The world lost another music legend Monday (May 20th) with the passing of The Doors founder and keyboardist, Ray Manzarek. The news shocked fans and the industry worldwide as the announcement was made via the band’s Facebook page. Soon after, The Music Universe was one of the many media outlets to report the sad news. Manzarek passed away in Germany, where he was getting treatment for bile duct cancer, on Monday. He was 74.
Upon hearing the news Monday afternoon, fans and fellow musicians immediately flocked to social media to express their condolences. There’s no doubt Manzarek was one of rock’s most iconic and influential musicians. Period. After all, he was a member of one of rock’s most controversial acts of the 1960s, if not of all time.
The Doors formed in Los Angeles, CA in 1965 and got their start on the famous Sunset Strip that spans a mile-and-a-half of Sunset Boulevard extending from West Hollywood’s eastern border with Hollywood to its western border with Beverly Hills. By 1966, the band was playing the LA club London Fog before graduating as the house band to the prestigious Whisky A Go Go. This promotion was the greatest thing to happen to Manzarek, along with singer Jim Morrison, guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Desmore, because it was on August 10, 1965 when Elektra president Jac Holzman and producer Paul A. Rothchild saw the band perform two sets at the iconic venue and signed them just eight days later. The rest is history as the group soared to super stardom until the group disbanded in 1973, two years after Morrison’s untimely death in Paris.
Whisky A Go Go General Manager Tisa Mylar reflects on the success both her club and The Doors received due to their house band promotion.
“We feel like at the Whisky that The Doors kinda made the Whisky and the Whisky kinda made The Doors,” Mylar tells us exclusively.
Few knew of Manzarek’s cancer until recently when he announced to his most recent band, The Manzarek-Rogers Band, in March that he was sick and would be traveling to Germany to seek treatment for the disease. Still, Manzarek somehow managed to keep his cancer private and out of the media until his passing.
Mylar has a rich history with rock stars on the Strip and has heard stories about how energetic Manzarek was despite his illness.
“I didn’t hear anything about him being sick. I was really surprised because [The Doors tribute band Wild Child singer and current The Doors singer] Dave [Brock] had told me that every time they were at a show, you know, they’d get home late,” she says. “And they’d get to the hotels. And Ray would be up at 6 o’clock in the morning saying, ‘Okay, everybody, let’s go.’ And they’re all like, ‘Whaaat? We’re rock stars. We’re not getting up at 6 in the morning. We’ll meet you there.’ (laughs) He said his energy was crazy.”
Manzarek never forgot his roots and returned to the Whisky stage numerous times throughout his 40 plus year career. One of the more memorable appearances was when he and fellow Doors member Krieger headlined the Friday night slot at the Whisky A Go Go during the Sunset Strip Music Festival in August 2011. Despite being sick, Manzarek never slowed down until the very end.
Mylar says every time she saw Manzarek, he was very energetic and fit.
“The last time I was here with Ray at the Whisky, I had seen him one other time after the 2011 show, and he looked great to me,” she tells us. ” I thought, you know, out of all of the guys that are remaining, I mean, he just looked so incredibly fit and young, you know? Even being 74 years old.”
Mylar remembers several appearances Manzarek made over the years that attracted more fans than the famed venue could hold.
“We had the book signing. I believe that was [in] 2006. We had 900 people show up. The Whisky is only at 500 capacity,” she says laughing. “So, we had a few people waiting, but they were all trying to get their books signed and stuff like that.”
“We feel like at the Whisky that The Doors kinda made the Whisky and the Whisky kinda made The Doors.”
Mylar recalls Manzarek reminiscing recently on the radio about receiving their first paycheck at the Whisky.
“He said that he remembered when [owner] Mario [Maglieri] finally paid him and they got $30. And they were so excited because they were a paid band at that point,” she recalls. “You know, I think they were just bands and they weren’t really expecting to get paid. So he was very excited about $30 which I thought was so funny.”
The Whisky A Go Go is honoring Manzarek by displaying a marquee the rest of the week that says “Rest In Peace, Ray Manzarek. Thanks for all the Memories!” And on Monday night, the Whisky, the Roxy and the Trobadour all shut their outside lights off for ten minutes to honor Manzarek. Each venue went dark at 9:31 pm, Los Angeles time, to pay tribute to the famed keyboardist who passed away earlier that day. Mylar says 9:31 pm reflects the time he passed away in Germany.
Mylar says she did something different than the other clubs.
“I came into the club and I had everybody on the light switch, and we turned all of our lights down inside. For a minute, we left all of the lights off. And it was interesting because I walk in [the Whisky] to film it and as I walked through the door it was so dark and quiet,” she states. “And there [were] a lot of people in the room and it was so incredibly quiet and so respectful. You know, everybody just had so much respect. You couldn’t hear anything in the room. I thought I was walking into a darkened room.”
Mylar says she filmed the special “lights out” dedication starting outside of the club on the corner as the lights went off and then walking into the club where it was also dark. She then panned to a photo of The Doors before ending with a shot of the Whisky logo. Mylar plans to share the video online as soon as possible. We will also share the video when available.
Manzarek and The Doors have left quite a legacy behind them. Their music, image and aura will grace the walls of the Whisky A Go Go, and the hearts of fans, forever! I know rock fans agree with Mylar when she says, “We’re gonna miss him here deeply.”
Author: Buddy Iahn
Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites.