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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2 days ago

John Densmore

I agree with my friend Shepard Fairey: 'Make Art, Not War'...jd ... See MoreSee Less

I agree with my friend Shepard Fairey: Make Art, Not War...jd

 

Comment on Facebook

2 of my favourite earth beings together.. 💗💋👑🍻

Make art, not war. Make art not crap! Warmly, SD

The world would be a beautiful place if the powers that be lived by this.

Obama loved war.

Tell that to Iran and Saudi Arabia and North Korea etc... Sigh

Johnny!!!!

Yes!!

John check out this band from new orleans they haven’t broke through yet but a lot of real talent not commercial bullS. Heard them play at bar after nola jazz fest. youtu.be/aA3UuI8NzT8 Great bands seems like are far and few between. The doors my favorite youtu.be/kyDiuFGQM3U

The Happys want to open for you, it’s like make a wish for 4 broke musicians!

That looks like a scene from the 70’s. Very cool.

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3 days ago

John Densmore

Musical brother ... See MoreSee Less

Musical brother

 

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Life is less enchanting without Ray's great presence.

john i have an alligator lizard in my yard in san diego, i called him Morrison,hes real chill.

Now that is an amazing picture, the legacy of four musical brothers will last forever, legendary.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUeKDtMV1gA Tom Waits - The Piano Has Been Drinking

Ray Manzarek FOREVER! Musician, artist, composer and a beautiful soul.

Great musician

This is great. You two are truly musical brothers. Thanks, John.

Great photo!

Thanks for sharing.

That is one Ray of inspiration...!

Great pic! Never seen this.

RIP Ray!! Great influence on my musical life and most innovative and coolest music ever!! Back 1970 I had that same poster on my wall! Seems to have disappeared way back!!

Ray will forever be remembered as one of he great keyboardists and improvisationalists. The world is a better place because he was here.

Didnt you guys feud after Jim died and u sued Ray and Robbie?

Love you guys

Ray was a great ambassador for the Doors.

Can anyone else in this world play the keys like Ray could? Don’t think so.

Golden years ‼️

RIP Ray. Still playing your music everyday.

Another great photo by Frank Lisciandro.

So fricken talented too many drugs early out

how easily he simply put his finger on the keyboard and made 11D sound. <3

I tell you John I've lost three band brother's and man it just bums me out I know the feeling of band brotherhood.

The legendary Ray Manzarek, gone but definitely not forgotten and never will be!

An absolute genius ❤️

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2 weeks ago

John Densmore

The last night we played the London Fog a fight broke out and they fired us, because they said it was our fault. Not our fault. It was the clientele. Ronnie Haren from the Whiskey saw us and talked to Elmer Valentine (for us) to be the house band there. That was a miracle. That was the beginning. That was the launching pad. The London Fog was the prelude. John Densmore ... See MoreSee Less

The last night we played the London Fog a fight broke out and they fired us, because they said it was our fault.  Not our fault.  It was the clientele.  Ronnie Haren from the Whiskey saw us and talked to Elmer Valentine (for us) to be the house band there. That was a miracle.  That was the beginning. That was the launching pad.  The London Fog was the prelude.  John Densmore

 

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Thank you John. You and Robby are Legendary Rock n Roll Icons! The Lyrics and Music still stand the test of time and define each members unique quality of musical genius! Thank you for bringing the memory of Ray and Jim back as you honor one of the greatest bands that were created. The DOORS!

Thank goodness fate intervened, the music of The Doors was meant for greatness (and a much larger audience than the London Fog could ever hold). From getting the gig at the Fog to getting signed to Elektra at the exact time of the dismissal from the Whisky A Go Go, the cards just fell in place perfectly on an almost cosmic level. For that I am immensely thankful. The Doors' music saved my life and allowed me joy in times of sorrow. I found your magical music when I was still a child playing hopscotch and dolls, and that music changed and enriched my life in more ways than I could ever begin to put into words. Still hoping, praying and crossing all my fingers and toes that the 2nd reel of London Fog recordings turns up.

I will never forget those nights in the London Fog listening to you guys. That year working in Hollywood in the music industry and meeting all of the musicians who were so talented, was simply the best ever! So glad to have been an audience member and friend to the members of The Doors...before the world welcomed them! Rock on John. I will always have fond memories of that year. (And thank you so much for helping me find a place to live in Laurel Canyon and for helping me move there. You & Robby were the best!) Love from a very long time fan!

Thank you John for being the heartbeat of the music that will live on long after we're all gone! Blessed

And the rest history. Peace!😄

AWESOME.. and that curtain, that stage, hilarious, what big spenders. Haha 🙂 I found a concert poster when you guys were with London Fog, it's so awesome, great flashback to the early days of The Doors

Great early doors fantastic

The Doors music is magical and all the better because each instrument and Jim Morrison's voice can be heard so distinctly thanks to Bruce Botnick's great ability as a recording engineer.

Good thing they didn’t have a bass player....he would have had to stand on the dance floor

I first heard The Doors music at 16 years old. Changed my life. Now 43 and listen to them most weeks. John - you have kept the dream alive. Your passion for the music and truth in your words has been inspirational. Keep it coming! With love from the real London Town! ❤️

Thanks a lot John! A very great early concert!

It’s amazing how events propelled your success. Thank God Jac Holzman from Elektra stayed an extra night at the Whisky in 66!

A wonderful thing for any fledgling band, to be in that in-between place where anything is possible, one door closing followed by another one opening, and then before you know it, you are walking through them all.

I would have followed The Doors all around t US. This is the kind of thing people think about. When they say "Let's make great again." I believe. The Doors have certanly have made a lasting impression on my soul for sure. Legends never die!

So early, Ray didn't even have the Fender Rhodes bass yet, notice only a few cups on top of the Vox Continental instead of the huge signature box on his left side.

You were so beautiful 😍❤️

Very cool picture John. Remember the Whiskey well

Absolutely always my favorite band!! Bad things happen for good!

Hey John, it’s time for you and Robbie to get some lost footage/music together for a new Doors film to turn on the next generation of fans and for us longtime older fans. Saw some stuff on you tube today that I have never seen, and I became a fan in 1980, there has to be more extended lost film of you guys. It’s not too late!

I don't know what's more unsettling, the fight that happened or the size of that stage...

One door🚪closed Another🚪opened and The Doors broke on through to the other side

You Doors are the best 😘😍😍😘😍

What a tiny stage ! No room for Jim to move around !

Whats interesting is to listen to strange days recorded at the London fog. At the end of the song, someone in the crowd starts chanting light my fire. Thought that was amazing since it was a good 7 months before the 1st album was recorded. Song already had buzz.

Sweet John. You guys are the best.

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