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Rock Hall Anniversary: Winterland Closes

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The Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, was perhaps one of the city’s most famous music venues. It hosted a wide of artists, some of which would result in live albums later on.

But on New Year’s Day 1979, Bill Graham closed the venue for good, with final performances from the Grateful Dead, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and the Blues Brothers, with the show broadcast on the Bay Area’s PBS TV station KQED, and radio station KSAN-FM simulcast. The show lasted over eight hours, and the Grateful Dead’s show (lasting for six hours) was later documented on DVD and CD as The Closing of Winterland, released in 2003.

Winterland started out as an ice skating rink, but would later be converted into an entertainment venue, initially hosting the Follies Bergere, as well as opera, boxing, and tennis. Enter Bill Graham, and rock shows began to take over beginning in the 1966, with acts including Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Cream and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Following the 1971 closure of Fillmore West, Winterland became a regular weekend spot for rock concerts throughout the 1970s, which performances from acts including Heart, Bob Seger and Silver Bullet Band, Elvis Costello, and Queen.

Some notable moments of Winterland includes the first time Led Zeppelin performed “Whole Lotta Love”, Peter Frampton recording Frampton Comes Alive there, and most famously the Band performing their last show in 1976, eventually becoming the Last Waltz, released in theaters two years later. Winterland was eventually torn down in 1985, to make way for apartments, but its legacy lives on in concert films, live albums, and in anyone that remembers attending a show there.


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