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Whisky a Go Go Marks 60th Anniversary of First Performance at Iconic L.A. Club

Johnny Rivers and DJ Joanie Labine were the first artists to perform when the venue opened on Jan. 16, 1964.

Whisky a Go Go
Source: MEGA

Rock fans are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the first performances at the Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles.

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Rock fans are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Whisky a Go Go. The iconic West Hollywood club helped launch the careers of dozens of influential Southern California bands including the Doors, the Germs, Mötley Crüe and Metallica.

Elmer Valentine and a group of entrepreneurs hosted the first performance at the Sunset Boulevard club on this day in 1964, according to the venue's website.

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Whisky a Go Go
Source: MEGA

Johnny Rivers and DJ Joanie Labine played the venue on Jan. 16, 1964.

It's not exactly clear where the name was gleaned the name from. A Whisky a Go Go already existed in Valentine's native Chicago, where he once worked as a police detective. Similarly-named clubs were also operating in France, where go-go dancing originated.

The first show at the Whisky on Jan. 16, 1964 included a performance from the blues rock artist Johnny Rivers and a set by DJ Joanie Labine.

The club played a key role in popularizing go-go dancing in the U.S. A performer at the venue created the iconic go-go outfit, which included a fringed white skirt and matching boots.

In the years that followed, Valentine opened other iconic local venues like The Roxy Theatre and the Rainbow Bar & Grill.

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The Doors briefly became the club's house band in 1966. The group grew its reputation while opening for acts like Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band, Buffalo Springfield and the Turtles. They were fired after frontman Jim Morrison missed a performance due to a particularly intense acid trip.

The club became an important venue for Los Angeles punk bands in the late 1970s. Just one year after forming, the Germs recorded their iconic live album Germicide at the club in 1977. Vocalist Darby Crash can be heard arguing with audience members throughout the set. The group's guitarist Pat Smear went on to join the Foo Fighters.

In the 1980s, the club became the center of the Sunset Strip's burgeoning hair metal scene.

Several Mötley Crüe members lived down the street in 1981. After their raucous shows at the Whisky, the band would often stick around to engage in the intense partying that helped make them famous. The music video for the band's 1989 track "Kickstart My Heart" was filmed at the Whisky.

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Jim Morrison
Source: MEGA

The Doors were briefly the club's house band in 1966.

Although SoCal was generally more excited about hair metal than thrash, Metallica formed in the Los Angeles region before moving to the Bay Area in 1983.

That move was partly a bid to bring East Bay native Cliff Burton into the lineup. James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich discovered the bassist when his band Trauma played the Whisky in 1982. The pair was blown away by a solo Burton played, which would eventually make its way into the Metallica track "Anaesthesia."

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Motley Crue
Source: MEGA

The venue was also an impoirtant location for the hair metal band Mötley Crüe.

The Whisky officially became a recognized historic landmark in October 2019, WEHOonline reported. The art deco building constructed in 1923 initially housed real estate offices during one of Los Angeles' early building booms.

The Rainbow and the Roxy received similar historic landmark designations the following month.

The Punk Rock History account shared news about the anniversary on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. The post included a 1980s photo of the marquee which indicated Oingo Boingo and Suburban Lawns were set to play that evening.

"Spent many a fun night there!" one commenter said.


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