San Francisco’s Fillmore West had its beginnings as the Majestic Hall, built in 1912. Emma Gates Butler hired James W. and Merritt Reid to build an Italianate-style dance hall at the southwest corner of Fillmore and Geary. When completed in 1912, it housed the Majestic Academy of Dancing. Wednesday night socials and masquerade balls were the usual fare, which were held on the second and third floors.

In the Thirties, the Fillmore was primarily a dance hall (with names such as The Get Acquainted Society and the Ambassador Dance Hall); in the Forties it was a roller rink; and in the Fifties, Charles Sullivan booked some of the biggest names in black music, such as James Brown, Bobby “Blue” Bland, and Ike & Tina Turner.

In 1965, Bill Graham (born Wolfgang Grajonza on January 8, 1931, in Berlin, Germany) presented his first show at the Fillmore, a benefit for the San Francisco Mime Troupe, which he managed at the time. As a rock venue, a legend was born, and Graham went on to feature many of the greatest names in early rock history, including Big Brother and the Holding Co., Jefferson Airplane, Cream, Moby Grape, the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Steve Miller, Country Joe, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Santana, Butterfield Blues Band, Otis Redding, Howlin’ Wolf, Captain Beefheart, Muddy Waters, The Who... the list goes on and on.

The soon-to-be famous posters were created to advertise the shows and were handed out for free. The imaginative style of the art often reflected the psychedelics of the Sixties and very quickly established itself as one of the most recognizeable graphic forms of the time. The public also realized the potential of the posters as pure gold on the collectors market.

The Fillmore closed after it was damaged in the 1989 earthquake. Bill Graham died in a helicopter accident near Vallejo, California, on October 25, 1991. After renovations, the Fillmore reopened on April 27, 1994, with The Smashing Pumpkins, Ry Cooder & David Lindley and American Music Club, and it continues to host a variety of concerts to this day.

Artist Paul Olsen met Bill Graham in 1965 at the first gathering of the Artist’s Liberation Front in a Hayes Valley house adjacent to that famous row of Edwardian houses now associated with San Francisco . Paul’s poster company, Funky Features, created some of the most popular images of the Haight-Ashbury scene in the Sixties. This collection of Fillmore posters was a given to Paul by Bill Graham as a gift. The artists featured in this collection are Wes Wilson, John Meyers, Peter Bailey, Bonnie Maclean, Charles Seeley, Greg Irons, Jim Blashfield, Nicholas Kouninos, Stanley Mouse, Lee Conklin, Jack Hatfield, Rick Griffin, Dana Johnson, Patrick Lofthouse, and Randy Tuten.

Paul Olsen has gone on to develop graphics and logos for feature films, including Terminator 2 and The Abyss, and he has written a new book titled The Book of Love. Paul is also working on The Book of Haight (title suggested by Gary Brooker of Procol Harum) and two screenplays, directing a series of health videos, and he continues to paint.

Please visit his website at olsenart.com. In case you are interested, the entire collection is for sale.

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