Whisky a Go Go
The Whiskey a go go today
Go Go dancers
The doors performing at the Whisky a go go
promo poster for the door to perform at the Whisky a go go
Backstory and Context
The Whisky a Go-Go opened its doors to the nightlife music scene goers on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, California on January 14th, 1964. The "e" in Whisky is missing due to Los Angeles city zoning laws that did not allow clubs to be named after any alcohol. The club was formed by Elmer Valentine, Mario Maglieri, and Phil Tanzini. Johnny Rivers was the first act to perform at what would be one of the most notorious nightclubs in LA. The night of its opening, a female DJ by the name of Joanie Labine was in a booth suspended above the stage dancing while playing the music in between Johnny Rivers sets. The girls who would perform this dancing inside these booths would become what is known as go-go dancers. This form of entertainment became a trend in many nightclubs around the US.
This club became one of the biggest hotspots during the 1960s, and is known as to many as one of America's first real discotheques. The club truly began to prosper in 1965 when they allowed the Doors to perform on their stage, along with such acts as Johnny Rivers, Buffalo Springfield, Love, Them and many others. The Doors were fired on August 21st, 1966 after vocalist Jim Morrison had missed the first half of the set and the second half they had performed their controversial hit "the end". The controversy behind the song's meaning was that it indicates not only the acceptance but the embracement of death. The band was a big act at the club till this point. Many other bands also contributed to the club such as the Beatles, The Yardbirds, Led Zepplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin who was there and had her last drink at the Whisky the night before her death. The club also integrated many other acts such as The Temptations, The Four Tops, and even Smokey Robinson. Robinson even wrote the hit "Going to a go-go" after his experience of performing at the club. Not only musicians were found there, but famous people in general. Marilyn Monroe, W.C. Fields, and Douglas Fairbanks were just a few celebrities to have attended the club.
The club was a big success until the mid-70's. At this point, most of the big acts that the club had previously hired had become big arena bands going on world tours, making the clubs their last choice. The economy also affected the Whisky with inflation at this time made it hard to keep ticket prices down. To keep up with the times, the owner Valentine then decided to try to convert the club into a disco. Valentine then began leasing the club to businessmen from the east who promoted sex-themed shows and comedy nights. All this was a failed attempt and the club was losing its fame and success. Valentine didn't give up and decided to contact a longtime friend, Marshall Berle. They decided to start hiring unknown bands with a new sound known as punk rock in order to revitalize the club. Berle would hire music entrepreneur and Runaways manager Kim Fowley to help him run these shows and find these bands. Fowley then contacted Hollywood scenester, Rodney Bingenheimer. Together they were able to bring an underground sound from the east who would make big names for themselves in the west such as the Ramones, Blondie, and the Sex Pistols.With the newfound success came many new acts and even new sound. They began to have acts such as Blue Oyster Cult and Tom Petty. While all this was going on, the club did everything they could to promote new unheard acts. This was well-and-good until the early 80's when the club had once again hit financial bottom due to new clubs outshining the Whisky. The club was shuttered until another revival in the mid-80's known as hair metal. Two of the most common bands to occupy the club in the 80's were Motley Crue and Van Halen. The club still stands and is open to this day. Many bands from all over the world come to the venue in order to be heard in this historical music landmark. The catch is different this time around. In order for local bands to perform at the Whisky, they must first purchase and then resell tickets. Many musicians have entitled this method "pay-to-play". The Whisky celebrated its 50th anniversary in January of 2014. It is the first nightclub to be introduced into the rock n roll hall of fame.
Epting, Chris. Whisky a Go Go: The First Real American Discothèque. www.visitwesthollywood.com. June 11, 2018. Accessed October 01, 2018. https://www.visitwesthollywood.com/stories/whisky-a-go-go-the-first-real-american-discotheque/.
History: the world famous whisky a go go. Wiskeyagogo.com. October 16, 2015. Accessed October 01, 2018. http://www.whiskyagogo.com/site/category/history/.
Renoff, Greg. Riot on Sunset. medium.com. April 06, 2015. Accessed October 01, 2018. https://medium.com/cuepoint/how-hollywood-s-whisky-a-go-go-was-saved-by-punk-rock-and-new-wave-f61a22cea69f.
Stravropoulos, Laura. Whiskey A Go-Go:When LA Rock Ruled The Strip. www.udiscovermusic.com. June 16, 2018. Accessed October 01, 2018. https://www.udiscovermusic.com/stories/whisky-a-go-go-when-la-rock-ruled-the-strip/.