Part II with Leland Sklar

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On Wolfgang (Bill Graham)

When I was in college I was real tight with a few of the guys from Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) which was a band that emanated out of the area. The whole spirit of that area was beautiful. I remember being on the Chitlin Circuit and we'd go up Mandrakes to play a gig.

We had a manager named Bruce Gladner who's company was Shady Management and my god if there ever was a name as prophetic this was it. He also had the band "Zephyr" which included Tommy Bolin.

Bruce had an affiliation with Bill Graham and so because "Wolfgang " (Sklar's Band) becoming closer to Bill and David Rubinson who was a major record producer up there. We cut a few demos that I have that have never seen the light of day. A few 45s.

Bill's real name was "Wolfgang," and we thought, "there's no better way to suck up to our new manager than to name our band after him."

It was about a year later that I met James Taylor and we did a lot of work at the Berkeley Community Theatre and suddenly I was involved with Bill on a much more regular basis. Plus we closed out the Fillmore East we were the next to last act. So I got to be real tight with Bill.

It brings me back to "why did he have to get in that helicopter?" Bill died in a helicopter crash. There was a car waiting to take him from Concord but he needed to get back. The weather got real bad and I think they hit power lines. What a loss.

When we played at The Greek Bill would always do the most outrageous back stage events. We'd show up and the spreads and the Hawaiian themes. He was a master of ceremonies just loved to be in the middle of everything.

Bill loved the musicians but he loved the audience more. I remember we went to a gig just to hang out and I won't mention the artists name but they had finished their set and the audience was just screaming going nuts wanting an encore. The band wasn't really acting on it they were sitting back digging themselves. I see Bill take them by the scruff of their neck and push them back out to the stage yelling, "get out there!" More than anything he wanted the crowd to have a great experience. He really believed in that relationship between artist and audience. He wouldn't tolerate any BS from anyone. You read stuff about people disparaging him. He was a task master in an incredibly positive way and his priority was always to make the show and the scene better."

 

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