THE BILL GRAHAM $2 STORY

Posted By: Lobster · 12/26/2013 10:03:00 AM

The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium honors his name.  The Bill Graham Foundation still continues his philanthropic work.  The Fillmore in San Francisco has his likeness on the walls, his legacy of poster art and the free apple barrell in the lobby.  The memory of having the man around in-the-flesh is one that's limited to those of us who were there in the halcyon days of the late, great Rock Impressario.  

As promised on-the-air, this blog entry is about how I have his voice on a sign-off I use at the end of the show.  After recording an interview with him in 1977 for KSJO, I asked him to record a station ID for me.  He made the "$2 an hour" crack at the end, and I chuckle in the background.  There was a reason.  You can click to listen to the .mp3 under the picture of his Jaguar.  More on the car below.

Bill never forgot a detail.  He smiled and winked at me after saying that.  Two years before, Bill was at KOME with Carlos Santana for an interview.  I was on-the-air there, after KSJO changed ownership and format.  Had to take a pay cut from $3 an hour to $2 an hour.  While we were sitting and chatting in "the green room", one of the station staff came in and said; "Mr. Graham, we're ready to go into the studio to do the interview."  Bill got out of his chair, saying "I get paid $2 an hour, and I do whatever you tell me to do."  At that point, I burst out laughing and said "That's what they paid me when I started here!"  As some of the staff glared at me, Bill took it in.

He remember my wisecrack.  So now, I occassionally end my radio show with the ID he recorded for me.  It's from a moment in time when one man was at the center of our SF Bay Area Music Scene, and made a difference in how concerts were staged, and a role model on how to be a leader and force in a community.  People loved, hated, feared, admired and respected Bill Graham.  He earned it all, depending on which side of his business or persona you happened to be approaching.  He could both cruel and kind.

Back to the Jaguar.  I've shared this photo with the Bill Graham Presents Alumni Facebook group.  It's my favorite shot of the car.  I snapped outside of the garage at the home of Jeffrey Pollack, Concert Promoter turned Restaurateur.  I had given him a ride to the place where the Jaguar had just been detailed.  Don't recall how Jeff wound up buying it.  Jan Simmons commented: "Bill drove that car in all kinds of weather, top down ALWAYS! He said as long as you're moving, the windshield keeps the rain off of you. Ha!"

Bill kept moving, alright.  His last, an unfortunate helicopter flight to return home, after flying to the Concord Paviliion through a storm to ask Huey Lewis to play a benefit concert he was planning for the Oakland Hills fire victims.  The concert never happened.  Instead, Laughter, Love and Music was held November 3, 1991 as a free concert at the Polo Field in Golden Gate Park, a day of emotional performances witnessed by 400,000 shortly after the instantaneous passing of Bill, his pilot Steve Kahn, and girlfriend Melissa Gold.

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  1. Pink posted on 01/01/2014 03:28 AM
    Nice blog entry. I used to see that car parked outside of Winterland in San Francisco at most of the shows I went to. Thanks for sharing the picture. "Bill Graham was a Lion" - to quote Carlos Santana. As classic as the Jag he drove.
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