open the Fillmore East in NYC but soon closed it down in the summer of ‘71 as the promotion game was shifting toward arena rock…continued

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