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San Francisco Business Times, August 18, 2006

Archives bring Bill Graham era back from the Dead

Rock 'n' roll loving Baby Boomers, take out your Montblanc pen. Now write Bill Sagan a thank-you note.

Sagan is a former Minneapolis Insurance and health-care executive, and more to the point, a lifelong rock fan who in 2003 paid Clear Channel Communications a reported $5 million for the archives of the "Bill Graham Presents" concert promotion company.

Stuffed into a warehouse basement, Sagan found a treasure trove of rock 'n' roll remains from the late, legendary Graham's 1960s and 1970s heyday as the kingpin of the Bay Area music scene: mountains of photos, posters and tickets from Janis Joplin, the Band, the Grateful Dead (of course) and hundreds of others.

There was also something that nobody knew existed - 5,000 audio and video recordings of concerts, that, in some cases, weren't seen or heard for 40 years.

In all, there was enough to start a radio station - which Sagan has now done. Earlier this year, he put the audio archives online for all to hear - for free - at Wolfgangsvault.com. (Graham was born Wolfgang Grajonca in Berlin.) Click on Vault Radio to stream recordings of live performances such as the Allman Brothers Band's March 12, 1971, performance of "Whipping Post" at the Fillmore East. Or you might hear Bruce Springsteen from 1973, when he was an unknown New Jersey youth opening for Blood, Sweat & Tears at the Berkeley Community Theatre.

The site has drawn the appreciation of Time Magazine, which just named it among the tops of its "50 Coolest Websites" list.

The recognition suits Sagan fine, for he is as much entrepreneur as aficionado. He is negotiating with artists and record labels for the rights to make the recordings into CDs and DVDs. As for the rest of the loot, it's going on sale on the web site. Sagan reckons it could ultimately fetch as much as $100 million.

By Jim Gardner

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