45 Years Ago: Santana and Creedence Clearwater Revival Close the Fillmore West
One day after he closed New York's Fillmore East, promoter Bill Graham announced the lineup for the final week of San Francisco's Fillmore West. Graham would end three years of historic shows with five nights of music billed as "the bands that built the Fillmore." The final night, July 4, 1971, featured Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Tower of Power. Camera crews recorded the week's events for the documentary Last Days of the Fillmore.
In 1968, Graham moved from the original Fillmore Auditorium to the Carousel Ballroom, a former dance hall. Graham opened the venue as the Fillmore West on July 5, 1968. One of its most popular acts was the Grateful Dead, who played the hall more than 60 times.
The Dead played their final show at the Fillmore West on Friday night, July 2. Graham took the stage and announced, "After all the s--- that's gone down over the years, I'm very grateful to them and consider them friends … the Grateful Dead."
The Dead's three-hour set, with one intermission, included "Me and Bobby McGee" and "Good Lovin'" and ended with "Not Fade Away" and "Johnny B. Goode."
The Sunday night finale was an invitation-only event that was broadcast live on KSAN and KSFX in quadraphonic FM. "This is going to be the greatest mother---ing evening of our lives," Graham promised as he opened the show. "And now, a bitch of a band from the East Bay – Tower of Power."
The funk-rock horn band was a tough act to follow but the audience was bowled over by surprise guests Creedence Clearwater Revival. The band, fronted by John Fogerty wearing a turquoise cowboy suit with matching boots, was now a trio. It was their first performance since Tom Fogerty quit back in January. The band opened with "Born on the Bayou" and the hour-long set of their hits ended with "Keep On Chooglin'."
The headliners of the evening were Santana, who took the stage just before 1AM. Santana's classic sextet was joined by guitarist Neil Schon and percussionist Coke Escovedo. The 90-minute set opened with "Incident at Neshabur" and included the hits "Black Magic Woman," Oye Como Va" and "Soul Sacrifice." The closing number was Miles Davis' "In a Silent Way."
Drummer Michael Shrieve explained that choice in the book Live at the Fillmore East and West. "We wanted to come off as a little more progressive, as we felt that it would represent us at the given time when the Fillmore closed. We were sort of transformed as a band and that's why we chose to do the Miles Davis tune … and have our kind of groove to it. That was really important to us."
"The music was terrible (at one point Van Morrison insisted they all stop and try something else) but the show was great," wrote David Felton in Rolling Stone. "Graham and his staff pelted the audience with gifts – paper plates, beer, champagne and ice cubes. Sometime between 4 and 5AM, everyone gave up and went home. About 40 fans stuck around to shake hands with Graham, then left him to wander alone among the amps and debris."
"I'm closing the Fillmores for a combination of reasons," Graham told UPI. "They've been a 52-week a year operation and I'm tired of the anguish and lack of time for myself and for other activities as a result of having to work that way. You become a victim of your own creation. I want to get out of the grasp of the monster I created."
But Graham was soon back in the concert business, promoting huge outdoor concerts with performers that included Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and the Allman Brothers Band. Graham was killed in a helicopter crash on Oct. 25, 1991 while returning to his California home from a Huey Lewis and the News concert.
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