LA aGo-Go : The Music & Club Scene in L.A. part1 • 1960-1966
Even though I was a Little Kid growing up in L.A in the 60’s, I had a Big Sister. She was 10 years older than me, a High-School Cheerleader, and one of the Most Popular Girls in School. My sister Nancy was Hip, & Pretty. (She still is). I grew up seeing all the Dance shows on T.V., like American Bandstand, Shindig & Hullaballoo. American Bandstand was the oldest one, filmed in New York with Dick Clark. Shindig & Hullaballoo were spinoffs and were filmed in L.A. So, I got firsthand, in-house Dance Lessons in the Living Room from my Sis, and all the Action in the background on T.V. I learned the Frug, The Jerk, The Twist & The Mashed Potato from her. My sister could do the Jerk Quite Well. A lot of this Action took place before the British Invasion..that is, before bands like Herman’s Hermits (they preceded …) The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks, The Who a bit later, and so on. So between 1960, when I was really small, going forward, I got an education.
It all started with really innocuous Folk Music from the Eisenhower Beatnik 50’s. People like Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul & Mary, even Early Bob Dylan, & Joan Baez were pure White Folkies. My sister listened to all, her Favorites then, on her record player (if you know what That is, & Those are ?!) The Folkies played The Troubador, The C/W artists played the Palomino Club in the Valley. Those places really didn’t become Pop venues until the very late 60’s, early 70’s. The Folkies set the stage for a whole genre of Pop Music later in California. American Bandstand had some cool East Coast acts and R&B people like Chubby Checker – “C’mon Baby, Let’s Do the Twist”! Chubby taught the whole World How to Do the Twist on that show, White People could Do the Twist, even JFK & Jackie were Doin’ It. There’s a Right Way and a Wrong Way To Do It. I saw James Brown on that show, Ike & Tina. Then The Supremes were on The Ed Sullivan Show from New York. Ed Sullivan was ‘The Reeelly Biigg Shewww’, which was how it sounded when he said it. Elvis had been on there. That Show was a Big Deal. I thought the Black Artists were Cool right from the start. They could Dance, man, they were Hip. This is all way before Motown. Watch Diana Ross from that time…Michael Jackson grew up watching her too, my same age. Watching Diana Ross back then is the Catalyst for Michael Jackson. He Stole All her Moves…I had a Big Crush on Diana Ross. She was Fine. I was 7.
L.A. Pop Radio was all AM then… KRLA & KHJ were the Cool Stations. The Coolest songs sounded the best cranked up through the crappy little speakers in Car Radios. Everybody had Cool Cars Back Then..Cool American Ones with Big Back Seats for Makin’ Out at the Drive-In with KRLA Blasting. So This was the Environment into which the L.A.Music Scene was Born. Personally, I was Making the Scene at the Drive-In in my Pajamas & Chuck Taylors. There was a playground going in front of the movie screen before it got dark. And Rock was Blasting while I shredded on the Swing Set. I was listening.
My Sister was like 17, and she was going to the L.A.Clubs. One you never read or hear about now, but was one of the Hip Clubs in L.A. back then was the Cinnamon Cinder. And Gazzari’s, and of course The Whisky a Go Go…where do Go Go Girls come from..? The Whisky. There you GoGo…
The Folkies played The Troubador, The C/W artists played the Palomino Club in the Valley. But those places really didn’t become Pop venues until the very late 60’s, early 70’s, more on those later…
Pop Music got harder sounding, edgier. Less horns & arrangements, leftover from the Big Band Sounds of the 30’s and 40’s. Rock was really taking hold. Kids were starting to Hang Out in front of the Clubs on Sunset. The Scene was Heating Up.
The Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip was founded by Elmer Valentine, Phil Tanzini, Shelly Davis, and attorney Theodore Flier in January 1964. Though the club was billed as a discothèque, suggesting that it offered only recorded music, the Whisky a Go Go opened with a live band led by Johnny Rivers and a short-skirted female DJ Rhonda Lane ,spinning records between sets from a suspended cage at the right of the stage. When, in July 1965, the DJ danced during Rivers’ set, the audience thought it was part of the act and the concept of Go-Go dancers in cages was born. The Whisky a Go Go was one of the places which popularized the Go-Go dancing. Elmer Valentine, in a 2006 Vanity Fair article, recalled arranging to have a female DJ play records between Rivers’ sets so patrons could continue dancing. But because there wasn’t enough room on the floor for a DJ booth, he had a glass-walled booth mounted high above the floor.
Around this time the British invasion began. With them came Jangling guitar riffs and Vox organs, for me the signature early British Rock sound. The earliest and one of the best British bands I remember hearing pre-Beatles, pre-Stones and the rest was Eric Burdon & The Animals. Their sound would seriously influence another band to come a year or so later, in 1966. They were a lot Dirtier & Nastier than the Beatles, a la the Stones.. more L.A. Sounding. More my Style.
In true L.A.Fashion-Musical Styles were merging, White Folk sounds with East-Coast generated Black R &B, and the British Invasion brought White Rockers like the Animals & Rolling Stones, Van Morrison & Them, emulating a Blues Sound from the Animals & The Rolling Stones. Blues bands were some of the first to play the Burgeoning L.A.Club scene around this time..and soon THE L.A. Band of the Era would emerge…L.A’s own The DOORS, were about to hit the Scene, but in my opinion The Doors were not the most original and by far not the best…
L.A. now had White Blues & Folk artists – some American, some British, some East Coast Black R&B artists like Otis Redding. Two other New distinct genres of Rock entered the L.A. Scene in the form of 2 new artists. Nearby The Sunset Strip, in a rural community in the Hills of Laurel Canyon passing between Hollywood & the San Fernando Valley, a group of musicians were singing, playing & songwriting in a distinct Folk, yet edgier Electric Rock sound, unique to California.
The second artist – from Britain, emerged on the scene. His name was Donovan Leitch, or known as Donovan. His music would have far-reaching effects on California & American Rock Music, the roots of Glam Rock.
Also a group of Rock musicians from the Bay Area and a place called Fillmore West were making their way South to L.A.
More to come…