In 1957, an ordinary coffee house on La Cienaga Boulevard unexpectedly closed down one day, only to reopen shortly thereafter as the Troubadour nightclub of Santa Monica fame.
West Hollywood nightclub owner, Doug Weston, had a vision for the Los Angeles live music scene and wanted to give the creative community a home. After several years of saving money and planning, Weston made his dreams into a reality. The Troubadour, known to LA natives as the ‘Troub’, served as a career launching pad for hundreds of legendary artists and bands.
Historically, the venue has played a pivotal role in the careers of Elton John, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Eagles, The Byrds, Love, Joni Mitchell and so many more.
The Troubadour became known as the meeting place for industry professionals but also for fans to discover emerging talent.
As explained by pop critic Robert Hillburn in the LA Times:
“Doug Weston was arguably the godfather of the Southern California singer-songwriter movement in the late ’60s and early ’70s, someone whose unshakable belief in the inspirational power of music made his club both a showcase and meeting hall for much of the best young talent of a generation.”
In the 1960s, Troubadour became popular for its folk-rock bookings, with artists like Bob Dylan making spontaneous performances. The venue ultimately grew in popularity, as more and more rising talent made its way to the stage. In 1970, Neil Diamond (a Troubadour alum), introduced Elton John to the venue, who would later play his U.S. debut show there.
Weston expanded his bookings from rock to comedy, including but not limited to acts like Steven Martin, Cheech & Chong and Bill Cosby.
He wanted to invite artists from across the spectrum, he said.
“The people who play our club are sensitive artists who have something to say about our times. They are modern-day troubadours.”
“Modern-day troubadours” is an accurate description and reflection of the venue’s intuitive and tasteful approach when selecting talent to perform on its stage.
Just take a look at the list of the nightclub’s alumni and you’ll immediately get a feel of just how historic it is: Kris Kristofferson, Fleetwood Mac, Don Maclean, The Byrds, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, The Eagles, Rod Stewart, Carly Simon, Miles Davis, Leonard Cohen, Willie Nelson, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Korn, Led Zeppelin, No Doubt, Fiona Apple, Johnny Cash, Franz Ferdinand, Coldplay, Red Hot Chili Peppers and so many more.
In the 1970s and 1980s the venue had bands like Guns N’ Roses, Mötley Crüe, Poison and Warrant perform. Guns N’ Roses played their first ever show at the Troubadour and as luck would have it, were discovered by A&R representative David Geffen that same night.
The Troubadour has played host to countless iconic performances, but it was also the location of innumerable significant moments in music history, like when Don Henley of the Eagles first met Glenn Frey, a story which he later recounted to CBS:
“He walked up to me one night in the Troubadour and handed me a beer, and he just started to talking to me. You know, the Troubadour Bar was the center of the universe at that point in time.”
Without the Troubadour, many artists would not be where they are today. Take the Eagles for example, what would have Don Henley done if he hadn’t met Glenn Frey that one night for a cold beer? The same can be said for David Geffen, an A&R representative, who happened to be at the right place (that right place being the Troubadour) at the right time when he discovered Guns N’ Roses.
With so much history under its belt, the Troubadour continues to preserve its legacy by giving opportunity to emerging acts as well as established performers. First timers continue to be surprised by the venue’s intimate size (with a maximum capacity of 500) and the opportunity to see some of their favorite acts up close and personal.
With plans to celebrate their 60th anniversary in 2017, we can only imagine what special performances the venue has in store. Check out the Troubadour calendar to stay up to date with those events here.