Music has always been a means of transport. It’s a mood stabilizer or an enhancer. It’s an elixir, an escape—at whatever speed you like.
Growing up, my mom’s Elvis Presley 45s and Neil Diamond 78s inspired me. But once I was old enough, I sought the classic rock I’d need to navigate my teen years, buying it on vinyl at Record Revolution in King of Prussia and Plastic Fantastic in Bryn Mawr.
That was the late 1970s. I was a decade behind the Summer of Love and playing catch-up. Today—for me, at least—the old music and its iconic personalities remain better than the new. But short of bringing back legendary bands (or what’s left of them), what’s a diehard to do?
One viable solution is Wolfgang’s Vault (wolfgangsvault.com), the world’s largest online archive of live music. Its content includes free access to 6,000 concert recordings in their entirety—some 60,000 songs—from the past 50 years. It’s also a vintage memorabilia store stocked with rare concert posters, photos, backstage passes, T-shirts and more.
What began in 2002 with the purchase of legendary promoter Bill Graham’s archives now includes 15 other kindred collections. Graham’s real name, Wolodia “Wolfgang” Grajonca, is the website’s namesake. From the 30,000 concerts he promoted between the mid-’60s and his death in 1991, he never discarded anything. Investor Bill Sagan bought all of it, spending millions of dollars to restore and preserve it.
Guests to Wolfgang’s Vault get 20 hours of free audio a month. A $48 annual membership buys unlimited access. The website also has a burgeoning video vault.
Right now, there are three million pieces of memorabilia online—10 percent of what’s stored in two 24,000-square-foot San Francisco warehouses. Doggedly, Sagan continues to add inventory.
With Wolfgang’s Vault, Sagan is preserving music history while forever changing it for audiences and artists alike. He’s turned Graham’s garbage into a gold mine, making music cross-generational and accessible, letting it resonate with listeners, and inciting an incredible synergy while lessening the divide between old and young.
On a personal level, the site takes me back to the decade I missed—and just in time for my midlife crisis.
At 16, MLT senior writer J.F. Pirro pitched the Who’s Pete Townshend on what has become his self-penned memoir, Who I Am, due in October. Townshend’s personal reply remains in Pirro’s vault.