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film fatales #50: rbg (julie cohen and betsy west, 2018)

music friday: 50 years ago at Fillmore West

On January 25, 1969, Bill Graham put on a show at Fillmore West headlined by Iron Butterfly, with James Cotton and A.B. Skhy as openers.

Formerly the Carousel Ballroom, Graham turned it into Fillmore West in June of 1968. The chronology for Graham's San Francisco and New York Fillmores goes as follows:

Graham began promoting shows at the Fillmore Auditorium in December of 1965. His first show, a benefit for the San Francisco Mime Troupe, was headlined by Jefferson Airplane and The Great Society!.

In March of 1968, Graham opened Fillmore East in New York City. In July of 1968, he moved from the Fillmore to Fillmore West in San Francisco.

Graham closed Fillmore East in June of 1971 and Fillmore West a month later. Graham re-opened the original Fillmore in the mid-80s, but it became unusable after the earthquake of 1989. Graham died in 1991. Since then, the Fillmore was refurbished and re-opened yet again in 1994, where it still stands. There have also been Fillmores franchised to other cities.

My first trip to the Fillmore came during the Summer of Love in 1967, when I saw Chuck Berry, with Eric Burdon and the Animals and the Steve Miller Blues Band. Miller and his band accompanied Berry for his sets, which were later released as Live at the Fillmore Auditorium. I was also at one of the first set of shows at the new Fillmore West: Paul Butterfield, Ten Years After, and Fleetwood Mac. I think the last show I saw at the Fillmore was Wild Flag in 2012.

And so, to January 25, 1969. A.B. Skhy were a Milwaukee band that moved to San Francisco and opened several shows at the Fillmores. Their first of two albums was released in 1969 ... I"m guessing it hadn't come out in time for this show, but I could be wrong. This single barely inched its way into the top 100:

Cotton was a veteran blues man who had been around forever, even though he was only 33 at the time of this show. He worked with Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters. His biggest album on his own at the time of this show was probably Cut You Loose!, which was cut in San Francisco in 1968.

This was typical of Graham's shows in those days: 3 acts, a local one, a blues act, and a headliner that at times had no clear connection to the other two. Iron Butterfly, coming off of their huge, career-defining "In-a-Gadda-da-Vida", had just released their third album when this show took place. In 1970, they released a live album that had been recorded at some May 1969 shows, that probably works as an example for what they might have sounded like that night at Fillmore West a few months earlier.

 

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