Rock Around The World • October 1977



SA at Twenty

by Jim Nash

Leroy Gaines stood in the crowd of Doug Weston’s Troubadour during the Monday night hootanany open stage. He was the part-time booker for the club, once of the most important rooms for pop performers in the music industry that had lately fallen upon hard times through a music industry battle to wrestle contol of pop performers away from Weston. He cautiously walked over to Dan Hicks, who was inibriated and holding up a wall and asked Dan if he would like to perform during the room’s 20th anniversary celebration. Hicks mumbled and stared straight ahead. No commitment: just a drunken stare.

Doug Weston is a man who is both loved and hated in the music industry. The tall, bearded club owner almost single-handedly developed the club scene in Los Angeles. He strived for quality entertainment and also drove a hard bargain. Finally, there was an open revolt as Elliot Roberts, David Geffin, Lou Adler and a host of others formed a conglomorate to build a music complex a half mile to the north of the club up on Sunset Strip. The complex was the Roxy Theatre, a converted strip club, and the Rainbow restaurant, a room for the stars to mingle in.

Almost immediately the Rainbow became over-run by underage suburban groupies and English rock stars; the Roxy became a showcase without soul. But there was pressure to avoid Weston and within the year, the club was finding it difficult, not only to book quality acts, but also to keep the doors open.

Doug Weston was mounting his offensive assault on the industry however; a 20th anniversary celebration of artists who had appeared at the club in the past. In a matter of one month, he would re-welcome Johnny Rivers, Buddy Miles, John Stewart, Tom Waits, Gordon Lightfoot and an impressivle list of others. It would all be kicked off by a 20th anniversary party.

Dianne Bennett, the Hollywood Reporter flack who is often dubbed the Dolly Parton of the music press because of her high bouffant hair and her crass outfits, publically warned the industry to avoid the bash. To understand the disdain for Bennett, it should be recalled that she also writes a column in Rona Barrett’s gossip magazine.

But the industry avoided only Bennett’s warning. Peter McCann, Warren Zevon and David Blue all took turns up on the stage doing impromptu sets; and the wine, beer, champagne, alcohol and food flowed absolutely free. It wasn’t really a party for the public. Robert Marchesi, the club’s manager, kept close scrutiny on the door to keep the gate crashers out, and most of those invited came through the

personal invitation of Doug Weston.

Doug Weston really wanted to have a party to thank all of those who had supported him through the lean, as well as through the fat years. There were

the publicists and promotion people from the record companies, those who he had dealt with on a day to day level. The managers and the booking agents showed up, as well as the musicians who had backed the headliners that had played the room. It wasn’t the typical Hollywood

party in a lot of ways, although an autograph collector could have had a field day collecting signatures of the stars who were hanging around loosely, going into Dan Tana’s, the watering hole of the movie colony two doors down and then coming back again.

Clubs like the Troubadour, the Bottom Line in New York, the Exit Inn in Nashville and all of the others around the country exist through the day to day haggling between the bookers, the booking agents and the managers. Rarely are these the faces that show up in the music industry trades during the signings. They do not present the gold records to the stars—but without them, and the publishers, the managers—the club and showroom circuit in the music industry would not exist. Wisely, Doug Weston invited these people, not the inner office secluded executives.

The party was indeed something out of Satyricon. In the end, people were shouting at one another, a few fist fights broke out and Blue did an impromptu jam with Warren Zevon as some unidentified woman roared up on the stage, holding a champagne glass in her hand, shouting out something about 20 years of live music.

The next evening, Johnny Rivers showed up to a standing room only crowd. Buddy Miles followed that weekend with a mad dancing party, and John Stewart brought half the state of Arizona along with him for his one night stand.

The Troubadour is an older club. It is Elizabethan in design, with a small stage and long wooden tables, holding several hundred people. A small bar is in the

front room that can house between 50 and 75 people. In it’s heyday, it was the dealmaker bar. David Geffin and Elliot Roberts put together Asylum records there one Monday evening. Herbie Cohen accosted a young Orange County vocalist by the name of Linda Ronstadt there on another Monday night and signed her and her backup hand, the Stone Ponies. Tom Waits, Steve Martin, Bonnie Raitt, The Doors and so many others first performed there on Monday night open stage night. Elton John’s first American performance occurred there, amidst hoopla, as did Cat Stevens!

But the Troubadour has remained something else through the years. It, and Dan Tana’s down the block are the neutral ground where the rival film and music industry can dwell together in peace. Sunset Boulevard is the home of the flamboyant, the groupie, the cultist. The clubs and the bars reflect the Feliniesque madness of Babylon by the Pacific. Only on that short block of Santa Monica does. the industry take it’s makeup off.

Doug Weston is a man who many people would like to see fall. He can only count Bill Graham as a man who has made more enemies. Graham, who runs the Fillmore operation up in San Francisco has also had to fight an industry that would rather the promoter roll over and play dead. Weston has refused to. He openly admits that he would rather close the club than become a flunky for the music industry. This attitude is the basic reason for the Troubadour’s demise.

The rumor mongers were already spreading the word that the club would close after the 20th anniversary celebration. But already, Doug was planning the coming year. He refuses to compete against both the Roxy and the Starwood discoteque and tries to keep the quality of performance on the quality par that he did when he used to live in Los Feliz and had to hitchhike back and forth between his home and the original club.

The celebration of 20 years of the Troubadour was the answer Weston offered to all of those who predicted that he would shut the club when the Roxy came into being. Los Angeles is a city filled with Brutuses who would stab any potential Caesar. Doug Weston, tall, thin, with his long greyish blonde hair, porkchop sideburns and beard, is a man who has been through the battles more times than he cares to recall. Among his most hitter enemies are those artists he helped in the beginning; those managers he gave a break to. He’ll make more enemies, but he will also make more friends.

Dianne Bennett alluded in her column

that only the trash and the grubbers of Hollywood showed up at the Troubadour.

But to the artists, writers and industry people who have supported Doug Weston through the lean period, Dianne Bennett was unwelcome and unwanted. So, the Troubadour survived the first 20 years in style and Doug Weston, a man who did not know what he wanted to do 20 years ago, except to be involved in the arts in some way, looks over the domain he has built and seems satisfied. If the doors closed tomorrow, it wouldn’t matter. Doug Weston was still the Caesar and had survived the assassinations quite well.

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