For the those of you who know me, I have been a life-long musician and have covered various artists. One of my high school buddies, Ricky Rowbotham, introduced me to The Doors circa 1981. Ricky is a fantastic bass player and taught me boogie woogie and swing bass lines that I still use to this day. His lessons were instrumental in moving me from the simple 1 – 5 bass patterns my dad taught me so I could back him up playing Bluegrass, to progressing in other musical directions.
Ricky loved The Doors and turned me onto them. Despite being 10 years past the death of Jim Morrison, I found the sound intriguing and the rebellious antics of Morrison was still fresh and relevant for us as high school teenagers. Honestly, I can’t exactly remember when I found out that The Doors as we know them today, did not have a bass player, and that Ray Manzarek kicked bass on his keyboard.
Another friend since that time is Andy Hymel and we have worked together since we were 15-years-old. I started off on drums, but eventually gave that up to concentrate on bass guitar because I sort of wanted to be in front and eventually sing. Fast forward several years, ( I don’t know – 15 more years or so) and I wanted to cover Roadhouse Blues. To this day, Andy is a devout Beatles fan, and certainly admires one of my favorites, The Rolling Stones, but it seems like it took a while for him to get on board with covering a Doors tune. I could be completely wrong, but that is what I felt.
Notwithstanding, Roadhouse Blues is what it is, a standard 1-4-5 blues chord progression embellished with dynamic keyboard orchestration of Ray Manzerek and infused with the infectious vocals of the charismatic frontman, Jim Morrison. Though I personally have limited vocal ability, it was the perfect “cock rock” fodder that I could pull off in venues offering us gigs. We did it without keyboards, but the tune holds it own.
I have covered that song for many years and continue to do so to this day. As of late, I have been performing it with a fantastic young keyboard player by the name of Jason Percle who is at least 25 years my junior. He can play the Manzarek stuff like a virtuoso, which makes me sound a lot better singing!
Morrison Hotel is the 5th album by The Doors which features “Road House Blues”. The other day, I purchased a book called “Rock Covers” by Robbie Busch, Jonathan Kirby, and Julius Wiedemann, which tells the history of the artwork and photography behind a comprehensive collection of rock and roll album covers.
The photograph of the Morrison Hotel album was taken by a gentleman named Henry Diltz, who tells his story of how he took the pictures. The Doors band was taken to this “funky” hotel somewhere in Los Angeles for a photo shoot, but was initially denied access by the hotel clerk to the window bearing Jim Morrison’s last named because he was afraid the controlling owner would not approve. When the clerk stepped out the lobby for a break, Diltz rushed the band in to the lobby behind the window as fast as possible to grab the shot which ultimately became the Morrison Hotel album cover.
Having successfully accomplished their mission, Jim Morrison said, “Let’s go get a drink.” They proceeded six blocks down the road to an area known as “Skid Row”, where than discovered a bar called “Hard Rock Cafe”. Henry Diltz took a picture of this bar which became the back cover of the Morris Hotel album.
When the album reached the shelves of record stores in England, it found it’s way into the hands of entrepreneurs planning the opening of a new cafe. Said entrepreneurs contacted The Doors management to request permission to use the name Hard Rock Cafe for their new enterprise, which is now an international empire!
LA Woman Doors
LA Woman is the 2nd Doors tune I covered singing with a band called The Liberators, featuring the aforementioned Jason Percle on keyboards. Young Jason recently graduated from my twice alma mater, The University of New Orleans, where my daughter also graduated last month 🙂 There is a video out there somewhere of one of my first performances, but I will spare you here in that 1.) I think it was my virgin voyage on that tune and 2.) I was quite a bit rounder than I am today, though that could reverse itself at any time if I quit going to Planet Fitness!
From what I have read, Jim Morrison did not exactly have all the best performances either at various stages of his relatively short career. In fact, Morrison’s last live performance was in my home town of New Orleans, Louisiana, at The Warehouse, where he reportedly had some sort of a breakdown and refused to finish the show.
In an effort to reclaim glory after this unfortunate performance, The Doors released the LA Woman album in 1971 which is arguably their best. They even added a real bass player, Jerry Scheff, who worked with Elvis Presley. Along with the single LA Woman, than album also featured “Love Her Madly” and “Riders on the Story”. The LA Woman album went on to be The Door’s second biggest album behind their self-titled debut album, The Doors, which featured “Break on Through (To the Other Side)” and “Light My Fire”
Light My Fire
The last time our band “The Liberators” played together as a group was as a house band at a now defunct venue called “MoonDogs”. I never did learn the chords to “Light My Fire”, but attempted to sing it, without playing bass. Like Ray Manzarek, Jason Percle covered the keyboards and kicked bass with his left hand. TJ Sutton played guitar and Floyd Durand held it down on drums.
While I attempted to do my best Jim Morrison, I did fine on the first part of the tune, but didn’t quite have it on the raised pitch end due to lack of preparation. In reality, Jason threw the tune out one night and we never did actually practice it, but I should have leaned it after the first attempt. It wasn’t like we were getting paid very much, so it wasn’t exactly on the top of my list of priorities.
However, I did load Light My Fire into my I Heart Radio/Amazon Music and listened today as I was on the stepping machine at Planet Fitness, which is my new method of learning lyrics and pounding melodies into my head so that hopefully than come out of my mouth in tune when I attempt to sing them and literally “Light My Fire!”
The Doors did it their own way and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. In 1998, “Light My Fire” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2015, The Doors debut album was included in the National Recording Registry for it’s cultural and historical significance.