Mr. Graham’s Stash

A Minneapolis entrepreneur bought Bill Graham’s memorabilia about three years ago. Now it appears he’s the owner of one of the most exciting finds in rock ‘n’ roll history.

Bill Sagan paid Clear Channel Communications more than $5 million for about 20 million items that were kept in a San Francisco warehouse, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Clear Channel, which owns Bill Graham Presents, reportedly had no interest in sorting through the massive piles. Sagan and his staff, on the other hand, spent six months looking through the archive.

They didn’t find the Ark of the Covenant, or Rosebud. But what they did uncover may be a treasure trove of rock ‘n’ roll. Among the commemorative rock posters, performance photos and T-shirts, there was something else: audio and video tapes.

Apparently, the collection includes more than 5,000 tapes from 1966 to 1999. Judging from the reportedly excellent sound quality, many of the audiotapes must have been recorded from soundboards. The Doors are caught on tape; so is Nirvana, Bob Marley, Pink Floyd, and The Who, to name a few.

“When I bought the company from Clear Channel, I bought it 100 percent,” Sagan told Pollstar. “Clear Channel has no (future) rights in the form of options or warrants or anything like that.”

The entrepreneur said he kept the agreement clandestine for three years because he and his staff needed the time to figure out what they had.

When we bought the company (Wolfgang’s Vault), there were, as you know now, millions of items in it, much of which was uncatalogued. It literally took us a year to catalog it, then another four, five months to complete our Web site.

“The mass amount of product we had was so staggering, and we’re still a pretty small company, that we just wanted it to get it done and get it done right. … before we went live and did advertising or PR.”

The Journal even mentions a Led Zeppelin recording that was taped when the band was the opening act for Country Joe & The Fish in 1969. There’s also reportedly a “good” version of the Sex Pistols’ final, sloppy, out-of-tune performance at Winterland – already a bootleg classic that’s known for Johnny Rotten’s closing line, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

One can only wonder if Otis Redding – whom Graham once said in an interview was the best performer of the era – is on magnetic tape.

The licensing and publishing of the audiotapes are moving “very briskly,” according to Sagan. He recently watched peformances by Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles, and listened to a Bob Marley performance at the Oakland Coliseum.

He added that his company is in possession of videotape of The Who’s last performance of “Tommy” with Keith Moon on drums — an unassociated acquirement, recorded outdoors at Tanglewood in Massachusetts.

“It’s hard to not make it a hobby, but you’ve got to keep your eye focused on the business or you’ll never be able to get all of this developed, and there’s a lot of work to do.”

Sagan plans to stream the recordings on his Web site,, but putting the tapes on CDs will require extensive negotiations with various parties because of licensing restrictions. Those talks are apparently in the works, though. Wolfgang, by the way, was Bill’s given first name; Grajonca his last.

Graham also videotaped many of the shows to help his restaurant next to The Fillmore. Diners would empty the place as soon as the concerts started, so Bill installed a closed-circuit video system to keep them in their seats.

Sagan and his staff have reportedly made $3 million in sales so far from the Web site.