Down Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Memory Lane

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No one can agree exactly where and when rock ‘n’ roll was born. But Los Angeles began to emerge as both a recording and a creative center in the late 1950s and remains so today.

Many rock stars were born here and some just hung out here. Here are a few of Los Angeles’ rock ‘n’ roll landmarks.

1. Alta Cienega Motel--1005 N. La Cienega Blvd., Room 32, West Hollywood

On the second floor, Navy brat Jim Morrison of The Doors’ lived off and on in a $10-a-night room in 1969. Located across the street from the Doors’ business office, at 8512 Santa Monica Blvd., and just blocks from Sunset Strip, the Alta Cienega was convenient for Morrison, who had no car, his license having been revoked for drunk driving. The Doors came to be considered one of L.A.’s quintessential bands although Morrison, one of rock’s most magnetic figures, was only 27 when he died in Paris.


2. Barney’s Beanery--8447 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood

The old-time diner, long a hangout for rock personalities like Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, was featured in a drawing on Joplin’s album “I Got Dem Ol Kosmic Blues Again, Mama.” Legend has it that Joplin hit Morrison over the head with a Southern Comfort bottle here, yet others believe it occurred at a party at John Davidson’s house in the Hollywood Hills.

3. Whisky a Go Go-Sunset and San Vicente Boulevards, West Hollywood

Hollywood’s most famous nightclub has served as a nationally recognized showcase for hard rock, soul and blues artists since it opened its doors on January 11, 1963.

4. Chateau Marmont--8221 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood

The exclusive residential hotel standing at the head of the famous “Strip” has been a favorite of movie stars and rock personalities: Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Ringo Starr, Jefferson Airplane, John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Led Zeppelin rented the bungalows for parties; and comedian John Belushi was found dead of a drug overdose in Bungalow No. 2 on March 5, 1982.

5. El Monte Legion Stadium--11151 Valley Blvd., El Monte

The colorful pink building was a popular place for teen-agers during the 1950s. Big-name entertainers flocked to the hall for concerts--among them Chuck Berry, Johnny Otis, Ray Charles, Fats Domino, Ike and Tina Turner, Little Stevie Wonder and L.A.’s first integrated pop group, the Jaguars. Later, Art Laboe brought his Oldies but Goodies Show to the Legion. The 160,000-square-foot stadium, built in 1927, gave way to a post office in 1974.

6. Gardner Elementary Street School--7450 Hawthorne Ave., Hollywood

Singer Michael Jackson attended school here in the early 1970s. The school honored Jackson in October, 1989, by naming its auditorium after him.

7. Golden Gate Theater--Atlantic and Whittier boulevards, East Los Angeles

East L.A.’s most famous bands--Thee Midniters, Cannibal and the Headhunters and the Jaguars played here. The 1960s Midniters’ song “Whittier Boulevard” was particularly popular among Saturday night cruisers.


8. Hawthorne High School--4859 El Segundo Blvd., Hawthorne

The Beach Boys’ musical career began at Hawthorne High School in 1961, when Brian Wilson, his younger brothers, Carl and Dennis, high school chum Al Jardine and cousin, Mike Love (who attended nearby Dorsey High), decided to form a band. For almost three decades, the band has generated a mystical vision of California coastal life through its sun-drenched tunes. Brian Wilson reportedly was inspired to write the song “Fun, Fun, Fun” when he saw a girl driving by in her daddy’s T-Bird as he stood at the Foster’s Freeze, 11969 Hawthorne Blvd.

9. Highland Gardens (formerly the Landmark Hotel)--7047 Franklin Ave., Room 105, Hollywood

She was often loud, often coarse, sometimes vulgar, but singer Janis Joplin’s blend of bravado and helplessness captivated audiences. Joplin, 27, whose first big hit was “Me and Bobby McGee,” died Oct. 4, 1970, of a drug overdose in her hotel room, only a few blocks from the Hollywood Bowl. The Grateful Dead played at her funeral, which was attended by 200 guests who received invitations reading: “Drinks are on Pearl.”

10. Hyatt on Sunset Hotel--8401 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood

This is the infamous hotel where Led Zeppelin rented as many as six floors, had wildparties and raced motorcycles down hallways. The Who preferred to sling television sets out the windows when they stayed here. Jim Morrison also lived here for a time, until management kicked him out for hanging by his fingertips out a window. The hotel was unofficially dubbed “The Riot House.”

11. “Louie, Louie” Birthplace--West 54th Street, Los Angeles

It was in this house in 1955 that Richard Berry wrote the song “Louie Louie,” the garage-rock classic with calypso-flavor about a homesick Jamaican sailor talking to a bartender named Louie. Richard Berry and the Pharaohs sold about 130,000 copies on Flip Records in 1957, but eight years later, the Kingsmen turned it into a smash hit. Berry grew up in South-Central Los Angeles and attended Thomas Jefferson High School.

12. Lucy’s El Adobe--5536 Melrose Ave., Hollywood

Located on a rather seedy stretch of Melrose across from Paramount Studios, this eatery opened in 1964 and was an instant success, drawing customers from the worlds of politics and entertainment. By the late 1970s, almost every Elektra/Asylum artist was a regular there. Songwriter Jimmy Webb ran up two years of meal tabs before hitting it big with songs such as “MacArthur Park” and “Up, Up and Away.” It was here that Linda Ronstadt was introduced to then California Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr., sparking a lengthy romance.

13. The Onion--9550 Haskell Ave., Sepulveda

In February, 1966, the Grateful Dead played at this San Fernando Valley church as part of the “Acid Test” series organized by the Merry Pranksters, a group of Bay Area hippies dedicated to spreading the gospel of freedom and drug use. The event came just a few months before the psychedelic drug LSD was outlawed. Called the Onion because of its distinctive architecture, the Valley Unitarian Church was a center for political protests in the 1960s. Today, it is known as the Sepulveda Unitarian Universalist Society.


Source: “L.A. Musical History Tour” by Art Fein

Compiled by Times researcher Cecilia Rasmussen