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In the Beginning
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The Whisky a Go Go was one of the places that popularized go-go dancing. Elmer Valentine, in a Vanity Fair article, recalled arranging to have a female DJ play records between Rivers' sets so patrons could continue dancing. But because there was not enough room on the floor for a DJ booth, he had a glass-walled booth mounted high above the floor. Valentine quickly hired two more female dancers, one of whom, Joanna Labean, designed the official go-go-girl costume of fringed dress and white boots. Rivers rode the Whisky-born go-go craze to national fame with records recorded partly Live at the Whisky. The Whisky played an important role in many musical careers, especially for bands based in Southern California. On the last night they all jammed together on " Gloria ". Frank Zappa 's The Mothers of Invention got their record contract based on a performance at the Whisky. The Turtles performed there when their newest and biggest-selling single " Happy Together " was becoming a hit, only to lose their new bassist, Chip Douglas who had arranged the song , to The Monkees ; guitarist Michael Nesmith invited him to become their producer he returned to the Turtles a year later, to produce them. Neil Diamond also played at the Whisky on occasion.
The venue first opened in and continues strong today after a short closure in the s. But, as the story goes, there was no room on the floor for the DJ booth, so the owners built a glass-walled booth suspended over the stage. When the female DJ started dancing to the band, the crowd thought it was part of the show and loved it, so the club hired additional dancers to don fringed dresses and white boots to dance in the glass cubicle and the Go-Go dance craze was born. Everyone who was anyone in the rock n' roll scene played at the Whisky and many careers were made here. Soon after The Whisky opened, they hired Neil Young, Stephen Stills and the newly formed Buffalo Springfield as the house band for a seven-week run, followed by Jim Morrison and The Doors who were "discovered" playing there by scouts from Elektra Records and received their first recording contract. Avril Lavigne broadcast a live acoustic set from the Whisky in The Whiskey closed as a club in and reopened in as a venue that could be rented by promoters and bands and became part of the "pay for play" model, where instead of venues paying bands, bands pay venues for a block of tickets to sell to their fans, or, another way of making money, bands can earn a percentage of the cover charge. This practice has led to fans following bands they know rather than counting on any particular venue to have reliably good music, which has been to the detriment of the reputation of the venues themselves.
An ornate Parisian-themed discotheque in Hollywood seems like an unlikely place for the golden age of LA rock, but nothing about the Whisky was ordinary. The club was sold out virtually every night with stars like Cary Grant, Johnny Carson and The Beatles holding court in its tufted red booths. With no space on stage, he erected a glass-walled cage for the scantily clad DJ to save space or so the story goes and her spontaneous oscillations led the audience to believe it was part of the act. The Whisky was not only the hub of the burgeoning local scene, it also played host to up-and-coming touring acts like Led Zeppelin, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Velvet Underground, Cream, the Who, the Animals, the Kinks and countless others. The face of the LA freak scene The club soon became the hub of this remarkably fertile scene and the main hangout for such influential local bands as the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and Frank Zappa and the Mothers. It just happened. Zappa and his band filled in for Johnny Rivers while he was out on tour and became the face of the LA freak scene. A cross-pollination An equally but less documented important band on the scene was Love. Crossing racial lines In order to stay open, hold onto his liquor license and keep the police off his back, Valentine had to ban psychedelic groups and went strictly 21 and up. His historic three-night run was recorded on Otis Redding: Live At The Whisky A Go Go: The Complete Recordings — making him a huge crossover success to mainstream audiences and introducing him to the emerging counter-culture of the 60s.