Concert promoter and impresario, Bill Graham organized, produced and marketed rock music from the mid-1960’s until his untimely death in a 1991 helicopter crash. Over the course of a career that spanned nearly three decades, Bill Graham promoted a Hall of Fame of rock and folk music stars. The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin (with and without Big Brother and The Holding Company), and Jefferson Airplane are among the bands with whom he is most closely associated.
Many of the performances Bill Graham promoted were held at the now historic Fillmore and Winterland Arena in San Francisco and nearly all were heralded by bright, bold and brilliantly designed concert posters produced by prominent artists contracted by Graham. These “Bill Graham Presents” concert posters are among the most collectible artifacts of Bill Graham’s music legacy and have been highly sought after by collectors of rock memorabilia and ephemera for the past 50 years.
The posters’ desirability often led to multiple print runs for each design - sometimes well after the concerts they promoted had taken place. It is often minute details and variations between print runs that have the greatest effect on the value of any given poster.
Rago’s February 23-25 Unreserved Auction will feature a fine collection of “Bill Graham Presents” posters, some signed by artists who designed them, including Randy Tuten, Lee Conklin, and Stanley Mouse. (They look great paired with modern furnishings.)
Lot 849 features artwork by Wes Wilson and promotes a concert at The Fillmore featuring Otis Redding, The Grateful Dead, Johnny Talbot and De Thangs, and Country Joe and the Fish. This poster was printed in two runs which can be distinguished by the color of the type in the ticket information at the bottom of the poster. Lot 849, with its white type, is a first run print.
Lot 853 is signed by artist Randy Tuten and features the image of performer Janis Joplin framed inside of a jukebox. This is a first print poster, distinguishable from the second print by the white band inside of the red band on the jukebox. On the second print, this white band would be yellow.
Lot 861 features a vibrant and ‘groovy’ design by Bonnie MacLean sporting some of the biggest names of the era including The Doors, Chuck Berry, and Big Brother and the Holding Company. Only a single print run of this poster promoting one of Bill Graham’s popular New Year’s Eve events was made and this example is in good condition and highly desirable.
Lot 864 features an exceptionally popular poster promoting the October 1968 Jimi Hendrix Experience concert at the Winterland Arena in San Francisco. The poster was designed by Victor Moscoso and Rick Griffin who were both deeply involved in the psychedelic art scene. We can be certain that this is a first run printing of this poster as second run printings featured a prominent ‘W’ to the right of the lower ticket information – a feature absent in this example.