While Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek where making their way to the UCLA film school, on January 11, 1964, The Whisky a-go-go opens its doors and into rock history. The Whisky very quickly rose in prominence on the Sunset Strip as well as in the music industry.
Founded by Elmer Valentine, Mario Maglieri, and Phil Tanzini, The Whisky, which had to spell it’s name without the e in whiskey because Los Angeles city zoning laws didn’t allow clubs to be named after alcohol, boasted live music by name bands or up and coming bands, a dance floor, and a DJ booth above the dance floor which had a go-go dancer in the glass booth. Hip young movie stars such as Steve McQueen were regulars.
The Whisky quickly gained a reputation for having high profile acts such as Johnny Rivers whose break through hit was “Secret Agent Man” (for the TV series “Secret Agent”). During his tenure at The Whisky (a one year contract), Rivers was recorded for the hit album, “Johnny Rivers Live at The Whisky a Go-Go”. Other bands soon were performing at The Whisky and making names for themselves such as The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Rascals, The Byrds, The Turtles, Otis Redding, Love, Captain Beefheart and The Doors.
Despite their short tenure as the house band at The Whisky (late May of 1966 until August 21, 1966), The Doors gained their early reputation on the strip with Jim Morrison’s increasing on stage theatrics and histrionics building an early fan base and buzz on the strip. They also backed and played with the featured bands, notably Them, where their philosophy was to “blow the other band off the stage”. It was in this pivotal four months when The Doors attracted the attention of Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman and cemented their place in rock history when Morrison debuted the Oedipal section of The End, causing The Doors to be fired from The Whisky with owner Phil Tanzini vowing The Doors would never play The Whisky again.
The Whisky continued to feature bands through the 70’s. As new genres of rock came into being, The Whisky was at the forefront of featuring bands of New Wave, Punk, Heavy Metal with bands like The Runaways, X, Quiet Riot, Patti Smith, Elvis Costello, The Germs, The Misfits, Van Halen, Motley Crue and The Police.
During the 80’s, The Whisky did fall on hard times as the punk bands faded from the scene. The Whisky closed it’s doors in 1982. In 1986 The Whisky reopened, gone where the go-go dancers and booth, carpeting and downstairs booths, but The Whisky still is open today and still features up and coming bands playing, looking to find their niche in rock ‘n’ roll history like The Doors did.
Note: Wikipedia lists the opening date of The Whisky as January 16th, 1964 but I verified the true date at Whisky a Go-Go History.
[A video featuring The Whisky and Freestyle Dancing.]
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