Rock Impresario Bill Graham To Be Celebrated At Skirball

Legendary concert promoter Bill Graham will be the subject of a five-month show at L.A.’s Skirball Cultural Center. The exhibition, titled “Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution,” will run from May 7-Oct. 11 and is designed to chronicle Graham’s impact on American popular culture.

The installation is being billed as “first major museum show” dedicated to the rock impresario, credited with launching the careers of several acts in the ’60s including the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Janis Joplin at his Fillmore and Winterland arenas in San Francisco, and the mastermind behind such pioneering benefit concerts as Live Aid (1985) and Human Rights Now! (1988).

The exhibit is timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Graham’s first concert. (Graham died in a helicopter crash in 1991 at age 50.)

More than 400 objects will be on display — some from other institutions such as Seattle’s Experience Music Project and others from such private sources as the Graham family archive and guitarist Carlos Santana’s personal collection.

Items include photographs and artifacts from Graham’s early life as a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany; Jerry Garcia’s “Wolf” guitar; guitarist Keith Richards’ leather boots repaired by Graham with duct tape during the Rolling Stones’ 1981 tour; Pete Townshend’s 1968 Gibson SG Special used during the performance of “Tommy” at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1970; original artwork for iconic Fillmore posters, many signed by the artists themselves; a collection of live performance and backstage photos of rock royalty who performed at various Bill Graham Presents concerts; and an installation of the Joshua Light Show conceived by multimedia artist Joshua White that served as a backdrop to many Graham-produced shows.

“Bill Graham transformed the way audiences experience music and community to this day,” said Robert Kirschner, Skirball Museum director, in a statement. “We are also inspired by how Bill Graham saw purpose in bringing people together and championing human rights and social justice.”

The multicity exhibition tour will includes stops in San Francisco, Cleveland and Chicago through 2017.

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