Bill Graham was a music promoter and a tough cookie. During my research for my next novel, Don’t Stop The Music, I realized that Graham’s thick skin was forged at an early age as a Jew in Germany during World War II. His mother and a sister were gassed by Nazis. At the tender age of nine he trekked across Europe alone and eventually found his way to Portugal, then Casablanca to Dakar and finally landing in New York where he ended up in an orphanage.
After serving in Korea, he worked as a New York cab driver before coming to San Francisco. It is here where I found some rather interesting facts that would take center stage for my historical fiction crime story.
Bill Graham, music promoter:
Charles Sullivan was a player and the top Black music promoter west of the Mississippi during the fifties. He had turned the Fillmore District of San Francisco into Harlem of the West. After-hours jazz clubs featured Miles Davis, John Handy, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk and so many more. Then one night in a dark alley in August, 1966, Charles Sullivan was found dead under very mysterious circumstances. The police ruled it a suicide, but the locals figured it was just another move by the powers to be to tear down the district. This is where my next novel starts. Sullivan leaves Graham his dancing license for the Fillmore Auditorium, but the young entrepreneur’s efforts to renew the permit are stonewalled. Tough and determined, Graham blackmails a crooked cop by taking pictures of him entering a brothel across the street from the dance hall. For further information go to Don’t Stop The Music.
Keep the rhythm going, baby!