Troubadour Club in West L.A. played huge part of music history
I just finished watching a DVD titled “Troubadours: The Rise of the Singer Songwriter.”
It was narrated mostly by James Taylor and Carole King but also featured Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Cheech and Chong, Steve Martin, David Crosby and Kris Kristofferson among others.
“Troubadours” is the story of Doug Weston’s Troubadour Club in West Los Angeles that was open from 1968 to 1975.
I first heard about the Troubadour Club through a Rolling Stone Magazine interview with the Eagles in 1978. The club was where the original members of the Eagles hung out before they were the Eagles. It also is where they met Linda Ronstadt before backing her on her third solo recording in 1971. It was a self-titled album featuring covers of songs by Neil Young, Johnny Cash and Jackson Browne.
Before the Eagles, there were many artists who are still very popular who either received their big break at the Troubadour Club or they met folks who they would perform with in the future.
Many of the artists who performed at the club helped create the “West Coast laid-back singer-songwriter” sound were not even from California.
Taylor and King were from the East Coast. Neil Young and Joni Mitchell were from Canada. Don Henley and Glen Frey were from Texas and Michigan respectively.
Roger McGuinn said that he went out to Los Angeles from Chicago, and at the Troubadour Club he met David Crosby and Gene Clark and they formed the Byrds.
One thing that most of these artists had in common was playing the coffeehouse circuit, and collectively they were looking to make more money or just “make it” as a rock ‘n’ roll star. The timing for this at the end of the 1960s in West Los Angeles was perfect.
The Beatles had just broken up, the Rolling Stones were taking a break, and there was a lot of generational and societal turmoil people needed a break from.
This new music provided them with more personal and intimate songs that were written and performed by the same person.
James Taylor’s first band, Flying Machine had just broken up and Danny Kortchmar, Taylor’s best friend and guitarist, persuaded Taylor to take his demo tape to Peter Asher who was working for the Beatles at the time.
So Taylor flew to England and played his demo and for Asher and the Beatles.
Paul McCartney and George Harrison liked it enough to persuade Taylor to put it out on Apple Records.
When Kortchmar heard the record he did not like it at all.
After Taylor came back to the United States, he wrote some more songs and later played his first solo live show at the Troubadour Club in July 1969.
Right after that he played at the Newport Folk Festival where he debuted “Fire and Rain,” which to me was a farewell to the turbulence of the 1960s with a more optimistic look to the future.
This is just one of the many stories about the Troubadour Club on this great CD/DVD set, and King’s story will have to be the subject future column.
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