Bill Graham was the most influential concert promoter in rock history, a music-biz visionary with a legendary take-no-prisoners style. "When Bill said he'd take care of it, it was taken care of," said Keith Richards. "Whether you liked it or not." Now his three decades of work are on display in "Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution," a collection of personal artifacts and memorabilia at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.
"Bill's art was the performances and the acts that he booked," says exhibit curator Erin Clancey. Graham started in San Francisco (where his Fillmore West served as home court for bands like the Grateful Dead) and moved on to organize tours with the Rolling Stones, as well as Live Aid in 1985, before dying in a helicopter crash in 1991.
The exhibition, which travels to San Francisco next year and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017, includes artifacts like Jerry Garcia's custom "Wolf" guitar, the belt worn by Mick Jagger at Altamont and a handbill from the first event Graham brought to the Fillmore: a benefit for the satirical theater group the San Francisco Mime Troupe. It also touches on Graham's childhood as a German Jewish refugee who fled the Nazis. Says Clancey, "He was an immigrant who took risks and did great things in American society."