Rock and Roll Posters Of An Era
Psychedelic posters by a hand-full of artists, most notably, Rick Griffin - the cartoon and rock poster-artist from Los Angeles, became counter-culture icons of the 60s & 70s. Individual posters were created for each concert put on by Bill Graham Presents at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Liquidy, colorful images often with surreal faces and swirling hair represented the main event. Mod, bubble-like lettering illustrated the name of the main band, concert dates and back-up bands and usually included the Fillmore and Bill Graham’s name.
This Johnny Cash poster surprised me as I did not know such musicians played at the Fillmore. I like the implied horizon behind the guitar-wielding singer who appears to walk alone. Graham also represented jazz musicians like Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin and Donald Bird at the Fillmore and its sister-venues in the city. These musicians attracted a broad audience and influenced what is now the Fillmore Jazz District in San Francisco, which is where Bill Graham’s favorite venue, The Fillmore West, now exists on Geary Street and Fillmore.
These vintage posters can be found online and at select music and poster stores scattered across the city. Posters of the evening’s event continue to be handed out for free at concerts that appear at the Fillmore in San Francisco. I took pictures of these at a local frame shop on Chestnut Street where a special installation of vintage rock posters is now on display.
Bill Graham tragically died in a helicopter crash in 1991. Strangely, the poster artist Rick Griffin also died in 1991 in a motorcycle accident. The man who befriended and managed the likes of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead and many others, shaped the rock and roll concerts of an era stretching from the 60s through today. Graham was inspired by Woodstock, the first outdoor rock and roll concert of its kind in 1969, though he had already worked to establish most of the big-name bands that appeared at the Woodstock Festival. Many of those bands from Woodstock had made a name for themselves under the guardianship of Graham and benefited greatly from his promotional genius. Today Bill Graham Presents is thriving and extensive with venues on the West Coast as well as in New York City.
The Bill Graham Memorial Foundation, centered in San Francisco, is a public charity and philanthropic organization run by Graham’s sons and other friends of the rock impresario. The mission of the Foundation is to assist under-privileged or under-funded people in the areas of social work, spirituality, the environment and especially music, art and education.
If Bill Graham were alive today he would be eighty-one, and the artist, Rick Griffin would be sixty-eight.