Category Archives: Anniversary

Wolodia Wolfgang Grajonca Bill Graham

Wolodia Wolfgang Grajonca Bill Graham

January 8, 1931 – October 25, 1991

Wolodia Wolfgang Grajonca Bill Graham

 Bill Graham was born Wolodia “Wolfgang” Grajonca in Berlin, Germany. During World War II, with his father dead, the Nazi pogrom underway, and his mother gassed to death on a train to the Auschwitz concentration camp, Grajonca fortunately became part of a group of children that the International Red Cross enabled  to ultimately escape to the United States where he was placed in an upstate New York army barracks. Later, a Bronx family brought him to live with them.

Though not a citizen, he was drafted into the army and served meritoriously in the Korean War. Graham’s first experiences with entertainment came when he worked in various  New York Catskill resorts, such as Grossinger’s (Liberty), the Concord Hotel (Kiamesha Lake) and the  President Hotel (Swan Lake).

Wolodia Wolfgang Grajonca Bill Graham

Filmores

 

Wolodia Wolfgang Grajonca Bill Graham

In the mid-1960’s, Graham was drawn to concert promotion while business manager for the San Francisco Mime Troupe, a radical theater group. [November 1, 1965: Graham presented his first show, a benefit for the San Francisco Mime Troupe.]  Graham eventually found success promoting and presenting such bands as the Jefferson Airplane, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and famously the Grateful Dead at the Fillmore Auditorium (between 1966 and 1968) and later at the Fillmore West (beginning July, 1968).

Bill Graham opened the Fillmore East on March 8, 1968 with  blues guitarist Albert King, folk singer-songwriter Tim Buckley, and Big Brother and the Holding Company.  The hall’s characteristic schedule was a two-show, triple-bill concert several nights a week. Graham would regularly alternate acts between his east and west coast venues. Until early 1971, bands were booked on both Friday and Saturday nights to play two shows per night at 8 pm and 11 pm, which might end at 3 AM or later.

Wolodia Wolfgang Grajonca Bill Graham

Fillmore East

Wolodia Wolfgang Grajonca Bill Graham

Complimenting FM radio stations (like WNEW-FM in NYC) then recent forays into progressive rock formats whose DJs exposed rock music lovers to so-called underground bands with their extended improvisational jams, the Fillmore East fed the growing appetite for live music venues and presented those bands as well as introducing upcoming groups such as Santana and Sly and the Family Stone.  

Bill Graham made the Fillmore a safe haven where kids could experience the music they wanted without getting busted.  As he wrote in a letter published in the Village Voice just before the Fillmore’s closing:  it was my sole intention to do nothing more, or less, than present the finest contemporary artists in this country, on the best stages and in the most pleasant halls.

The list of performers who played at the Fillmore East is a “Who’s Who” of rock and roll greats. A very partial list includes: the Grateful Dead (39 shows over 28 dates); Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies; John Lennon and Yoko Ono who performed with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention; the Allman Brothers (whose double-album Live at the Fillmore East is ranked 49th among Rolling Stone magazine’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”); Jefferson Airplane; Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young; Joe Cocker; Miles Davis; Derek and the Dominoes; The Chambers Brothers; Mountain; Ten Years After; and  Johnny Winter.

Wolodia Wolfgang Grajonca Bill Graham

Joshua Light

Wolodia Wolfgang Grajonca Bill Graham
Joshua Light Show

An integral component of each performance, the Joshua Light Show provided a psychedelic art lighting backdrop behind bands. From the summer of 1970, Joe’s Lights, made up of former members of the Joshua Light Show, became the house light show, trading duties with The Pig Light Show until the venue’s closing.

By 1971 Graham had become disenchanted with the direction of the music promotion scene and closed both Fillmores. According to Graham: The time and energy that is required for me to maintain a level of proficiency in my own work has grown so great that I have simply deprived myself of a private life. At this point I feel that I can no longer refuse myself the time, the leisure, and the privacy to which any man is rightfully entitled.  (full text of Graham’s letter)

The Fillmore East closed on June 27, 1971; 1206 nights after it opened. (NYT article)

Wolodia Wolfgang Grajonca Bill Graham

Final marquee

Wolodia Wolfgang Grajonca Bill Graham


Bill Graham died in a helicopter crash on  October 25, 1991. (NYT article)

Wolodia Wolfgang Grajonca Bill Graham
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Curtis Knight Jimi Hendrix

Curtis Knight Jimi Hendrix

October 1965

Curtis Knight Jimi Hendrix

In October 1965 Curtis Knight recorded “How Would You Feel.” Knight’s guitarist was the young and still-living-in-the-USA guitarist Jimi Hendrix. As you listen to the guitar you can hear the foreshadowing of Hendrix’s iconic cover of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Curtis Knight Jimi Hendrix

Before Knight

In 1962, Hendrix had left the Army after a brief unproductive stint. At least as far as his military prowess was concerned since he spent much of his hitch playing guitar.

In February 1964, Hendrix had won the amateur contest at the Apollo Theater in NYC.

In March 1964, Hendrix was part of the Isley Brothers band and recorded the two-part single “Testify” before beginning a tour with them.

Earlier in 1965, Hendrix had played a session for Rosa Lee Brooks on her single “My Diary”  Around the same time he also backed Little Richard on  “I Don’t Know What You’ve Got, But It’s Got Me.”

Curtis Knight Jimi Hendrix

After Knight

September 22, 1966 was Jimi Hendrix’s first day in England after the Animals’ ex-bassist turned producer Chas Chandler “discovered” him in New York City fronting  Jimmy James and the Blue Flames in the various Greenwich Village clubs.

We know the rest of the story. How Paul McCartney’s recommendation let to Hendrix set Monterey afire. How Reprise Records signed Jimi. Woodstock. The Jimi Hendrix sad swan song.

Curtis Knight Jimi Hendrix

Bandwagon

Though Hendrix only recorded three studio albums, anyone with any of his recordings of any kind tried to jump on the Hendrix goose that seemingly laid only golden eggs.

In 1965, he had signed a contract with PPX records to play with Curtis Knight. After Hendrix and his Experience struck it big with Are You Experienced?, PPX packaged Hendrix’s Knight tracks as its own album while playing up Hendrix’s role in the Squires.

A similar PPX album called Got That Feeling was also planned for the U.K. in 1968 before the courts stepped in and barred the release, with Hendrix himself calling it “musically worthless.”

Curtis Knight Jimi Hendrix

March 2015

Curtis Knight Jimi Hendrix

47 years later, Hendrix’s estate, Eperience Hendrix LLC, released You Can’t Use My Name: Curtis Knight & The Squires (featuring Jimi Hendrix) The RSVP/PPX Sessions.  The name is an obvious reference to previous legal issues. Experience Hendrix selected 14 of the 88 studio recordings Hendrix had made with Curtis Knight.

Curtis Knight Jimi Hendrix
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Gone Far Too Soon 27 Club

Gone Far Too Soon 27 Club

Gone Far Too Soon 27 Club

Gone Far Too Soon 27 Club

Equivocal occupation

As a docent at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts I have the opportunity to do “Artist Tours.”

During the outdoor concert season, the Center offers a Woodstock site tour to the visiting musicians, their crew, and accompanying family and friends.

The initial response to the opportunity is that as a docent I’d have the opportunity to “rub elbows” with these well-known acts. Rarely is that so and it took me a few times to realize why.

I once observed to a crew member that what fans see as the glamour of the touring experience, seeing many places, the applause, the adulation, the well-appointed buses aren’t perhaps all they appear to be, he replied, “It’s still traveling down the interstate in a metal tube at 70 MPH.”

And that is as good a revelation of the other side as I will likely ever hear.

Gone Far Too Soon 27 Club

Opportunity

It would seem that given the wealth that can sometime become a part of the successful musicians’ lives, the chance to be a part of many exclusive inner circles, and the requests to be met and their accompanying flattery, a person might come to believe that their success has no down side.

But the chance to accept all that is offered, the ability to purchase that which is often unavailable and to purchase excessive amounts of that thing can lead on to that infamous slippery slope to the Valley of Humiliation.

Gone Far Too Soon 27 Club

27 Club

And is some cases, the Valley of Death.

It is an exaggeration in the extreme to say that the life of rock and roll is a lethal one, a deadly one. Unfortunately, for too many, it was just that. And oddly, the 27 year old musician has been that.

Gone Far Too Soon 27 Club

No One Lives Forever

The Band sang it so well…

No one lives forever

Who would want to

But you’re too soon gone, too soon gone

Too soon gone, too soon gone

…and so did Robbie Robertson solo

Are you out there

Can you hear me

Can you see me in the dark

Follow this link to  a sad listing the too many rock musicians who died at the age of 27.  Or this Ranker article.

Gone Far Too Soon 27 Club

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