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FILLMORE HISTORY back | next

Bill Graham and The Fillmore

Bill Graham was a veteran of the artistic community, but his greatest talents were his keen business acumen and his ability to organize events, creating comfortable and safe atmospheres without stifling the creative energies around him. Maintaining high aesthetic standards and calling on limitless personal energy, Bill pulled together a workforce that functioned as a family, and was a prime nurturing force in San Francisco's burgeoning scene.

In 1965, Bill Graham managed R.G. Davis's San Francisco Mime Troupe. The troupe's Commedia Del'Arte production of Il Candelaio was deemed "too risque" by the San Francisco Parks and Recreation Commission, but they performed it anyway and were subsequently busted.

Bill staged a benefit for the group's legal defense fund. The Family Dog offered its help and Bill, who had been concentrating on his mime troupe duties and was not aware of the dance craze, listed The Family Dog as performers on the "Appeal" party poster, thinking they were a dog act.


The November 6 fundraiser proved serendipitous; in seeking to raise money for the troupe and to increase awareness concerning censorship, Bill plugged into the vibrant youth scene. While many were drawn to the cause, many more were lured to the Howard Street loft by Jefferson Airplane, The Fugs, Sandy Bull, John Handy Quintet and "Others Who Care." Thousands flocked to the loft, and Bill successfully juggled the police, the door (and the back entrance), and the general mayhem to produce an event whiich united the nascent hippie community. Inspired by the success of the event, Bill held two more "appeals" at The Fillmore Auditorium in December and January.

On February 4, 5 & 6, 1966, Jefferson Airplane headlined at The Fillmore in Bill's first non-benefit concerts, marking the true beginning of the company. By March, the youth happenings were a media-certified phenomenon, and the police didn't like it. Bill's request for a dance hall permit in his own name was denied. On April 19, Bill was again refused a permit and on the 22nd the police, incensed by a cartoon in the previous day's San Francisco Chronicle, raided The Fillmore and arrested 14 kids. Bill joined the fracas and ended up in jail as well.

Public outrage concerning the police crackdown was registered in the newspapers and charges against Bill were formally dropped on May 24. On June 6, the Boars of Permit Appeals reversed its decision and certified Bill a "dance-hall keeper." Lets take a look at what The Fillmore was like then back during those "history in the making" years.

Appeal Party
 
jefferson Airplane

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