In the late '60s, Barry Fey became of one of America's biggest rock music promoters. He says he was the first to book Led Zeppelin in this country, and claims to have sold more concert tickets than any other independent promoter in history. The Denver-based Fey is out of the live music game now, but he recently released Backstage Past, a tell-all memoir detailing his experiences in the industry.
The book contains stories about Fey's dealings with such megastars as the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Jimi Hendrix, and Ozzy Osbourne. But it also has a wild, seething chapter about Fey's tumultuous relationship with the influential Bay Area concert promoter Bill Graham. Below, we've rounded up five of Fey's most shocking stories about Graham. We can't vouch for the veracity of stories from a man who claims he once tried to have Graham killed. But everything below is alleged by Fey in the book.
1. Bill Graham did crack, according to Fey.
He says Graham phoned him after taking the drug for the first and only time, and that Graham called the experience "the greatest 15 minutes of my life."
2. Bill Graham allegedly sent $10,000 to $15,000 in cash per week from the Fillmore West (SF) and Fillmore East (NYC) offshore to avoid paying taxes on it.
Fey says that Graham handed off suitcases full of cash to his brother-in-law, who ran a trucking company with Graham's sister in Geneva, Switzerland. He claims to have witnessed the suitcase trade several times.
3. Graham tried to poison Fey's relationship with Peter Grant, Led Zeppelin's manager.
Fey says he asked Graham for a bridge loan to cover the payments he had to make to Led Zep after a show. Graham loaned him the money -- $25,000 in cash -- and Fey claims to have returned it. But later, when Fey ran into Grant, the band's manager, Grant was furious: He said Graham had told him that Fey was not planning to pay Led Zeppelin, and that Graham had given Fey the $25,000 so he'd have to pay the band. From the book:
"I protested, 'Peter, that's not true!' and tried to tell him what had really happened.
'Don't bother. I think I'll believe Bill Graham before I'll believe you."
4. Fey says he tried -- and failed -- to take out a hit on Graham.
After numerous other conflicts, with Graham allegedly trying to sabotage Fey's relationships with several important business contacts, Fey got fed up. He claims to have called a friend of his, Charlie Blue, who was connected to the New York mob, and asked to have Graham taken out. But Blue refused, saying, according to Fey, "I like Bill. I won't do it."
5. Fey claims he was happy when he heard that Bill Graham died.
"I felt like jumping up and dancing," Fey writes. He says he was later asked to speak at Graham's funeral, but refused: "It wasn't because I was too choked up, not at all! It was because I didn't want to be a hypocrite, which is what Bill was; one of the biggest."