Sat Eye Candy: Bill Graham


On this day in 1991 one of music's most influential, charismatic and volatile individuals, Bill Graham, died in a helicopter crash in Concord, California. Just 60 years old, Graham was, in many ways, the epitome of '60s Boomer ingenuity, a marvel of counter-culture savvy and Wall Street business smarts. A strong divider of opinion, Graham helped myriad now legendary acts get their starts and learn how to turn a dime with their music. He helped stoke the '60s blues revival and he altered the whole concept of a music club for future generations. There's much that can be said about the man, but, for some of us, he may be best remembered for his frequent, often hilarious appearances at Grateful Dead shows in the Bay Area. For all his millions, there remained a mischievous spark that surfaced most brightly around Jerry and the boys. We pause to remember him and honor his legacy today and encourage y'all to do the same.

Here's Graham talking running the Fillmore venues accompanied by vintage artwork.

Travel back to New Year's Eve in 1987 and Graham's entrance to chime in 1988 in Oakland, California. Those of us that were there surely remember this flucking surreal scene.

The 1991 memorial concert for Graham, "Laughter, Love, and Music," in San Francisco was understandably emotional for all involved, and this raw reading of Dylan's "Forever Young" by the Grateful Dead and Neil Young is a prime example.

Swing back to 1972 and Graham talking about Jerry Garcia during a rehearsal for a New Riders of the Purple Sage gig at The Fillmore.

We conclude our remembrance of Bill Graham with the Dead at "Laughter, Love, and Music" doing "Sunshine Daydream," a phrase that, in its way, touches upon the underlying, music loving principles that set Graham on his life's path, a journey that mixed idealism and capitalism in a way that's instructional to anyone looking to wring a dollar out of the creative life.

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[Published on: 10/25/08]

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canoftunapudding Sat 10/25/2008 07:50AM
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I never got to meet him but I wish I did.

docpeter starstarstarstar Sat 10/25/2008 08:37AM
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Wow! Those vids brought back great memories!! We miss u Uncle Bobo. I wonder where he's got Merl and Jerry playing tonite :)

jalew Sat 10/25/2008 09:51AM
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nice one jambase! thank you Bill!

bubbarock starstarstarstarstar Sat 10/25/2008 01:08PM
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Hours before my friends and I were driving my VW bus from Wyoming to Oakland to see the Dead and celebrate Halloween...we heard the tragic news of the helicopter crash. We were shocked. Regardless of the rumours that the shows would be cancelled, we drove anyway...fully knowing the shows would happen. It was a sad drive. So many shows..."so many roads". The shows in Oakland were historic, to say the least, with guest appearances from Santana, Wavy, Ken Kesey, guys from Quicksilver...but when it was announced that the following weekend there would be a free concert at Golden Gate Park, we knew it would be even better. There were so many Bay Area musicians that showed up for that one! Countless. I believe this last clip here of "Sunshine Daydream" was actually a continuance from the week prior when the Dead ended there string of shows in Oakland with "Sugar Magnolia"...but didn't finish the song (with "Sunshine Dream") their usual way...but they came back to it at the end of the Golden Gate Show. It was their incredible way to remember Wolfgang "Bill" Graham. Thanks Jambase! May "The Music Never Stopped".

cos_chrl_E starstarstarstar Sat 10/25/2008 02:31PM
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I remember most the volleyball games in the back of the hall at concerts. Bill and his staff would take on the deadheads in games before the show. One time after fighting my way on the court convincing the other ones I could actually play, I found myself in the rotation on the front row opposite Bill. I tried a little under the net footplay to mess with him, but Bill would have none of it, he was serious about winning. Finally someone gave me a set and I went up for the spike. I noticed that I got Bill up in the air early with my pump fake, so dumped the ball back on him for a dink. I apologized after for taking advantage and said he should hire me so I could play on his side. Never took me up on offer though.

I remember this day seventeen years ago 'cause my mom called to tell me Bill went down in the helicopter (after a Huey Lewis concert at the Concord Pavilion) and to offer condolences. She knew the importance of the man to the not only the Bay Area and the Grateful Dead, but to music fans everwhere.

salmon401 starstarstarstarstar Sat 10/25/2008 02:39PM
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"Good evening, we welcome you..." Always great intros to the Dead shows.

Woody starstarstarstarstar Sat 10/25/2008 05:32PM
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one of my heroes. this man made so much good music possible. thanks for the inspiration

Ned8 starstarstarstarstar Sat 10/25/2008 10:43PM
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No one Like Bill.I remember the shows at Kiaser; Bill G would walk all over the place and you could get his attention and just have a normal conversation with him. As big as the guy was he was accesible. He made the whole thing tick and he is a big really most of the greats did not self destruct. He made the scene of substance so you could ake in all the great art. Shalom broher

bigchris starstarstarstarstar Mon 10/27/2008 12:33PM
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great article! Bill transformed the way rock n' roll worked in the US and beyond, many owe him a debt of graditude. His tough NYC personality made many artists rise out of nowhere, he showed me more than a few good times. His ego was huge and a big part of his success and downfall, getting in a helicopter during a terrible storm was part of that. His legacy lives on at the corner of Fillmore & Geary in San Francisco.

Thanks for all the good times, Bill. RIP.