Meet the Man Who Gave Us Rock & Roll

You’ve got one more month to see the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s big show about Bill Graham, the mercurial concert promoter who gave us the Fillmores (both East and West) and, many would agree, the modern rock scene. What we learned about Bill from a quick visit:

1)The very first concert he ever put on was a legal-aid benefit in 1965 for the satirical San Francisco Mime Troupe—which doesn’t actually perform in mime. Fifty years later, the troupe is still going strong.

2) He was born Wulf Wolodia Grajonca in Berlin in 1931, escaped the Holocaust but lost his parents, and emigrated as an orphan to the U.S. in 1941.

3) He changed his name in 1951 to Bill Graham—he picked it out of the phone book—but his childhood nickname, Wolfgang, lives on via the music-memorabilia company that owns his archives, which is called Wolfgang’s Vault.

Bill Graham warns Beach Boys manager that his group is late June 1971 Berkeley, CA sheet 1035

Robert Altman, Bill Graham enlightens Beach Boys Management: “Your band is late.”, Oakland Coliseum Stadium, Oakland, CA, June 1971. Chromogenic print. Courtesy of Robert Altman.


Robert Wedemeyer, Note from Donovan to Bill Graham, San Francisco, November 1967. Offset print with inscribed ink. Collection of Robert Wedemeyer.


Featured Photo: Michael Zagaris, Closing Winterland, December 31, 1978. Gelatin silver print, frame: 26 3/8 x 20 1/8 in. Courtesy of Skirball Cultural Center.

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