The two decide to put on a concert featuring The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. The band's performance is so lucrative that Graham's ambition takes over, and he decides to cut Helms out the next concert with the Butterfield Band. So, he stays up all night in a plan to call Butterfield's manager in New York before Helms has a chance to make the a call. Graham asks Grossman for the rights to promote Butterfield for one show, but then negotiates a deal with him that will make Graham the sole promoter for every show Butterfield plays in San Francisco. The whole episode says a lot about Graham, and yes, his actions do piss off Chet Helms. However, it is the start of a long, and prosperous relationship for Graham, Grossman and Paul Butterfield.
One of the auditoriums that Graham leases for his shows is called The Fillmore. It's an old building in a ghetto neighbourhood of San Francisco called the The Fillmore District. In the coming years, Bill Graham will acquire, The Fillmore then Winterland, and Family Dog Concert Halls. In these buildings he will host most of the rock bands who create some of the most of the influential music of a generation. Bands such as: The Grateful Dead, The Jefferson Airplane, BIg Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin, Starship, The Eagles, Country Joe and the Fish, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, Moby Grape, Santana, Frank Zappa, Steve Miller, The Mamas and the Papas, Crosby Stills, Nash and Young, Taj Mahal and many more. (BTW, The Grateful Dead hold the record for playing The Fillmore, 52 times between 1965 and '69.) Through his foresight, business leadership, generosity, and talented staff, Bill Graham becomes the most important rock concert promoter of a generation.
The Fillmore actually becomes as famous as many of the names who play there. It also develops into both a local as well as an international focal point for psychedelic music, and an institution of the counter culture in the United States..
One of the reasons the venue becomes famous is because of its ambiance. There are strobe lights, swirling light show projections, and my favourite, the iconic light show which appears behind so many bands of that era. (Here is how they created that effect: they take the lens' from two clocks you can find in most public institutions. The lens' are about 8 or 10 inches in diameter. They pour vegetable oil mixed with food colouring on one side, and sandwich the two lens' together. Finally, they place the sandwiched lens' on a standard overhead projector, which magnifies the designs between the lens'.)
A lot of Bill Graham's initial success as a promoter, and The Fillmore is because of the The Paul Butterfield Blues Band. They become the band to see when in San Francisco. As an example of his gratitude to Butterfield, in 1973, when Butterfield is playing Winterland with his band, Better Days, Graham introduces them with "If it weren't for Paul, I don't know if a lot of us would be tonight" That is a pretty solid endorsement from the most important promoter of an era.
Initially, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band are different than all of the San Francisco bands who play The Fillmore. They look different, none have long hair, and they show up on stage dressed in their street close. The other thing that sets them apart from everyone else is their obvious elevated level of musicianship. One of the reasons for this is the wide variety of music they have been exposed to growing up in Chicago. The most important skill gained from all that musical experience is the sensibility that comes from the improvising found in Be-bop, and then the more eclectic Hard- bop. I know from reading interviews with Butterfield that he is very familiar with Be-bop and Hard-bop jazz. As Charlie Parker so succinctly sums up playing the music, "Master your instrument, Master the music, and then forget all the stuff, and just play."
The good points about the Fillmore set of tracks is this: once again it is a historical document of the band when they are first making history at The Fillmore. The performances are great! For these reasons alone, I am glad own a copy.
The September,1966 Fillmore tracks are: The Sky is Crying, Oh, Pretty Woman, Help Me, Born in Chicago, Goin' Home, Droppin' Out, Out Love is Drifitin', She's Long She's Tall, My Babe, Kansas City, Work Song and East West.