3. Owner Bill Graham narrowly escaped the Holocaust

Bill Graham
Photo by Mark Sarfati from Wikimedia Commons.

Bill Graham took over the Village Theatre in 1968 and opened “The Church of Rock and Roll” on March 8. The venue was the East Coast counterpart of the Fillmore out in San Francisco, which Graham made famous. He helped bring in and popularize performers such as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Big Brother and the Holding Company. Graham regularly alternated between the East and West Coast venues, and he also owned Fillmore Records starting in 1969. Citing financial reasons and unwelcoming shifts in the music industry, Graham closed the East and West Coast venues in 1971. Graham’s journey to fame as a rock concert promoter, though, was rather fascinating.

Graham was born in Berlin in 1931 and was placed into an orphanage so that he could go to France in 1939 just before the Holocaust officially began. After the fall of France, Graham was able to make it to the U.S. as part of the One Thousand Children, who managed to flee Hitler and Europe while their parents stayed behind. Graham’s mother died at Auschwitz while he was placed in an orphanage in the Bronx. He served in the Korean War and was awarded both the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.