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 have fond memories of The Whisky. We really played with heart and soul every night from 9PM till 2AM for rent money. Those were good times". John Densmore ... See MoreSee Less

I have fond memories of The Whisky.  We really played with heart and soul every night from 9PM till 2AM for rent money.  Those were good times. John Densmore

Ross Russell, Nathan Richards and 1528 others like this

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Chris SantoroMade my first visit to LA in August. Did my own Doors tour. Venice Beach, the Morrison Hotel, Original Hard Rock location. And of course The Whiskey.

1 day ago   ·  30

5 Replies

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Feros PonceI went there last year to see UFO and I never imagined in such a small place with only 216 persons capacity sometime ago Led Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, The Doors, The Who, Cream, Buffalo Springfield, etc. played

24 hours ago   ·  12

1 Reply

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SuSan Small-HammerHi John, I used to dance in the cage at the Whiskey. I would sit with you guys in that back booth after hours...that was a long and lovely time ago... Really nice to see you looking so well. Happy 50th.

22 hours ago   ·  5

1 Reply

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Terry TeagueI heard that Jim had stagefright so bad that he sang with his back to the audience at the first gig. I love Jim and enjoy learning more about the real Jim. I love all of you. Real good guys that formed a real good band.

21 hours ago   ·  1
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Mihalis PapafrangouMr Densmore, since...were,1971 after the great fog that covered the earth around your band, echoes, and whispers are coming silently with the winds, over the seas, were the waves smashing against rocks, were children plant the trees through the sweet melancholy of ancient gods in lost territories, the fog remains silent, until the light breaks through, and bring the light to the alleys and passages of past times, and finally will rest comfortably on the walls were poetry was written, by the fallen feather...so long the unknown friend.

10 hours ago
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Jr OlmosCool john. I played there once in mid 2000 it was awesome knowing that's the same stage you guys played on was really cool.

1 day ago   ·  4
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Thomas GuéretteFrom 9 to 2 !!? shit... what was the cover song you played? 'cannot only be playin' Doors original material for 5 hours in '66? ohh howe I'd love be there...

24 hours ago
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John Paul McDougallDefinitely visiting the Whisky, Venice beach etc on my Doors tour when I eventually get to the west coast. Love The Doors and listen to the songs every day.

1 day ago
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Bill DeZazzoI wish I had been around (and old enough) to experience this! I get a little satisfaction seeing this in the Doors Movie though!

23 hours ago
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Chris JonesHow times have changed for live music. Now you pay them your rent money to play! Still love the place tho! My favorite venue

15 hours ago   ·  1

1 Reply

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Leland LaPineBoy, times sure have turned the tide in the music industry. The Whiskey (& others) are Pay to Play venues that play a different kind of music they call Rock/

6 hours ago
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Charlie BoothQuien los habra visto en vivo alli !!!..que suerte....usted John a vuelto a tocar alli ??

1 day ago
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Peter Kevanjust back from LA visited The Whiskey ,loved LA, peter from Liverpool uk

1 day ago
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Paul N HarrahYou and Robby should get together and play again at the Whiskey

1 day ago
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Bob GomesThere's only one Elvis and only one group known as The Doors. "You cannot petition the lord with prayer"

20 hours ago
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Bill ElliottThose were the best nights ever. I'd give my left foot to be there.

24 hours ago
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James MccurrachSome great bands for sure especially love and the electric prunes

12 hours ago
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Edward DillonFive hours of live Doors music a night and you could walk in off the street. Wow!

4 hours ago
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James CareyI was Born way too Late!!!

1 day ago   ·  2

1 Reply

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Patty PoetWere those the innocent days :)

17 hours ago
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Lester K JonesGoin there one day is on the bucket list!

1 day ago
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Danny BeanWho got top billing during this period? Buffalo Springfield?

1 day ago

1 Reply

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Rosemary StehlikRESPECT!!!!

1 day ago
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Irene Struthers JnrI was born too late 😕

23 hours ago
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IanandFiona McKillopsLove and sons of adam

23 hours ago
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Thank God for our music, because when we lost somebody like Ray, we still have those solos in "Riders" ["on the Storm]" and "Light My Fire." We can go to that and still feel his spirit, so that helps. John Densmore (Happy Birthday Ray) ... See MoreSee Less

Thank God for our music, because when we lost somebody like Ray, we still have those solos in Riders [on the Storm] and Light My Fire. We can go to that and still feel his spirit, so that helps. John Densmore (Happy Birthday Ray)

Edward Dillon, Silvia Brose and 3090 others like this

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James BeardI love the sound of the organ..... Huge part of why I am drawn to The Doors' music! My favorite is still The Alabama Song! Rest In Peace Ray.

2 weeks ago   ·  11
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Ronnie VelvetaI Met you in Hawaii many years ago... in Kona. I was your bartender at the Keauhou Beach hotel. As a good bartender, I didn't let anyone know who you were. You signed my copy of Morrison Hotel before you left Kona. Thank you. Just before Ray passed he played a gig in Honolulu. I got to hang out with him a bit after the show as my brother was doing sound. He was super cool man. Great spirits. Laughing & genuinely enjoying himself. After about an hour or so of laughter and funny stories(and some wine & beer) I realized that I had left my girlfriend out in the venue and bid him & Rob Roy Aloha. But before I did... I got him to also sign the same Morrison Hotel album that you had signed 10years before. He thought it was funny that you had circled your head and drawn an arrow to it. A great day indeed. I'll never forget it. Thanks to guys like you guys like me are carrying the torch. Happy Birthday Ray. And thank you John.

2 weeks ago   ·  11
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Igor RapoAnd he was such a great mythologiser, psychologist and occultist. A true counterpart to the dionsyian Jim. And the music will survive long, long after mankind has "turned off the lights". (Who knows who or what will be around to listen ?)

1 week ago
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Stefan DrechslerYesterday in the evening, I was driving home in my car. It was beginning to rain and a storm was blowing, when out of a sudden my favourite radiostation in town began to play "riders on the storm" It was awesome!! Thanks !!

7 hours ago
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Louis Bova4 guys inspired each other to cause the magic.....you, Robbie,and Jim brought out those great solos out of Ray just as they coaxed some of your solos.....

2 weeks ago   ·  6
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Rose Amberhappy birthday ray!!!1ill never forget the two concerts i went yours and when i saw twicw in two different moments in sf1 one when you put out your book about the doors on haight st,in the 90s and one at embarcadero center movie theater ,sitting on the same lane i was!"!!!!!!!!!sooooo cool!!!!!!!!!1

2 weeks ago   ·  1
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Miriam DaveyLove love, love those 2 solos, from the first time I heard them, LMF in Jr. High, and ROTS, in High School. Emotions engaged always include sadness that the unique combination of talents and timelines resulting in creation of that music, was so ephemeral....especially "Riders...". It reached out of the radio and grabbed me the very first time I heard it, like nothing else since. Upon hearing Morrison had possibly died that summer, I recall thinking in my self-centered 15-yr old brain, "but, wait, I NEED more of that music...where am I going to get it now?....." Little by little, over the yrs, it's sunk in how special the Doors really were.....

2 weeks ago   ·  3
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Garrett GriffinMy friend has an unbelievable hi fi system and headphones. He's a hi fi nerd. he was demonstrating his set up to me last night with vinyl so he picked the second doors record. 'When the music's over'! Great song! Took the whole side of the record! GreAt drumming too! Reminds me of miles Davis and the blues but raunchy! I would say groups like the doors sound better on four tracks than most of today's "artistes" do on 24,or 64 or whatever blah blah, because music was more important than fame at that time....

2 weeks ago   ·  5
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Katy Murphy🎶Happy Birthday in Heaven Ray!🎶 thx for 50 yrs of music, you and all of The Doors have been a part of my life since the beginning! RIP 💖💫.........ty for sharing John, love this photo!

2 weeks ago   ·  1
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Richard FullerThanks for the great memories, Ray and Happy Birthday. As long as I can remember our cordial meeting and yes I still have your autographed books and DOORS records in my library you will never be considered 'missing in action.' My thoughts go out to John, Robby, Jim and Ray's loving family. Love and Eternal Peace. Rich

2 weeks ago   ·  2
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Damon JalaliYou were simply the Best Rock n Roll band in the world ( Zepp , Hendrix ,Winter, Dio ,and Pantera were also great and some how same same school )

2 weeks ago   ·  1
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Thomas GuéretteStraight Cracklin' military/Jazzy Snare, textured and colored Classical/Blues/Jazz B3/Leslie & F.Rhodes, Bottleneck country/blues/flamenco SG and unique charismatique Bariton voice enhance with Shaman Poetry, Ultimate unimmitable Combinaison! Thank God!

2 weeks ago
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Narelle LeePosts like this just make me adore you even more John. You have such a clean, beautiful, forgiving spirit and are forever true. ❤❤2X

2 weeks ago   ·  1
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Tommy VanPoolLove the music 🎶 got me threw an then some happy birthday to ray thanks for the post

2 weeks ago   ·  1
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Karen ModugnoYou changed our lives 💕 🎹🎤Thankyou for the musical journey ✌ 1968 Hollywood Bowl July 5 🌠

2 weeks ago   ·  3
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Richard MaherGreatest band to grace this planet

2 weeks ago   ·  5
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Michelle FreemanI will forever cherish meeting him. Rock on forever, Ray! Happy birthday!

2 weeks ago   ·  3
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Víctor PastranaIt's a shame you guys couldn't make peace when he was still alive. Was it worth it, John?

2 weeks ago
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Rob DuckSo grateful I seen him in Chatham. I had goosebumps the whole show....

1 week ago
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Szymon Ryzo RyznarTruly truly awsome, One and only, amazing and Real, open-minded Musician.

2 weeks ago
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Joey AnnaloroYou signed my leather jacket in Brunswick Maine a couple years ago, I was tongue tied as you talked to me, the magic the doors made, carried me through the darkest times of my life, from homeless to happy, the life you have lead Mr densmore and the moral code you represent is a model for us all to admire !

2 weeks ago   ·  1
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Daniel Patrick Glynnthe sound of ray organ sucks you in and the bellow of jim voice kept you tehir that in essence is the doors bless you ray rip happy b day!

2 weeks ago
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Caroline McElroyRIP Ray. Saw Peace Frog recently and loved them.

2 weeks ago
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Crystal HowellIt helps me for sure. Remembering Ray today, listening to a rare live album from Vancouver 1970. Great Jam !

2 weeks ago
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Mike ArnoldSure did great justice to that Vox Continental. But it was still Mr Manzarek that brought it out. I am certainly grateful.

2 weeks ago
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