On Oct. 25, 1991, Rock and Roll lost one of the most influential people it ever …

Written by on October 25, 2018

On Oct. 25, 1991, Rock and Roll lost one of the most influential people it ever had. Concert promoter, manager, producer, record label owner and actor Bill Graham. Bill produced early concerts at the Fillmore, Avalon Ballroom, Winterland Ballroom, the Fillmore East and the Fillmore West to name a few venues. He was involved with Woodstock and promoted the largest US festival ever at Watkins Glen.

Graham was killed in a helicopter crash west of Vallejo, California, while returning home from a Huey Lewis and the News concert at the Concord Pavilion. Graham had attended the event to discuss promoting a benefit concert for the victims of the 1991 Oakland firestorm. Once he had obtained the commitment from Huey Lewis to perform, he returned to his helicopter. Flying in severe weather, with rain and gusty winds, the aircraft flew off course and too low to the ground over the tidal marshland north of San Pablo Bay. The Bell Jet Ranger flew directly into a 223-foot high-voltage tower near where Highway 37, which runs between Vallejo, California and Marin County, California, crosses Sonoma Creek. The helicopter burst into flames on impact, killing Graham, pilot Steve Kahn and Graham's girlfriend, Melissa Gold, ex-wife of author Herbert Gold. The charred remains of the helicopter hung grotesquely in the tower for more than a day.

Besides all the music event he promoted, Bill had a lifelong dream to be a character actor. He appeared in "Apocalypse Now" in a small role as a promoter. In 1990, he was cast as Charles "Lucky" Lucianoin the film "Bugsy." During one scene, he is shown in a Latin dance number, a style of dancing Graham had embraced as a teenager in New York. He also appears as a promoter in the 1991 Oliver Stone film, "The Doors." He had a small part in "Gardens of Stone" as Don Brubaker, a hippie anti-war protester.

There were some in the business who were not fond of Graham, but those people would agree he had a huge part in inventing the business.

RIP Bill. Thanks for the shows.




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