Just another day at the Fillmore

FLASHBACK | Honey Green

It was October 1966, just a few days before my birthday. Bill Graham had booked an amazing show. Headlining was the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, with Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield, Mark Naftalin, Elvin Bishop and a host of many others. The second band was the Jefferson Airplane — Marty, Jorma, Jack, Spencer and Signe Anderson.

Fillmore posterThere were two shows and, if memory serves me right, I believe this first one was Signe’s last show, because Grace Slick did the second show. The third act on the bill was Big Mama Mae Thornton. What a show this was going to be.

The day was hectic with musicians running here, running there, sound checks, lighting checks for the light booths and Bill checking every, I mean every thing. The excitement was palpable and continued all afternoon. When, oh no, the piano for Big Mama did not show up. Bill was on the phone calling all over town and, to his chagrin, could not find a piano to rent. Now here’s the good part: I had a piano at home.

Bill sent a crew over to my house to get the piano and even had a piano tuner come in. Pianos need to be tuned. Well, this was so exciting. There was my piano on the stage in all its shining glory. Paul Butterfield’s band was outstanding, as was the Airplane.

Then Big Mama came on stage, sat down at the piano and played “Heartbreak Hotel” such as it was never played before or since. It brought the house down. Then she wanted accompaniment on the piano, and Mark Naftalin sat down and tinkled those keys.

I never looked at that piano the same way again.

A footnote: After the show was over, Bill had my piano beautifully restained, had it delivered to my house and sent the piano tuner along with it.

Honey Green was promoter Bill Graham’s secretary back in the day.

  • Pat Montandon

    Thank you for the wonderful memory. I knew Bill Graham and have a delightful and heart-felt story he told, as only Bill could tell it, at a Roundtable. I recorded it and now have the transcript which I’ll include in a future book: Recipes for Conversation.

    • Honey Green

      I would love to read it. He was rife with stories and told them, as you say, as only Bill could tell it.

  • Kenny Thompson

    Hey, Honey, Grate story from “back in the day”.

    • Honey Green

      Thanks “Kenny Thompson”.

  • jonnydturk

    The Fillmore remains a great venue. Too bad the Fox in Oakland is now grabbing so many of the acts that would have previously come to the Fillmore. Oh, one more thing… Fillmore: Please fix or replace your electronic message board! It helps create buzz in the neighborhood.