Arts & Culture

Troubadour: Creating Moments That Shape Music History

Opened in 1957, The Troubadour continues to contribute to the world's musical landscape.

Little did Doug Weston know when he opened The Troubadour in West Hollywood in 1957 that he was forever altering the musical landscape not just of Los Angeles, but the entire world. Originally opened as a coffee house on La Cienega Boulevard, the venue moved to its current location on Santa Monica Boulevard in 1961 and is open to this day.

The Troubadour in West Hollywood, California

Aligned with the early 1960s burgeoning folk music movement, it immediately became an important center for the music, acting as almost a “Greenwich Village West.” Comedy, melded with social activism, also played a big part as well. In fact, in October 1962, comedian Lenny Bruce was arrested on obscenity charges for using the word “schmuck” on stage; one of the arresting officers was Sherman Block, who would later become Los Angeles County Sheriff.

An Artistic Hub

But as folk gave way to singer-songwriters and 60s rock and roll bands, the Troubadour became a new kind of artistic hub.

In just a few short years, starting in the late 60s, the Troubadour played an integral role in the careers of Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, the Eagles, The Byrds, Love, Joni Mitchell, Hoyt Axton, Carole King, Bonnie Raitt, J.D. Souther, Jackson Browne, Van Morrison, Buffalo Springfield and other prominent and successful performers, who played performances there establishing their future fame. The Eagles were actually formed at the bar in the Troubadour, just a few musicians hanging out who decided to try playing together.

Photo courtesy of: Rock & Roll Roadmaps

On August 25, 1970, Neil Diamond (who had just recorded his first live album at the Troubadour) introduced Elton John to the stage, who performed his first show in the United States at the Troubadour. The now-famous reviews by Los Angeles Times critic Robert Hilburn helped put Elton John on the map.

Making History

This legendary club has seen even more history. Randy Newman started out here. Cheech & Chong were discovered on its stage. But it was also here on March 12, 1974 that a drunken, despondent, Yoko-less John Lennon made infamous headlines when, after he and (also drunk) Harry Nilsson were about to get tossed for heckling The Smothers Brothers, he taped a Kotex to his forehead. When a waitress refused to give him what he thought was proper respect, he snapped, “Don’t you know who I am?” “Yeah, you’re some asshole with a Kotex on his head,” was her response.

Keeping with the times, as many clubs had to do to survive in the late 70s and early 80s, the Troubadour featured new wave and punk and became virtually synonymous with heavy metal and glam bands like Mötley Crüe, Candy, L.A. Guns, Guns N’ Roses, Poison, Warrant and W.A.S.P. in the 1980s. Guns N’ Roses played their first show at the Troubadour, and were also discovered by a David Geffen A&R representative at the club.

Today, the club remains open, active and still a haven for artists both classic and lesser-known; one of the area’s most venerable venues where history will no doubt continue to be made for years to come.

Stevie Knicks joined Harry Styles on stage during his concert back in 2017. Photo courtesy of: Variety, Jacqueline Verdugo.
Chris Epting
About Chris Epting
Chris Epting is the author of 30 travel/history books, including James Dean Died Here (Santa Monica Press), Roadside Baseball (McGraw Hill), Hello It's Me, Dispatches From a Pop Culture Junkie (Santa Monica Press) and many others. He is also an award-winning travel writer and has contributed articles for such publications as the Los Angeles Times, Westways and Travel + Lesiure magazine, among other publications. In addition, Chris is a veteran music journalist and recently co-wrote Def Leppard's Phil Collen's memoir, Adrenalized, and the John Oates Memoir Change of Seasons. Originally from New York, Chris now lives in Huntington Beach, California with his wife and their two children.

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