May 16, 1966: The Doors Start Residency at The Whisky a Go-Go








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The Doors at the Whisky a Go-Go, 1966

On May 16th, 1966, The Doors started a one week appearance playing at The Whisky a-Go-Go that led to them becoming The Whisky’s house band. This appearance began their ascension into the world of the Sunset Strip and eventually catapulted them into legendary status on the strip and into a recording contract with Elektra Records.

Just a few months before, the future didn’t look all that bright for The Doors. When they were playing The London Fog very few people saw or heard the band. They could have languished there and disappeared from the rock ‘n’ roll radar forever. But The Doors were an ambitious group and had set their eyes on The Whisky, which was the premier club on the strip. They took the opportunity to work up the songs that would comprise their first two albums and they generated enough of a buzz to catch the ear of The Whisky’s talent booker Ronnie Haran.

The Doors and The Byrds at the Whisky, 1966
The Doors and The Byrds at the Whisky, 1966

Haran saw them at the Fog, liked what she saw, and recommended them to Whisky owner Elmer Valentine. The Doors were a hard sell to Valentine. He thought Jim Morrison was an amateur who was posing to cover for his lack of talent. Further, he didn’t like Morrison’s use of foul language. Haran prevailed, or maybe wore Valentine down. On or about May 9th, 1966, The Doors auditioned at The Whisky, and from there they were offered a one-week booking before becoming the house band at The Whisky.

The Whisky, then and now (click for full size):

The Whisky, c. 1965

The Whisky as it stands today.

The Whisky represented success to The Doors. Jim Morrison later admitted that while The Doors were at the London Fog their goal was to be as big as Love, the house band at The Whisky. The Whisky not only gave the band access to a greater audience, and a higher profile on the Sunset Strip, but also gave them the opportunity to play with established bands such as Them, Buffalo Springfield, Captain Beefheart, The Mothers of Invention, and The Animals, to name a few.

The Doors’ tenure at The Whisky would be short, lasting only until July of ‘66 when Jim Morrison performed “The End” with the Oedipal section for the first time. This succeeded in getting the band fired, launching them into legendary status on the Sunset Strip, and winning them a contract with Elektra Records.

Originally published May 17, 2015.

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