STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
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The Fillmore Philadelphia has a special bond with the storied past of the Fillmore name. Buckingham resident Bonnie MacLean, who was married to Bill Graham when the original Fillmore Auditorium opened in San Francisco in 1965, designed the now iconic hand-drawn psychedelic posters that advertised that venue’s concerts, including Jefferson Airplane, Pink Floyd, Cream, and more.
To commemorate the new Fillmore Philly’s grand opening show with Hall & Oates, Live Nation — which owns the company that had once been known as Bill Graham Productions — commissioned MacLean to design a commemorative souvenir poster, that will be given free to ticket-holders Oct. 1.
The Hall & Oates Fillmore Philly poster, MacLean said, will be different from her previous work because this time she painted the original image. “Doing it in paint is great because the sky’s the limit and you can do more graphically. It’s going to be as best as I can make it.”
In the ‘60s, MacLean had no way of knowing her original designs would later become coveted collectibles that would sell at auction, sometimes for thousands of dollars. Back then, drawing the posters was just one of her Fillmore duties, which also included collecting tickets, passing out handbills and counting receipts.
“It was exciting — best time of my life. The decade was a great decade. The activism was really appealing to me,” MacLean said in a phone interview.
“They had to be more bold,” she said of her pen and ink drawings, because “there were very limited choices of color,” and the posters were restricted to have no more than three different colors, all added at the printer’s. “I had no graphic art training and I had to take other people’s word for it,” she said.
Graham owned the copyright for the poster images. The couple divorced, and MacLean, who was born in Philadelphia, moved back to the East Coast in 1972. Graham died in 1991.
Her favorite poster, known as “BG No. 75,” advertising a week of Fillmore Auditorium rock entertainment with Richie Havens and the James Cotton Blues Band nightly; with The Yardbirds headlining that Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; and The Doors headlining that Friday, Saturday and Sunday. “If I had my way, I would have my No. 75 done as a silkscreen,” she said.
An artist who continues to paint nudes and landscapes in her Bucks County barn studio, MacLean said one of the few ways she makes any money from her ‘60s artwork is when collectors come calling for her to autograph a poster.
The present-day Fillmore in San Francisco has a second floor gallery with posters chronicling its entire concert history, she said. The Fillmore’s claim to fame is being a rock music landmark that helped launch the careers of The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Santana, The Allman Brothers, and others.
In a statement, Michael Grozier, Senior Vice President of House of Blues Entertainment, said: “We’ve gone to tremendous lengths to write a new chapter to Philadelphia’s proud musical heritage by honoring the legendary traditions of Fillmore music halls around the country, and we can’t wait to see what she creates, not only for us, but also for the 2,500 patrons who will pack the house on opening night.”
Check out www.bonniemaclean.com.