Bill Graham Celebrated at Philadelphia Museum

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The National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) in Philadelphia will be the exclusive East Coast venue for Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution, an exhibition celebrating the life and work of the famed rock music entrepreneur. The exhibition, which opens on September 16 and will run through January 16, presents the first comprehensive retrospective about the legendary impresario.


Bill Graham (1931-1991) is recognized as one of the most influential concert promoters in history, playing a pivotal role in the careers of classic rock artists such as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, Fleetwood Mac, the Who, Led Zeppelin, the Doors, and the Rolling Stones. Graham operated the trendsetting Fillmore venues in San Francisco and New York and was also instrumental in the production of benefit concerts such as Live Aid (1985) and Human Rights Now! The Museum will be open late on Wednesday nights (until 8 pm) throughout the run of the show.

Graham, who escaped Nazi Germany, mounted his first concert, a benefit to support the legal defense of one of theMime Troupe’s actors, in San Francisco in 1965. He soon took over the lease on San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium, where he produced shows by the Grateful Dead, Cream, Big Brother and the Holding Company and the Doors, as well as Jimi Hendrix; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Bob Dylan; and The Band at his venues in San Francisco and New York City.

Related: March 1968, the Fillmore East opens

Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution was organized by the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles. The exhibition features psychedelic concert posters, rock memorabilia, photographs, films and ephemera from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. The exhibition includes more than 200 objects from lenders across the country—many being shown in public for the first time, including Janis Joplin’s tambourine, a handwritten note from Donovan to Graham, Pete Townshend’s 1968 Gibson SG Special used during a performance of Tommy, and Graham’s personal scrapbooks. Also included are photographs and artifacts from Graham’s early life and career, on loan from the Graham family and many on view to the public for the first time.

Watch a 1974 interview with Bill Graham

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Also for the first time ever, preparatory drawings and the original artwork of several iconic Fillmore concert posters will be on museum display, including the work of poster artists Bonnie MacLean, Wes Wilson, David Singer and Greg Irons. A New Year’s Eve-themed concourse featuring Graham’s Father Time costume will be featured, as well as an installation of the Joshua Light Show” the liquid light show conceived in 1967 by multimedia artist Joshua White, which served as a backdrop to many Graham-produced concerts.

Related: 10 great albums recorded at the Fillmores

Unique to NMAJH’s run of the exhibition will be a number of items from Philadelphia’s Live Aid concert and the city’s music scene.

Best Classic Bands Staff

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