Morrison meets Manzarek, starts The Doors

Words By: Roland Ellis | December 22nd, 1965

Morrison meets Manzarek, starts The Doors

July 8, 1965 – Raymond Daniel Manzarek Jr. was meditating on LA’s Venice Beach when a guy he’d known at film school approached and said hi. The guy was 22 year old college dropout, James Douglas Morrison.

The pair got to talking. Manzarek had been performing a lot with his band Rick and The Ravens, while Morrison had been living on a friend’s roof (Dennis Jakob) and writing songs. When Manzarek asked him to sing something, Jim ran through a verse from “Moonlight Drive”. Manzarek was impressed and reportedly declared on the spot that the pair should start a rock band and make a million dollars.

The Doors were born.

It’s a great story; rock and roll folklore, even. But whether it was an altogether chance meeting, as legend has it, is still up for debate.

Manzarek had a pipeline into the rock and roll scene. Morrison knew this. He had seen Manzarek’s band play at The Turkey Joint West in Santa Monica several times, even jumping up on stage on a few occassions, once to belt out a version of "Louie, Louie". On top of which, Morrison was bent on starting a rock band of his own for some time before the Venice Beach meet, according to Dennis Jakobs.

So, did Morrison chance upon Manzarek on July 8th, or did he seek him out?

Well, an argument could be made that Morrison knew what area of the beach Manzarek mostly hung out in. After all, he had visited Ray’s beach-front house a year or so earlier, where he appeared in a party scene for Manzarek’s student film “Induction”. So maybe it’s reasonable to assume that Morrison had been prowling Manzarek’s end of the beach in the hope of bending his ear. But then again, he knew where he lived, so why wouldn’t he have just gone and knocked on the door?

Chance meeting or no, July 8th was a momentous day in the history of American rock music. Some might call it the start date of the greatest American rock band; others might say it marked the start of a legacy belonging to, as Philip Seymour Hoffman called Morrison in the film Almost Famous, “a drunken buffoon posing as a poet”. But wherever you stand, it’s hard to argue that The Doors still loom large over American pop culture, perhaps larger than any other group. And July 8th was the day all that noise began.

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