John Densmore


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Biography

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“I play the drums,” says John Densmore, with tangible pride.

He may be belaboring the obvious, considering that, as the rhythmic engine of The Doors, he’s responsible for some of the most famous beats in rock history. But Densmore still bristles at what he calls the “dumb drummer” stereotype.

“The drum was the first fucking instrument,” he declares. “The reason people move and dance is that they’re trying to get back to that heartbeat. It’s the heartbeat you hear in the womb that started the whole deal. An orchestra, a four-piece rock band, whatever it is, they’re trying to get back to that heartbeat.”

The universal, ancient call of this heartbeat has been Densmore’s obsession since his childhood in Southern California.

“I took piano when I was eight, and I loved it,” he recalls. “I liked improvising on songs I had learned, rather than learning new ones. I got turned on by the piano. My teacher would give me songs to play, simplified classical and pop, and I got off on it.”

Eager to try his hand at another instrument, young John at first fixated on the clarinet. His orthodontist, however, strictly forbade him to wrap his wired mouth around any reed instruments. The world has this medical professional to thank, then, for the fact that John Densmore headed for the drums.

“I was in the orchestra and the marching band with those stupid uniforms,” Densmore recollects. “I got a rush from playing with 40 musicians, no matter how amateurish–there’s power in a marching band.”

He became enamored, in his teens, with jazz–and particularly with the playing of drummer Elvin Jones, whose evocative, muscular grooves with John Coltrane’s band influenced a multitude of rock musicians. He also became a habitué of the L.A. club scene, where bands like The Byrds and Love were a foretaste of things to come.

He met guitarist Robby Krieger, and the two began writing and playing together in a band called Psychedelic Rangers. Densmore next hooked up with Chicago-bred keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who was then playing in a group known as Rick and the Ravens with his brothers and a shy Floridian named Jim Morrison, who knew Manzarek from UCLA film school.

Eventually, Manzarek’s brothers left the band, and Densmore brought Krieger in. The foursome gelled, despite lacking an element most bands took for granted. “We couldn’t find a bass player,” Densmore remembers. “We tried once or twice, but we sounded like the Stones. A white blues band. Who cares? We wanted to be different.”

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I'll be chatting with Tom Petty on his SiriusXM Radio show (Channel 31) all of next week (starting Monday). Hope you can tune in. Schedule below: #TomPetty #SiriusXM

Monday – May 2
8am ET / 5am PT
4pm ET / 1pm PT

Tuesday – May 3
10am ET / 7am PT
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Wednesday – May 4
9pm ET / 6pm PT

Thursday – May 5
11am ET – 8am PT

Friday – May 6
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Ill be chatting with Tom Petty on his SiriusXM Radio show (Channel 31) all of next week (starting Monday).  Hope you can tune in.  Schedule below: #TomPetty #SiriusXM

Monday – May 2
8am ET / 5am PT
4pm ET / 1pm PT

Tuesday – May 3
10am ET / 7am PT
8pm ET / 5pm PT

Wednesday – May 4
9pm ET / 6pm PT

Thursday – May 5
11am ET – 8am PT

Friday – May 6
6pm ET – 3pm PT

Mateusz Stańczyk, Bill Sweeney and 314 others like this

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Chuck BrownJohn, I wish you would come to buffalo ny.to meet me.I've had a tribute band to your band the doors called moonlight drive. I think you'd be impressed with me singing your songs.my ex was talking to Ray before he passed away.but he responded to me and seen my video's singing doors songs.r.i.p. Ray manzarek

1 day ago   ·  1
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Stephanie H P PapermonsterMan I wish your radio broadcasted all the way to Luxembourg, Europe...the US and especially Tom seem so far away!...but thanks for the photo, at least I gave a visual!😉

2 days ago
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James RossThanks, I needed this! I'll put the word out to my friends @ Strawberry Alarm Clock. Sincerley, Jim ( ps: just really digging your drums on "Waiting for the Sun"!!!!) (PSS: l just found "Spy in the House of Love": I can't get enough of it!!!!!! !! I have already informed my tribute band that I HAVE TO DO IT in my "Morrison/ Doors tribute!!!! (Sang it 5 times already, I got it!!! , love it to death!) John, I'm really looking forward to hearing you this week with one of the other main tributes I do, Tom Petty!!! The best to ya, Jim Ross

4 days ago   ·  1
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Shannon LeeSitting in my car listening to you and Tom rap ...Simply awesome! Great frikn interview! You too just flow! Very Kool! :) Going to see Robby and his band Saturday night! On my bucket list ....CK!

1 day ago
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James RossJohn, you and Tom are quite anice combination. We're really enjoying the show!!!! The Petty Dancers :) :)

2 days ago
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Elizabeth Steed VitaleTom looks amazing with a full beard!

1 day ago   ·  1
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Telmo Letra Da SilvaSuper boys the doors is thé Best group jim morrison poeme

4 days ago   ·  1
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Abbie DavisI'm a Gal in a trance. I'm a boy in short pants.

2 days ago   ·  1
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James RossLoni Mac on bass for Roadhouse Blues, news to me (and Tom!!). Keep it coming Densmore!!!

2 days ago
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Tim ByrdDam, I missed it! Anywhere I can view it?

2 days ago
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Robert UttingYou don't know how much this means to us mere mortals....:)

3 days ago
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Jeff Simpson2 legends, I'll be listening!

4 days ago   ·  2
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Mary Lee LindseyI love the look !!!!!!!

2 days ago
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Yves Thibault Bonne JournéeSalut les gars. Belle photo. La Vie vous va bien. Savourez-là. Yves. Québec. Canada. 🍷 👻 🎸 😎

3 days ago
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Mauricio LacroixLos adoro, siempre

4 days ago
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Freddy Alenchill..

3 days ago
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Mel JordanGreat pic

3 days ago
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Christopher RodzBeautiful

4 days ago
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Paride CastellanoYeeee

4 days ago
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Robin Sherman Peters❤️

2 days ago
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Thomas HidsonFucking awesome

4 days ago
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Paolo MedoroHighway.

9 hours ago
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Katie Waller

4 days ago
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Nina McKenzieAnchal ANCHAL

2 days ago   ·  1
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(Shot from Ray Manzarek Tribute concert Feb. 12, 2016 - Photo by: Alexander Dantes) ... See MoreSee Less

(Shot from Ray Manzarek Tribute concert Feb. 12, 2016 - Photo by: Alexander Dantes)

Silvio Vicario, Lynn Walker and 2499 others like this

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Marck SlsFirst time I heard of Densmore...hmm..I was just starting out as a bassist in 84,one of the great drummers in Corpus Christi,Texas was talking about good drummers..he mentioned a few,but then he said John Densmore with a smile and goes..now that guy is a legend..you want to see a drummer..go see some footage on the doors...Morrison was the front guy he goes..but the batteria..Spanish from drums ...that guy was so into his set..he made Mr.Mojo dance,move..I'm glad I did..I really like checking out the doors are open..which was on British tv...Densmore was on..swinging his arms,doing the call response with Robbie and Ray..the whole band freaking was on..that was a good capture!

4 days ago   ·  7
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Richard JohnsonI was just reading a magazine called Music Icons, The Doors. Having always been a fan of your drumming ( I am a drummer) I enjoyed the stories behind the music. It must have been very sad to watch Jim deteriorate, if that is the proper word to use. LA Woman remains my favorite release though I think it's time to pick up the remastered Morrison Hotel.

4 days ago   ·  1
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Lewis Cooper16 years ago Aaron White brought a percussionist to my two room cabin deep in the forest of NorthEastern Utah after a benefit gig in Fort Duchesne, Utah. After sitting around a fire pit watching a fire burn and solving the world's problems I finally ask Aaron's quiet and humble friend what other bands had he been in, he casually says, "Yeah I played in a rock band years ago, but you might be too young to remember them, have you ever heard of the Doors?" He signed my guest book, and I'm not sure why I was hoping for words of wisdom from an old rock star, but I was. The note said "I have never had a more pleasant dump! Thanks so much for the scenery and the grinds" JD. He apparently liked my outhouse, which had no front door since it was perched at the top of a cliff hundreds of feet above the river bottom and faced an immense pristine and uninhabited forest.

4 days ago   ·  1

1 Reply

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Jane JuskaI went out there to see you and Robby play together from PA. I was sooo excited to be going, and am so thankful I did not miss it, love you guys!!!!!

4 days ago   ·  1
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Jimi KinsmanThe drum sounds, accents and sitting back were such a huge part of Doors material. The recordings were just phenomenal.

4 days ago   ·  2
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James Mathue WrightI think that you were and are the best drummer that ever lived. You added so much to the Doors, you and Robby both!

4 days ago   ·  1
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Fabio InnocenziPlease make a DVD/Blu-Ray of the show!!! :)

4 days ago   ·  2
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Richard MullerPlease come to Oxford, MS and perform at The Lyric Theater. I saw you at the Univ. of New Orleans in the 1980's on your book tour.

4 days ago   ·  1
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Lisa OlnickRD Maui Retreats who knows this guy!!!!!

4 days ago
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Fer AudisioJohn thanks for your music !

4 days ago   ·  1
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Stefan BujakLooking good there John !!!!!!! Avin' it ☺

4 days ago
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Jeff AndersonI would he awesome to see you play with Robbie in Chicago!

4 days ago   ·  2
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Lea SchweikaLooking amazing mr densmore

4 days ago
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Federico Comis PeckJohn visit me! Free week in family Hotel

4 days ago   ·  1
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Patrick LernerAwesome picture john love ya brother

4 days ago
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Donna HauserFirst time I heard of John was when I sat across from him at University High School in West Los Angeles for 3 years .. Who Knew??? Quiet nice cute boy...

4 days ago   ·  2

2 Replies

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Arne BeyA tasty, beautiful musician...and personal inspiration!

4 days ago
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Roger MayorgaEres grande john densmore, #1 el mejor baterista, del mundo, y arriba the doors..!!

4 days ago
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Luís CarvalhoAlways in a great shape, JD :)

4 days ago
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Xannie BilickiDensmore will always be at the top of my list for favorite drummers of all time

4 days ago
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Freddy AlenInsane how Ray left......Such a Big chill Dude ,fak Amen

4 days ago
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Saro CatanzaroTI STIMO, SEI GRANDE John Densmore !!!

4 days ago
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Martin WolfStill Rockin like a madman. Have been listening to them since 1969

3 days ago
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Mark SchmidtJohn D is has always been under rated except by other musicians. He is a GREAT drummer and always has been.

4 days ago   ·  1
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Zoran Mukta Kamenickiopening the Doors of Perception, John Densmore -drumming legend !! <3 O:) (y)

4 days ago
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