At the time of Graham’s death in a helicopter crash in 1991, he had a collection of hundreds of concert posters and scrapbooks dating from the heyday of the 1960s concerts he organized.
Some of his most famous shows at featured Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix. Many were at Graham’s Fillmore West venue in San Francisco.
In 2010, Graham’s sons, Alexander Graham-Sult and David Graham, sued the executor of their father’s estate for breach of fiduciary duty by allegedly undervaluing the archives and rock memorabilia. It named Nicholas Clainos, the executor and president of Bill Graham Enterprises, along with the Bill Graham Archives and the Greene Radovsky Maloney Share & Hennigh law firm.
The lawsuit alleged Clainos and the Greene firm estimated the value of the archive at $305,000, which the brothers claimed to be worth millions.
The lawsuit was dismissed and both sides sought legal fees.
U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in Oakland ordered the brothers to pay $500,000 in fees.
Clainos will recover $126,000, the Greene law firm and lawyers $240,000 and the archives $137,000.
At one point in the opinion, Wilken relies on another famous rock case involving John Fogerty of Creedance Clearwater Revival. In that 1993 lawsuit, Fogerty was accused of ripping off himself, by producing new songs too close to his earlier songs, thus a copyright violation. The lawsuit wass brought by his former producer, Saul Zaentz, who owned the Creedance old label and thus the copyrights.
Zaentz lost in a jury trial before U.S. District Judge Sam Conti, that famously included Fogerty testifying about composing blues songs and strumming a few of his works, in one of the oddest free concerts ever.
Case: Graham-Sult v. Clainos, No. C10-4877CW