A Letter from Bill Graham

from page 45 of the May 6, 1971 issue of The Village Voice

April 29, 1971

Dear Friends:

Ever since the creation of the Fillmores, it was my sole intention to do nothing more, or less, than present the finest contemporary artists in this country, on the best stages and in the most pleasant halls.

The scene has changed and, in the long run, we are all to one degree or another at fault. All that I know is that what exists now is not what we started with, and what I see around me now does not seem to be a logical, creative extension of that beginning. Therefore, I am taking this opportunity to announce the closing of the Fillmores, and my eventual withdrawal from producing concerts.

The process will commence with the formal closing of Fillmore East on Sunday, June 27, 1971.

My reasons are as follows:

1) The unreasonable and totally destructive inflation of the live concert scene. Two years ago I warned that the Woodstock Festival syndrome would be the beginning of the end. I am sorry to say that I was right In 1965 when we begin the original Fillmore Auditorium, I associated with and employed "musicians." Now, more often than not, its with "officers and stockholders" in large corporations - only they happen to have long hair and play guitars. I acknowledge their success, but condemn what that success has done to some of them. I continue to deplore the exploitation of the gigantic-hall concerts, many of them with high-priced tickets. The sole incentive of too many has simply become money. The conditions for such performances, besides lacking intimacy, are professionally impossible according to my standards.

2) I had always hoped to be able to present artists whose musical worth I felt was important: artists whose music was valid, whether commercially popular or not. There are more quality artists today; but many of those that do exist do not appear in public regularly. Therefore, in order to stay in business, I would be forced to present acts whose musicality fell below my personal expectations and demands. I could do this, and in having to book fifty-two weeks a year it becomes tempting because it is so much easier to do. Thousands might even to come to these concerts, but I personally would prefer not to present them. For who would gain?

3) With all due respect for the role they play in securing work for the artists, the agents have created a new rock game called "packaging"; which means simply that if the Fillmore wants a major headliner, then we are often forced to take the second and/or third act that the agent or manager insists upon, whether or not we would take pride in presenting them, and whether or not such an act even belongs on that particular show. To do so would be to relinquish the essential responsibility of being a producer, and this I will not do.

4) In the early days of both Fillmore East and West, the level of audience seemed much higher in terms of musical sophistication. Now there are too many screams for "More" with total disregard for whether or not there was any musical quality.

5) The time and energy that is required for me to maintain a level of proficiency in my own work has grown so great that I have simply deprived myself of a private life. At this point I feel that I can no longer refuse myself the time, the leisure, and the privacy to which any man is rightfully entitled.

6) For six years, I have endured the abuse of many members of the public, and press (in most instances people who did not know me personally). The role of "anti-christ of the underground" has obviously never appealed to me. And when I asked for people to either judge me on some factual personal knowledge, or at least base their opinion on that which I produced and gave to the public, I was rarely answered.

7) Rock has been good to me in many ways, but the final and simple fact is that I am tired. The only reason to keep the Fillmore in operation at this point would be to make money. And though few have ever chosen to believe me on this point, money has never been my prime motivation; and now that it would become the only possible motivation to continue, I pass.

My personal future will begin with a long-needed rest. What will follow, I do not know. The several hundred good people who work at the Fillmore, maniacally dedicated to our standards, will, no doubt, go on to other creative things on their own. Fillmore West, as you may know, has been allocated for demolition for a long time know. It will neither relocate nor be reopened.

The "Fillmore" will become a thing of the past. I will remember with deep emotion and fondness the great and joyous moments of that past. I sincerely thank the artists and business associates who contributed to our success. But, I warn the public to watch carefully for what the future will bring.

The rock scene in this country was created by a need felt by the people, expressed by the musicians, and, I hope, aided to some degree by the efforts of the Fillmores. But whatever has become of that scene, wherever it turned into the music industry of festivals, 20,000-seat halls, miserable production quality, and second-rate promoters - however it went wrong - please, each of you, stop and think whether or not you allowed it, whether or not you supported it regardless of how little you received in return.

I am not pleased with this "music industry." I am disappointed with many of the musicians working in it, and I and shocked at the nature of the millions of people who support that "industry" without asking why. I am not assured that the situation will improve in the future.

But beyond all these viewpoints, I truly wish to express my overwhelming appreciation to the people, who, over the years, gave their time and devoted energy to working at the Fillmores. To them, and to many, many musicians who grew in stature without ever copping out, and to those admirable patrons who both refused to support marathon rip-offs and who even took the time to helpfully criticize me for the errors I made - to all of you, my fondest thanks and farewell.


Bill Graham

This letter was generously provided and transcribed by Bob Parker of Pleasant Valley, New York.