It’s all on display at a new exhibit at the New York Historical Society, including vintage concert posters, costumes, and such artifacts as Keith Richard’s boots held together by duct tape, Janis Joplin’s tambourine and a coat worn in concert by Jimi Hendrix.
Bill Graham and the Rock & Roll Revolution focuses on the role of the legendary concert promoter, who put many artists and bands on the musical map in the 1960s and 1970s, including at the legendary Filmore Auditorium in San Francisco and the Filmore East concert hall in the East Village, which used to be called “the church of rock and roll”, along with many outdoor concerts.
One of his concerts was Live Aid, credited with starting a movement of charity fund-raiser concerts featuring top performers.
The exhibit opens on Valentine’s Day, because it’s a love letter to New York City.
NYC on the Cheap editor Evelyn Kanter got a preview.
The Sound of Music
The exhibit includes an audio guide that is all about the music, with high-tech stereo headphones.
The sounds are triggered by an infra-red signal.
Stand at the exhibit about the beginnings of Rock & Roll, and you hear Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Aretha Franklin.
Stand long enough at the exhibit about The Rolling Stones, which includes an Andy Warhol poster of Mick Jagger, and you can hear seven Stones favorites, starting with Start Me Up.
There are videos of Woodstock, videos of Bob Dylan in concert, and more.
You could spend all day here, bopping to the music and learning about the influence of New Yorker Bill Graham on creating and popularizing the cultural phenomenon known as Rock & Roll.
Bill Graham is also credited with discovering and mentoring Carlos Santana, and one of his guitars is part of the exhibit – plus his music, of course.
Bill Graham was born in Berlin. He was orphaned by the Nazis – his mother died on a train en route to Auschwitz, and other family members died in Auschwitz.
He arrived in New York at the age of 11 as part of a Red Cross effort to help Jewish children fleeing the Nazis, and picked his new name out of the phone book.
Graham grew up in the Bronx and graduated Dewitt Clinton High School – the school yearbook is one of the displays – and then City College, before becoming a music impresario.
Bill Graham is one more example of the important role of immigrants in New York City and the entire United States of America.
- Note – NYC on the Cheap Editor Evelyn Kanter is the NYC-born daughter of German-Jewish immigrants.
Bill Graham and the Rock and Roll Revolution has timed tickets so there aren’t too many people in the gallery at one time.
The exhibit already has been seen by an estimated one million visitors at its previous showings in San Francisco and Ft. Lauderdale.
After its stint in New York City, through mid-August, it goes on permanent display in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum in Cleveland.
Why Cleveland for a rock and roll museum? A radio disc jockey named Alan Freed was on their air there, and gave the name rock and roll to the music mix of gospel, country and other uptempo music he was playing.
Alan Freed, of course, moved to New York City, becoming a top jock on the old Top 40 WINS. Freed moved to WCBS FM in 1956, where he hosted Alan Freed’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Dance Party. He died in 1965, the same year WINS went all-news.
- Full disclosure: In a “previous life”, NYC on the Cheap Editor Evelyn Kanter was a news writer for WINS and a producer and on-air reporter for CBS Radio.
Get tickets in advance at NYHistory.org.
The New York Historical Society is at 77th St. and Central Park West, across the street from the American Museum of Natural History.