Whisky a Go Go
The Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip
|Location||8901 Sunset Blvd,
West Hollywood, California 90069
|Genre(s)||Rock n' roll
|Opened||January 16, 1964|
In 1958, the first Whisky a Go-Go in North America opened in Chicago, Illinois, on the corner of Rush Street and Chestnut Street. It has been called the first real American discothèque. A franchise was opened in 1966 on M Street in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C., by restaurateur Jacques Vivien.
The spot owes its name to the first discothèque, exactly Le Whisky à Go-Go, established in Paris, rue de Seine, in 1947. This one was frequented by American sailors who, coming back home, brought the idea and popularized it during the 1950s.
The Sunset Strip Whisky was founded by Elmer Valentine, Phil Tanzini, Shelly Davis, and attorney Theodore Flier and opened on January 16, 1964. In 1972, Valentine, Lou Adler, Mario Maglieri and others started the Rainbow Bar & Grill on the Sunset Strip. In 1966, Valentine, Adler and others founded The Roxy Theatre. Lou Adler bought into the Whisky in the late 1970s. Valentine sold his interest in the Whisky a Go Go in the 1990s but retained an ownership in the Rainbow Bar & Grill and the Roxy Theatre until his death in December 2008.
Though the club was billed as a discothèque, suggesting that it offered only recorded music, the Whisky a Go Go opened with a live band led by Johnny Rivers and a short-skirted female DJ Rhonda Lane, spinning records between sets from a suspended cage at the right of the stage. When, in July 1965, the DJ danced during Rivers' set, the audience thought it was part of the act and the concept of go-go dancers dancing in cages was born.
The Whisky a Go Go was one of the places that popularized go-go dancing. Elmer Valentine, in a 2006 Vanity Fair article, recalled arranging to have a female DJ play records between Rivers' sets so patrons could continue dancing. But because there was not enough room on the floor for a DJ booth, he had a glass-walled booth mounted high above the floor.
A contest was held for the girl DJ job but when the young winner called Valentine on the night of the opening to tearfully say her mother forbade her from doing it, Valentine recruited the club's cigarette girl, Patty Brockhurst. Valentine quickly hired two more girl dancers, one of whom, Joanna Labean, designed the official go-go-girl costume of fringed dress and white boots.
Rivers rode the Whisky-born go-go craze to national fame with records recorded partly "live at the Whisky." The Miracles recorded the song "Going to a Go-Go" in 1966 (which was covered in 1982 by The Rolling Stones), and Whisky a Go Go franchises sprang up all over the country.
In 1966, the Whisky was one of the centers of the Sunset Strip police riots. The club was often in conflict with the County of Los Angeles, which once ordered that the name be changed, claiming "whisky" was a bad influence. It was the "Whisk?" for a while.
The Whisky played an important role in many musical careers, especially for bands based in Southern California. The Byrds, Alice Cooper, Buffalo Springfield and Love were regulars, and The Doors were the house band for a while—until the debut of the "Oedipal section" of "The End" got them fired. Van Morrison's band Them had a two-week residency in June 1966, with The Doors as the opening act. On the last night they all jammed together on "Gloria". Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention got their record contract based on a performance at the Whisky. The Turtles performed there when their newest (and biggest-selling) single "Happy Together" was becoming a hit, only to lose their new bassist, Chip Douglas (who had arranged the song), to the Monkees; guitarist Michael Nesmith invited him to become their producer. (He returned to the Turtles a year later, to produce them.) Neil Diamond also played at the Whisky on occasion. Metallica bassist Cliff Burton was recruited by the band after they watched him play a show there. Many British performers made their first headlining performances in the area at the Whisky, including The Kinks, The Who, Cream, Slade, Led Zeppelin, Roxy Music and Oasis.
Arthur Lee of Love immortalized the Whisky in the song "Maybe the People Would Be the Times or Between Clark and Hilldale". "Here they always play my songs," he would sing on the side two opener of Forever Changes. The Whisky was located on the strip between the streets Clark and Hilldale.
Mötley Crüe wrote the song 'Down at the Whisky" in reference to The Whisky as well.
In the mid-1970s, the Whisky hosted stage presentations, including the long-running show The Cycle Sluts. On Thanksgiving weekend 1976, the Whisky returned to a rock band format, with a four-night engagement of Kim Fowley protégés, Venus and the Razorblades and The Quick.
The Whisky was a focus of the emerging New Wave, punk rock, and heavy metal movements in the late 1970s, and frequently presented local acts as diverse as Germs (which recorded its first album there), The Dogs, The Runaways, Quiet Riot, Renegade, X, Mötley Crüe, RATT and Van Halen while playing host to early performances by the Ramones, The Dictators, The Misfits, Blondie, Talking Heads, Suzi Quatro, Patti Smith, Elvis Costello, XTC, The Police, and The Jam.
Against this new economic backdrop, a number of hard rock and metal bands, including Guns N' Roses, Metallica and Mötley Crüe rose to prominence in the 1980s. The Red Hot Chili Peppers and the [Jeff Stoltz Band] also were known to play at The Whisky, as stated in Anthony Kiedis' book Scar Tissue.
During the early 1990s, the Whisky hosted a number of Seattle-based musicians who would be a part of the grunge movement, including Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Melvins, Fitz of Depression and 7 Year Bitch.
In 1997, System Of A Down played at The Whisky. This gig is significant as the band's earliest recorded gig. The band were unsigned at the time, and played songs from their early demo tapes, in particular containing the band's only live performance of the song Blue.
In November 2003, former club manager Gaylord "Sticks" Feketia was killed in an auto accident in his home town of Monroe, MI. He was 49.
On 11 November 2011, Black Sabbath used the Whisky a Go-Go as the venue to announce their reunion. All four original members of the band attended and announced they were reforming to make up the original line up.
Bands the Whisky a Go-Go have made famous are Mötley Crüe, The Doors, Seven Days Lost, Faster Pussycat, LA Guns and many more.
Popular culture 
The Bourbon Room in the film Rock of Ages (2012) is based on Whisky a Go Go.
See also 
- Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection>> Results >> Details
-  Zeus of Hollywood on Flickr
-  Whisky A Go Go - history
- McLellan, Dennis (December 7, 2008), "Elmer Valentine, co-founder of Whisky a Go Go, dies at 85", Los Angeles Times: B11
- Kamp, David (September 4, 2006), "Live At The Whisky", Vanity Fair
- Tel Aviv > Bars and Nightlife Israel Ministry of Tourism