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.