Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek ,John Densmore, and Robby Krieger came together in 1965 to form The Doors.
“Ladies and gentlemen, from Los Angeles California…THE DOORS!”
Jim Morrison was born James Douglas Morrison on December 8, 1943 in Melbourne, Florida. Jim was born to Rear Admiral George Stephen Morrison and Clara Morrison and was the eldest of three children. Jim graduated from George Washington High School in Alexandria, Virginia in June 1961. Morrison then moved to his grandparents house in Clearwater, Florida and attended St. Petersburg Junior College. In 1962, he transferred to Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, where he appeared in a school recruitment film. In January 1964, Morrison moved to Los Angeles, to attend the University of California, Los Angeles, where he received his bachelors degree and met Ray Manzarek.
Ray Manzarek was born Raymond Daniel Manczarek, Jr. on February 12, 1939 in Chicago, Illinois. Manzarek earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from DePaul University. From there he went west and studied in the Department of Cinematography at UCLA, receiving his masters degree. While there he met a fellow film student named Jim Morrison, who briefly appeared in one of Manzarek’s student films, “Induction”. After graduating from UCLA, Ray was sitting on the beach when the historic event took place with Morrison. Ray was a classically trained pianist, but was also influenced by the Chicago blues and people like John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Not only was Ray the keyboardist, but also the bassist, especially in concert, for The Doors. Playing the Fender Rhodes bass keyboard with his left hand, and the chords and solos on his Vox Continental organ gave The Doors a very original sound. Some critics didn’t like the lack of a bass player, which The Doors figured must mean it was the right thing to do. Ray passed away on May 20, 2013, 12:31PM PT at the RoMed Clinic in Rosenheim, Germany after a lengthy battle with bile duct cancer.
John Densmore was the next member to join. John Paul Densmore was born on December 1, 1944 in Los Angeles California. Densmore attended Santa Monica City College, starting in the fall of 1963. In 1964, he transferred to San Fernando Valley State College at Northridge. In the spring of 1965, Densmore formed a band with future The Doors guitarist, Robby Krieger, called the Psychedelic Rangers. Later in 1965, while attending a series of meetings to learn about Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s Transcendental Meditation, he met a guy named Ray Manczarek, who heard that John was a drummer. Ray asked John if he wanted to put a band together: The Doors! An amazing drummer, mixing rock and jazz, John came up with the bossa nova beat for Break on Through, which really makes the song stand out. From the first song they worked on as a group, all the way through until the end, it was John holding down the beat and really embellishing Morrison’s lyrics and poetry with his drumming technique.
Robby Krieger was the last member to join The Doors. Robert Alan Krieger was born on January 8, 1946, along with a twin brother, in Los Angeles California. Robby started out playing flamenco guitar, which can be heard best on The Doors song Spanish Caravan, and also played folk guitar. Because of Robby’s guitar training, he never used a pick. Robby also brought slide to the electric guitar, which Jim liked so much, he was reported as saying, “Let’s use that on every song!”. Robby’s style of playing is very unique and quite different from what the other bands were doing at the time. It was the perfect match to Densmore and Manzarek, and together, the three of them provided the perfect soundscape for Morrison to hang his words on.
It all started in the summer of 1965 on Venice Beach. Morrison had told Manzarek he was going to New York after graduating from UCLA film school. As Manzarek sat on the beach, wondering what he was going to do with his life, here comes Morrison. In school, Morrison had weighed over 180 lbs. but was now a very trim 145 and Manzarek was shocked to see the difference. Spending the summer eating acid instead of food helped Jim turn from a soft, round student into a trim beatnik. Living on a rooftop in abject poverty, writing poetry and living the Jack Kerouac lifestyle Morrison idolized, had Jim primed and ready for what was about to happen. “Thought you were going to New York, Jim?”, “Nah, I never went, been living on Dennis Jakobs’ roof, writing.” Morrison replied. “Watchya been writing?” Ray asks. “Songs.” Jim replies. “Well, let me here one, Jim”. Jim sings Moonlight Drive and Ray is knocked out. Jim had been hearing a whole concert in his head and already had a named picked out. The Doors.
Manzarek was in a band with his brothers, with Rick Manczarek on guitar and Jim Manczarek on organ and harmonica, called Rick & the Ravens. Eventually, after some personnel changes occurred, The Doors were complete, with John Densmore on drums, Robby Krieger on guitar, Ray Manzarek on keyboards and Jim Morrison on vocals. The four of them are magic. While the lyrics are mostly written by either Morrison or Krieger, the music is written and arranged by the band. Between Manzarek’s Chicago blues and classical influence, Densmore’s mixture of jazz and rock, and Krieger’s flamenco/folk guitar playing combined with his use of playing slide on electric guitar, The Doors were a very unique sounding band.
SEPTEMBER 1967 – NEW YORK CITY
The Doors are in New York, and on September 17th, they play The Ed Sullivan Show. They perform two songs, their new single “People are Strange” and their huge hit, “Light My Fire”. The Doors had been asked to change the lyric “girl we couldn’t get much higher” because you weren’t allowed to say higher on network televsion, supposedly a drug reference. While The Doors agreed they would change the lyric, during the live broadcast, Jim sang the original lyric, ensuring that they would never be invited back! While in New York, Jim Morrison gets to meet Andy Warhol, who seems to be infatuated with the singer and wants to put him in one of his movies.
Next, Jim Morrison meets 16 magazine editor, Gloria Stavers for a photo shoot. Gloria is partly responsible for The Doors and more specifically, Jim, becoming a sensation among the teens. Gloria invited Jim over to her apartment to take pictures for the magazine. The resulting photos look like they were definitely having some fun together. Jim wound up posing in one of her fur coats, and eventually becoming bare chested, just wearing a bead necklace of Gloria’s.
Wrapping up their stay in New York, The Doors meet photographer Joel Brodsky who takes several pictures of the group. Joel has Ray, Robby and John wearing black panchos, with just their heads showing, while Jim strikes several shirtless poses, still wearing Gloria Stavers beaded necklace. Then Joel starts taking pictures of just Jim, and those have become the iconic pictures of Jim that have most widely been publicized. The photo shoot has been referred to as The Young Lion shoot.
JIM CUTS HIS OWN HAIR
The Doors leave for Europe on September 2, 1968. Three interesting things happen while on this tour. The first, The Doors play The Roundhouse in London England, which one of the shows is filmed for British television for a show called “The Doors are Open”.
The second is The Doors doing a lip-synch performance of “Hello, I Love You” in the streets of Frankfurt Germany on Friday, September 13, 1968. It is recorded in Romer square for a television show called 4-3-2-1 Hot & Sweet.
Finally, on September 15, 1968, The Doors are scheduled to perform in Amsterdam. Grace Slick and Paul Kantner from The Jefferson Airplane tell the story in The Doors – Live in Europe 1968. Apparently, walking the main streets of Amsterdam during the day, people are offering Jim and company an assortment of drugs. Instead of actually seeing what he’s being given and waiting until later, he just pops whatever into his mouth and moves on. That evening, Jefferson Airplane is playing first, and Jim hops up on stage, uninvited, and begins dancing and eventually spinning until he falls down. He goes backstage and collapses. The Doors are about to go on stage, and there goes Jim out cold on a stretcher to be taken to the hospital. The Doors go on stage and perform that evening with no Morrison and put on an awesome show, Ray providing the vocals. After some much needed rest in the hospital, Jim is up and about as if nothing happened!
“I’m not denying that I’ve had a good time these last three or four years and, uh, met a lot of interesting people and seen a lot of things in a short space of time that I probably wouldn’t have run into in 20 years of living. So I can’t, I can’t say that I regret it. If I had it to do over again, I think I would have, uh, gone more for the undemonstrative little artist plodding away in his own garden trip.” Interview with Jim Morrison by Salli Stevenson – October 13, 1970.
“ I hope at about the age of a hundred-and-twenty with a sense of humor and a nice comfortable bed. I wouldn’t want anybody around. I’d just want to quietly drift off. ” – Jim Morrison
Between January 1967 and April 1971, The Doors released 6 studio albums and 1 live album. They have sold over 35 million albums in the US and over 100 million worldwide. In 1993, The Doors were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
On February 28, 2007, The Doors received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which is the 2,325th star to be added. The star is located at 6901 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, California 90028, in front of the Hard Rock Cafe.
In 2009, The Doors premiered When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors at the Sundance Film Festival, and it was released on DVD in 2010. When You’re Strange was directed by Tom DiCillo and was narrated by Johnny Depp. There are no actors in the movie, it is the real Jim Morrison you see in each shot. Long time fans probably won’t learn anything new from the narration, but there are a few bits of film footage never before seen, with one of the highlights being the pristine condition of the footage from Jim’s movie HWY.