Bill Graham and the Rock and Roll Revolution

By Cyndy Drue

When I was asked to be part of the upcoming Speakers That Rock Opening Symposium to tell stories about Bill Graham, the concert promoter and rock ‘n roll impresario, I quickly learned that a lot of people I know had their own Bill Graham stories.

There was Bob, who enjoyed the Fillmore West owner’s kindness by getting invited to numerous house parties filled with rock stars in the ’70s

Tom encountered Graham in the early ‘80s outside a Grateful Dead concert in Oakland California and was handed two free tickets to get in.

Simon met the Live Aid Co-promoter the day before the concert and witnessed an 18-year-old kid, Bernard Watson audition for Graham who promptly granted the unknown performer permission to open the show. Although he wasn’t part of the broadcast, he has a Wikipedia page to prove it.

And there was Sam Cali who stood in the audience for over 12 hours on the day of Live Aid in 1985, and captured a great photograph of Bill Graham doing one of the things he did best – directing Mick Jagger, Tina Turner and others on stage.

These are just a few of the many stories you’ll learn about at Bill Graham and the Rock and Roll Revolution, the new exhibition at the National Museum of American Jewish History.

Some of the many successes that Bill Graham played a part in are featured here: Live Aid, the Amnesty Concerts, The Last Waltz, The Fillmore West, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, the Grateful Dead, the Rolling Stones.

He was the great ring leader, whether it was helping to guide an act to new heights, provide a venue for them to play in, manage a tour, or create charitable concert events, this man had incredible gusto that is completely worthy of an exhibition in a major museum.

And that is what you’ll see here in Philadelphia at 5th & Market at the NMAJH. Was Graham Jewish? You bet! He escaped Nazi Germany at the age of 11! He was born Wolfgang Grajonca in 1931. He went from Berlin to the Bronx and never looked back.

The exhibition runs Sept 16 and runs through January with various specials lined up like the Speakers that Rock Symposium on Sunday (9/18/16)

At 5:05 pm, I will be on stage with John DeBella and Denny Somach to tell stories, show pictures and videos of Bill Graham as we knew him.

The half day also features writer Robert Greenfield, who co-authored Bill Graham Presents: My Life Inside Rock and Out, Bill’s former wife, Bonnie MacLean, who created so many of the concert posters on display, and Bill’s sons, David and Alex round out that panel.

A leader in fan-forward enhanced concert experiences, Dan Berkowitz also will speak.

Light snacks are provided for the price of admission and you can see the exhibition. Each panel will allow for Q&As afterward and about 6:30 there will be an informal reception.

Many of the music photographs and posters may be purchased through the Museum Store on the first floor.

Speakers that Rock Opening Symposium
Sunday, September 18, 2016
National Museum of American Jewish History
5th & Market Streets
101 South Independence Mall East
Philadelphia, Pa 19106
More info at
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~Cyndy Drue