A long, strange and melodic rock & roll trip up and down the West Coast spotlighting Inductees that are from, were formed in or gained a following in the Golden State.
By the mid-1960s, Southern California had come into its own as a pop metropolis. Thanks to the surf sound of the Beach Boys, the region became identified with the sun-kissed dreams of white American teens, and producers like Phil Spector and Lou Adler were making classic singles that challenged the dominance of the New York scene.
At the same time, Los Angeles was developing a thriving folk scene around clubs like the Ash Grove and the Troubadour and McCabe's guitar shop. That scene served as a magnet to aspiring folkies from all over -- people like Roger McGuinn, John Phillips, Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Richie Furay, who had been inspired by the burgeoning folk revival that had begun on the East Coast.
By 1964, when McGuinn met David Crosby during a hootenanny at the Troubadour, the British Invasion had taken hold in America. When McGuinn and Crosby teamed up with Gene Clark, Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke to form the Byrds, they were as influenced by the Beatles as by Bob Dylan. The Byrds' music was a new hybrid – electric folk-rock – and in the wake of their success, there were dozens of bands playing clubs on the city's fabled Sunset Strip.
But it was the Troubadour, which had opened as a jazz club in the Fifties, that was the hub of L.A.'s new music scene. Texas exile Don Henley, who went on to form the Eagles with Detroit native Glenn Frey, remembers going to the Troubadour his first night in L.A. and seeing Graham Nash, Neil Young and Linda Ronstadt. Rick Nelson's Stone Canyon Band, one of the originators of L.A.'s country-rock sound, made its debut at the Troubadour, as did Poco, another country-rock group formed by Buffalo Springfield alumni.
"When Will I Be Loved"Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Nicks, Sheryl Crow and Carrie Underwood perform Linda Ronstadt's "When Will I Be Loved" at the 2014 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
"When Will I Be Loved"
Time magazine declared it the era of the singer-songwriter
By the turn of the decade, several of the artists associated with the Troubadour scene – including Crosby, Stills and Nash, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt – were enjoying significant commercial success. Time magazine declared it the era of the singer-songwriter, and on the surface, the L.A. scene did seem to be dominated by singer-songwriters and country-rock bands. But the reality was that the music being made in L.A. was much more diverse, incorporating everyone from blues enthusiasts like Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal and Little Feat, to quirky composers like Randy Newman and Van Dyke Parks to eccentrics like Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention and Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band.
By 1976, Los Angeles had become the nexus of the music industry, which was enjoying unprecedented growth. This period climaxed with the phenomenal sales of the Eagles' Hotel California and Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. Those albums stand as examples of the finely polished, highly melodic L.A. sound at its best. By the end of the decade, though, tastes had begun to change, and the focus shifted back to New York, where punk, New Wave and rap were gaining in commercial popularity.
The city of San Francisco served as a magnet for musicians, artists and social rebels in the mid-to-late Sixties. They created a counterculture bound by leftist politics, hallucinogenic drugs, tribal spirit and music. San Francisco had long been a literary bohemia, attracting nonconformists like the Beat Generation writers of the Fifties. It was logical that a city as free-thinking as San Francisco would give birth to a radical new movement in rock and roll.
"Piece of My Heart"Melissa Etheridge performs "Piece of My Heart" in tribute to Janis Joplin at the 1995 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
"Piece of My Heart"
There was a community in need of music, and music in need of a community
The word “psychedelic” was applied to the scene, implying a colorful alteration of the senses. The most innovative and popular groups – the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Moby Grape, Country Joe and the Fish, Santana – changed the way music was performed and experienced. Songs were no longer confined to two or three minutes; they could go on upward of 20. Sweeping changes in concert promotion and FM radio fueled the movement. Old ballrooms and rented halls were converted into live-music spaces. Light shows provided throbbing visual accompaniment. Audiences became active participants as concerts evolved into multimedia events. Underground radio was born here, as local stations KSAN and KMPX embraced the daring new music. Rock journalism found a literate voice in such San Francisco-based publications as Rolling Stone.
The cauldron for this creativity was Haight-Ashbury, a neighborhood bordering Golden Gate Park, where Victorian houses were rented cheaply and inhabited communally. “In the Haight,” wrote scene chronicler Charles Perry, “life was cheap, life was aesthetic, life was stoned, and LSD was the great tool of transformation.”
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