Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Trip, West Hollywood, CA 1965-1966




The Trip in West Hollywood opened up in April 1965 at 8572 West Sunset Boulevard (at Londonderry Place). It was on the site of The Crescendo, a jazz club that had closed because its owner (Gene Norman) wanted to focus on record production. The Trip was owned by Elmer Valentine and his partners, who also owned the nearby Whisky A Go Go (8901 Sunset at Clark). The Whisky had opened on January 11, 1964, and instantly became a sensation. Los Angeles was ready for rock music, and the chance innovation of having mini-skirted dancers elevated over the floor immediately created the “Go-Go” sensation. The Whisky A-Go-Go was Celebrity Central overnight, and Johnny Rivers, who played The Whisky much of 1964, was an immediate star.

Valentine and his partners, however, seemed to recognize that there was more than one rock audience, and took immediate steps to expand their empire. In April of 1965, they opened up a “branch” of The Whisky A-Go-Go in San Francisco, and they also opened up The Trip. The SF Whisky was modeled on the Hollywood Whisky, but was largely a failure. The Trip was a much more intriguing venture, and while it too lasted only 13 months under Valentine’s management (and briefly afterwards), it had an important effect on the Whisky and thus Los Angeles rock history.

The Whisky A-Go-Go aimed at a rock audience in its mid to late 20s, which is why people like Steve McQueen and Jayne Mansfield were regulars. Johnny Rivers played a very danceable mixture of rock and R&B, and had a big hit with a version of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis.” There was a younger audience, however, who found The Whisky a bit too adult, and that was the target audience of The Trip. Since The Trip served drinks, only those over 21 could get in, but it was a shrewd call nonetheless.

Thanks to a friend’s kindness, I was given access to research into ads for The Trip in the weekly Los Angeles Free Press in 1965-66. Although The Trip was opened in April, Freep ads did not appear for The Trip until the Fall of 1965, and even then they did not always advertise. While their may be a variety of reasons for the failure to advertise certain weeks, it is my current hypothesis that The Trip only advertised shows in the Free Press when they had headliners.

The Trip, like the Whisky, was open 7 nights a week, and its basic business model was to encourage people to come in the club to dance or watch others dance, and thus get thirsty and buy drinks. The Whisky generally featured Johnny Rivers for most of 1964, and well into 1965.  The Whisky also featured local bands who played several sets a night, but they were the sort of bands who would not have had a real following, much less a record, so advertising them as a coming attraction wasn’t worthwhile. Its my supposition that The Trip followed the Whisky model initially, booking local bands without a following, but switched over to promoting more high profile bands who either had records on the radio or at least some sort of fan base. In 1965, this was distinctly different than the Whisky, but by early 1966 The Whisky had moved over to The Trip’s approach of booking popular bands with records, rather than simply having local rock and roll combos.

What follows is a list of bands that were advertised at The Trip in the Los Angeles Free Press. Keep in mind that The Trip was open every night, and probably almost every night at least one (and possibly more) bands played who were not advertised. These would have been local bands—some of who may have gone onto become quite well known—whose job would have been to keep the crowd dancing. In some cases, some of the acts may not have played certain nights, if they had another gig or ended their engagement early. In any case, this is the best information I have for who played The Trip in 1965 and 1966.

September 26-30, 1965: Barry McGuire/The Grass Roots
Barry McGuire, formerly of the New Christy Minstrels, hit #1 on the Billboard singles charts this very week with the PF Sloan composed “Eve Of Destruction.” Although somewhat trivialized now, this Dylan/Byrds knockoff was an early sign that Folk-Rock was going to be very popular. The 'Top Ten' list above is from the Oakland Tribune on September 18, 1965, and Barry McGuire trails only Bob Dylan in the charts, ahead of The Beatles "Help."

The Grass Roots had had a hit with “Where Were You When I Needed You,” another PF Sloan composition. The story of The Grass Roots deserves a post (or a website) of its own. The short version, however, is that Sloan and his partner, Steve Barri, recorded and released “Where Were You When I Needed You” under the name The Grass Roots, and it became a “turntable hit” (maning airplay without sales). They needed a group to promote the record, so they found a San Mateo, CA group called The Bedouins and made them The Grass Roots. Bedouins lead singer Bill Fulton re-recorded the vocal to the single, and the re-release was a hit. The Grass Roots started to play around California, playing the same covers they had played as The Bedouins plus their new hit.

The Grass Roots also backed Barry McGuire for his set, something the band did for a lot of Sloan/Barri acts.  At this time, The Bedouins would have just become The Grass Roots, and it is no coincidence that the shrewd Sloan and Barri would have put their new act in a hip Hollywood club with their current number one artist. Barry McGuire never had another significant hit; The Grass Roots had numerous hits, but their history is too dizzyingly complex to explain here, and involves none of the band members who would have played this gig.As the review above shows (for a McGuire/Grass Roots show at the Hungry I in San Francisco, from the Oakland Tribune of February 18, 1966), electric guitars were still viewed very suspiciously, and there was a definite "generation gap" in popular music that The Trip looked to capitalize upon.

October 1, 1965: The Byrds/Barry McGuire/Grass Roots
The Byrds, huge stars because of “Mr Tambourine Man” and “Turn Turn Turn”, were playing on  Friday, October 1 to publicize their forthcoming run at The Trip.

October 2-3, 1965: Barry McGuire/The Grass Roots

October 4-17, 1965: The Byrds/Grass Roots/Skip Battyn Trio
The Byrds began a lengthy run at The Trip. The Byrds played The Trip long before they played The Whisky, a clear indicator of how The Trip and The Whisky were aimed at different audiences, and how The Whisky eventually adopted The Trip’s booking policy.

Skip Battyn, formerly of Skip And Flip, ended up joining The Byrds in 1969 (spelling his name Battin).

October ? 1965: The Leaves/The Grass Roots
The Leaves were a popular group on the Sunset Strip. They had a hit with “Hey Joe,” which was performed by a lot of groups at that time (probably The Byrds did it first). The Leaves logo was a marijuana leaf, a fact completely lost on all but a few stoners.

The Grass Roots played The Trip for most or all of October. The clip above is from Mike Connolly's column in the Pasadena Star-News of October 29, 1965

November 11-17, 1965: The Miracles/Billy Preston
Smokey Robinson was not yet distinct from The Miracles. Billy Preston had toured with Ray Charles for a few years, and was just breaking out on his own.

November 18-27, 1965: Marvin Gaye

December 1-9, 1965: Lovin Spoonful
The Lovin Spoonful were huge, behind their hit “Do You Believe In Magic.” Their hit in December was “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice.” The economics of Hollywood clubs was that all performers, even hit bands like The Spoonful, simply got union scale.

December 10-?, 1965: Billy Preston and The Soul Brothers

December ?, 1965: The Leaves/The Mothers
Bruno reports (in the Comments) that a flyer exists with the Leaves and The Mothers. It says "Happy Xmas Beat," so the shows must be around Christmas time.

January 5-16, 1966:The Byrds/Paul Butterfield Blues Band
The Butterfield Blues Band were a profoundly important band, not just multi-racial but the first rock band that was instrumentally spectacular. Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop built the template for every dual guitar band that would follow, including the Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers and numerous others. Their ground breaking debut album had been released in December.

January17-30, 1966:Wilson Pickett/Paul Butterfield Blues Band/Modern Folk Quartet
After a month at The Trip, The Butterfield Blues Band would move on to play three weeks at The Whisky (February 4-20), yet another sign that The Trip’s bookings were a blueprint for The Whisky.

The Modern Folk Quartet recorded two albums in 1963 and 1964, and their folk music was oriented towards group harmonies. Although not considered a major band these days, they were a well-connected group. Members included Chip Douglas (later in The Turtles and producer of The Monkees) and Henry Diltz (now more famous as a photographer), along with Cyrus Faryar and Stan White. Their manager was Herb Cohen, most famous as the manager of The Mothers

January 31, February 1-2, 1966: The Mothers
The Mothers were a well-known—indeed, notorious—band on the Sunset Strip. They had already played The Whisky. The Mothers would not be signed until March of 1966, when their nervous record company (MGM) would insist they add “Of Invention” to their name. The basic lineup of The Mothers was Frank Zappa, Ray Collins (vocals), Roy Estrada (bass, vocals) and Jimmy Carl Black (drums, and the Indian of the group), but Zappa was still looking for a second guitarist. Henry Vestine had probably just quit, and would soon go on to Canned Heat.

Esteemed Zappa gigolist Charles Ulrich reports that Jim Guercio was The Mothers guitarist briefly for an engagement at The Trip. Guercio would go on to become a successful producer of Chicago Transit Authority and many other groups.These gigs would fit the timeline. Given that these dates were on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, my guess is that The Mothers actually had a somewhat more extended engagement, and only these days were listed in the ad, as I think that Zappa would not have rehearsed a new band member for a three day gig. This supposition is borne out somewhat by the note that singer Tim Buckley met Jimmy Carl Black at The Trip on February 5, 1966 (a Friday), and Black in turn introduced him to Mothers manager Herb Cohen.

February 3-6, 1966: Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs/Rising Sons
The Rising Sons were a popular local band, featuring singer Taj Mahal, newly arrived from Cambridge, MA, and slide guitarist Ry Cooder. The teenage Cooder had only recently “gone electric,” having previously been an acoustic folkie.

February 17-27, 1966: Temptations/The Rising Sons

February-March 1966: Tim Buckley
The exact dates are uncertain. Mothers manager Herb Cohen had become Tim Buckley's manager, too.

March 10-20, 1966: Martha and the Vandellas/The Rising Sons

March 24-31, April 1-2,1966: Donovan with The Jagged Edge/Modern Folk Quartet
There were all ages matinees on March 26 & 27 (Saturday and Sunday). The all-ages matinees on weekends were also being used at The Whisky. Many rock fans were underage, and no drinks were served at these events.

Donovan had had a hit in 1965 with the Dylanesque “Try And Catch The Wind.” Management problems intervened, however, and he hardly performed or recorded for several months. By mid-1966, however, these problems were resolved, and his huge run of hits began in Summer 1966. These gigs were probably intended to re-introduce Donovan to the Los Angeles music industry. I assume The Jagged Edge were his backing group.

The Donovan song “The Trip”, from his massive hit 1966 album Sunshine Superman, is apparently about The Trip in West Hollywood, or at least by being thought of as such, served to immortalize the venue after it was gone.

April 2, 1966: Byrds
            All ages matinee at 4:00 pm (on Saturday), a preview of the next week.

April 4-10, 1966: The Byrds/Modern Folk Quartet
The Byrds play a final week at The Trip. They have just released “Eight Miles High”, and are bigger than ever.

A flyer has the Grass Roots instead of the Modern Folk Quartet.

April 14-24, 1966: The Four Tops

May 3-5, 1966:Velvet Underground & Nico/The Mothers/(Modern Folk Quartet)
This event was the most famous, most notorious and last of The Trip’s brief history. The Velvet Underground, a remarkable group for many reasons, were under artist Andy Warhol’s umbrella. Although Warhol only provided financial support for the Velvets, and had no direct influence on their music, his sponsorship and connections allowed them to become not only a unique band but part of a groundbreaking multimedia extravaganza. The Velvet Underground-plus-light show-plus-dancers-plus movies spectacle was billed as “Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable.” Although the Velvet Underground had not released any records, they were already an underground sensation, and the band was booked at The Trip for three weeks (from May 3-18).

However, The Mothers were booked as the opening act, and there was apparently hostility between Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground from the beginning. Zappa made fun of the Velvets on stage, and with the packed crowd of celebrities in attendance, this began a Zappa/Lou Reed “feud” (possibly exaggerated by rock critics) that would last decades. After the first night, however, crowds were somewhat thin. Given the hostilities, an unknown band playing The Whisky were considered as a replacement for The Mothers. However, The Doors never get the opportunity, because after three days, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department shut down The Trip, either for pornographic exhibitions or for drugs (Richie Unterberger’s 2009 VU Chronology White Light/White Heat has the best and most extensive discussion of this subject).

To add to the historical confusion, the LA Free Press ad lists The Modern Folk Quartet as the opening act, rather than The Mothers. Unterberger reports both a picture of the marquee with the Velvets and The MFQ (and no Mothers), and a quote from a member of the MFQ who says they opened for The Velvets and The Mothers didn’t play. The entire ending of The Trip is shrouded in confusion, a story that only adds to the legend of this short-lived venue. According to The LA Free Press, The Trip officially closed on May 13, although it does not appear any shows took place between May 6 and May 13.

Whatever the problems with the Sheriff’s Department (West Hollywood was part of unincorporated Los Angeles County, not the City), Elmer Valentine and his partners may have been overextended, with clubs in San Francisco  and Atlanta and plans for more. However, the lessons of The Trip were already benefiting The Whisky. While the Whisky A-Go-Go was still a place for hip Hollywood to see and be seen, now instead of just a nameless string of dance combos, The Whisky featured the newest and coolest bands around, usually with new albums and hit singles as well. The Trip had served its purpose, and its ethos became an important part of the Whisky’s status as the coolest place to play in Los Angeles.

The Byrds were advertised for May 11-22, but it appears those shows were canceled. The Trip reopened under new management, and a few more shows were advertised, although I know nothing about the new owners or what the club was like in its final incarnation.

June 2-12, 1966: The Miracles
June16-26, 1966: The Knickerbockers
The Lovin' Spoonful were advertised but probably replaced by The Knickerbockers.


June 30-July 10, 1966: Jackie Wilson
July ?, 1966: Bo Diddley
July 14-24, 1966: The Impressions
August ?-14, 1966- The Temptations
August 18-28, 1966: Martha and the Vandellas

13 comments:

  1. Amazing stuff again Corry. A couple of points - I am pretty confident that the Mothers did not play the shows at The Trip with The Velvets in May 1966 - although they did play together at the Fillmore Auditorium May 27 to 29. I am not convinced about any feud at this time as I very much doubt they would have had much contact at the start of May 1966. The hadn't played any shows together at that time. If indeed there was a "feud" it seems more likely to have started with the Fillmore shows at the end of May - of which no recordings exist to my knowledge. The earliest Fillmore recordings of the Mothers (which are great quality) come from the shows with Lenny Bruce in June. My feeling is that The Mothers may well initially have been scheduled but not contracted to play The Trip and for one reason or another (probably other commitments out of town) didn't play.

    The really interesting item tucked away in here is The Jagged Edge with Donovan. Putting away any thoughts of the Michigan Jagged Edge (an MC5 style popular music combo) and the Brooklyn based garage band of the same name (but that would have been great to see a teenage garage band backing Donovan), I would hazard a guess that The Jagged Edge were a local LA band (although I have a memory of an LA band with the same name) and that they did not back Donovan per se. 1966 was an odd year for Donovan, he had played previously with Mac MacLeod (the original Hurdy Gurdy Man - and see him if you ever have the chance) but that was over and the US "tour" involved some poorly attended shows and an appearance on Pete Seeger's "Rainbow Quest" with The Reverend Gary Davis and Shawn Phillips. If it turns out that The Jagged Edge did back Donovan it would be hard to imagine them being anything more than a bass, conga, acoustic guitar style set up. But I would love to know more.

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  2. The Leaves and The Mothers played together at The Trip in late December 1965, during Christmas time, because I've the flyer with not exact dates but with the billed "The Happy Xmas Beat"

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  3. Re: September 26-30, 1965.....The Trip open on day 22 not 26

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  4. Re: April 4-10, 1966: The Byrds/Modern Folk Quartet.....I've a flyer with The Grass Roots not MGQ

    Re: April 14-25, 1966: The Four Tops....I've a flyer with "April 14-24" not "April 14-25"

    I've a flyer with The Byrds on May 11-22, 1966 but I think this gigs were cancelled.

    Missed show: The Miracles on June 2-12, 1966

    Missed show: The Lovin Spoonful on June 15-26, 1966 (I think cancelled and replaced by The Knickerbokers)

    Re: 30 June, 1966: Jackie Wilson.....I've a flyer with dates "June 30 - July 10"

    Missed show: The Impressions on July 14-24, 1966

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  5. thanks Bruno. I updated the post accordingly.

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  6. Re: December 10-?, 1965: Billy Preston/The Soul Brothers

    Corry delete the "/" because this was only one band called 'Billy Preston and The Soul Brothers' and not two different acts.

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  8. Re: January 5-16, 1966: The Byrds/Paul Butterfield Blues Band.....

    Love filling in (unbilled) for The Byrds for two nights, as opening act for PBBB. David Crosby was there anyway during one of this two nights, because he sat-in with Love during their song 'John Lee Hooker'. Love have seen Michael Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop rehearsal before the shows but they hadn't seen PBBB played live on stage because after their opening set they go back backstage and remained in their dressing room.

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  9. Stevie Wonder also played at The Trip in 1966, but I do not know exact date/s.

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  10. A little correction about The Modern Folk Quartet:

    The band at that time had already changed his name to The Modern Folk Quintet (aka The M.F.Q.) after the addition (a year earlier) of "Fast Eddie" Hoh on drums. For all the shows they played at The Trip they were always billed as The M.F.Q.

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  11. Re: March 24-31, April 1-2,1966: Donovan with The Jagged Edge/Modern Folk Quartet....I assume The Jagged Edge were his backing group

    Update and corrections:

    (a) The M.F.Q. (The Modern Folk Quintet) not
    The Modern Folk Quartet

    (b) Also on the bill Shawn Phillips

    (c) Jagged Edge weren't the backing band of
    Donovan. For this shows Donovan was backed
    up by: "Candy John" Carr (bongos), Shawn
    Phillips (guitar and sitar), Bobby Ray
    (bass) and "Fast Eddie" Hoh (drums) and
    Cyrus Faryar (electric violin) both from
    The Modern Folk Quintet

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  13. I don't have dates, but I can recall seeing The Turtles there in '66 a number of times and also The Seeds a number of times in '66. I think Stevie Wonder was in late Spring of '66. I went to The Trip a lot, along with The Sea Witch.

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