The passing of Ray Manzarek, the legendary keyboard player for The Doors, has brought up personal memories of the band all over social media. The Doors performed live a lot, and of course their music had distinction and their records were big. In Los Angeles, though, The Doors were also local. If you lived in LA in the 1960s and were inclined toward rock and roll, you might have seen UCLA alums Manzarek, Jim Morrison, Robby Krieger and John Densmore perform at Sunset Strip and Hollywood clubs, at venues like Ports O' Call in San Pedro, Betty's Music Shop in Venice and the knoll outside Devonshire Downs in Northridge — or at the Hollywood Bowl, the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, the old Valley Music Theatre in Woodland Hills and The Forum in Inglewood.
But my favorite venues to hear about are the high schools. The Doors played at Taft High School in Woodland Hills on April 20, 1967, outside at the Birmingham High stadium a month later on May 20, in the auditorium at Beverly Hills High on June 7, and on July 5 they performed in the gym at Lowell High in La Habra. Add in spots like the Valley Teen Center in Van Nuys and the Griffith Park Be-In on Feb. 25, 1967 and it's almost amazing that any longhair, stoner or hippie in those days didn't see The Doors. That's the poster for Birmingham High to the left — the show's headliners were Jefferson Airplane. I poked around to see if there are bootlegs of any of these shows online, but if they exist I'm not practiced enough to find them. Not like Ritchie Valens' performance for a student assembly at Pacoima Junior High in 1959: that I can find.
David Rensin, the author and LA Observed contributor, remembers the Birmingham High show with a smile (he has the date a little bit off, but hey it has been a long time.) From his Facebook page:
Birmingham High School Stadium, May 10 1967. Battle of the Bands, headlined by the Jefferson Airplane and the Doors. Ray let me backstage -- my first time ever. I brought two girls. They went off with Jim. Not long after he let me in backstage at the Hullabaloo on Sunset for a few gigs. Thanks Ray for the taste that made a lifetime. Ray Manzarek, sailing off in the Crystal Ship .... RIP.
On David's Facebook wall, the longtime music industry manager Bill Siddons, The Doors' manager for a few years, posts: "That was my first weekend with the band. Ray really was responsible for the Doors and we all had a better life because of him."
TV writer, baseball broadcaster and author Ken Levine also was at Birmingham that day: "As someone who loved the Doors and saw them at Birmingham High School before they were superstars today is a sad day. RIP Ray Manzareck. This IS the end."
Music journalist Chris Morris, by the way, has posted a very nice Tumblr piece about meeting and collaborating with Manzarek in LA later in his career. Manzarek produced records for X and played on the band's album "Los Angeles." He remained a presence in the local music industry.
Morris says that on Sunset Strip tonight, the lights were to be dimmed in Manzarek's honor at Whiskey A Go Go, the Roxy, the Viper Room and the House of Blues at 9:31 p.m., the time of his death last night of cancer in Germany.