By Foren Clark, CNN
The Troubadour, an iconic West Hollywood concert hall, doesn’t need much of an introduction. Since the club opened in 1957, music superstars have launched their careers and presented future best-selling albums to the world by performing in front of their intimate crowds.
The club became known for training new talent in the late ’60s and’ 70s (it was instrumental in the careers of James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits, among others) and is today a vital milestone. on the way to musical stardom.
âThe Troubadour was where everyone would hang out and get noticed. You wanted to make yourself known to the recording community in general, you go to the Troubadour, you play an open mic evening. Linda Ronstadt recalled in the CNN movie “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice”.
Here are some of the greats who took to the stage at the Troubadour:
The Troubadour was originally conceived as a club for singer-songwriters, or âmodern day troubadours,â as founder Doug Weston called them. The club’s status as a kingmaker has been cemented over the years by the talent discovered there.
Performing in front of an audience of fellow musicians and music directors, artists including Billy Joel, Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, Linda Rondstadt and Nina Simone pleaded for fame. One of the first notable singer-songwriters to step onto the Troubadour stage early in his career was Bob Dylan.
He played an impromptu jam session with a local band at a small staff-only concert in 1964, according to the Troubadour. Dylan went on to become one of the most influential singer and songwriters of his generation, creating a long list of famous tracks, including “The Times They Are a-Changin ‘” and “Like a Rolling Stone”.
His performance at the Troubadour became the first in a long line of historic performances by artists, young and old, over the next six decades.
James Taylor and Carole King
The Troubadour’s gained its reputation in the 1960s and 1970s for its influential role in the early careers of many popular artists.
For this reason, it has become the perfect place for musicians to find like-minded peers and build lasting relationships.
James Taylor and Carole King, both iconic musicians in their own right, forged a lasting friendship behind the scenes of the Troubadour scene. Taylor made his Troubadour debut in 1969, a gig that was a big deal for him at the time.
âThere was a great stage and backstage, and if you did it right people took notice and the word got out,â he said, recalling the experience. The couple met through a mutual friend and immediately hit it off, with King playing the piano for Taylor and later starting a solo career with her encouragement.
Before King made his own Troubadour debut, she went through his list of songs for Taylor and he heard a song he immediately fell in love with. Taylor then recorded “You’ve Got a Friend” courtesy of King, and it became one of his biggest hits.
They have repeatedly recognized the importance of the Troubadour in their career and their friendship. In 2007, they made an encore of their joint 1970 concert at the Troubadour for the 50th anniversary of the hall. They later took this show to the road by bringing their 2010 Troubadour Reunion Tour to arenas around the world.
As the Troubadour gained notoriety, many artists came from overseas and went directly to the scene to perform for their first American audience. Gordon Lightfoot made his US debut there in 1964, and Lily Allen made his debut over 40 years later in 2006.
Perhaps most notably, for six nights in August 1970, Elton John was catapulted into American consciousness with a series of shows that began his career in the United States. Introduced by Neil Diamond to a host of industry giants including Linda Ronstadt, Brian Williams, Stephen Stills and David Crosby, John made an impression and received a great review from Los Angeles Times critic Robert Hilburn.
In an interview with The Times, John described the performance saying, âThe atmosphere during those nights at the Troubadour was electric. Something inside me just took over. I knew this was my highlight and I really went.
An idea of ââhow the concert must have felt for those in attendance was recreated in a scene from the John “Rocketman” biopic. In the scene, John (played by Taron Egerton) lifts the crowd in a moment of transcendence where everything clicks.
Although known for his role in the search for musical legends, the Troubadour has also housed a myriad of big names in comedy. Lenny Bruce performed at the club in the early 1960s and his raucous set resulted in his arrest for obscenity. His legacy and contributions to comedy were remembered almost 30 years later by his family and peers at a tribute event, hosted and televised from the Troubadour.
Bruce became the first of many comedians to perform on this stage. Richard Pryor recorded his first album there in 1968 and Steve Martin performed there as a stranger.
The Troubadour continues to welcome stand-up fans. Sarah Silverman, Zach Galifianakis and Dave Chappelle all played sets there. The club’s cult status has also made it the perfect location to host special events for cult TV shows. Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer gave two shows there ahead of the second season of “Broad City” in 2014, and the cast of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” performed their first live performance of “The Nightman Cometh” in 2009.
Guns N ‘Roses
Coming out of its peak in the 1970s, the Troubadour needed a change of scenery to follow the evolution of the musical tastes of the country.
Instead of targeting folk singers and songwriters, the club began to feature the glam rock and metal bands that dominated the 1980s. Metallica made their LA debut at the club in August 1982 and Warrant in 1984 .
Future Guns N ‘Roses superstars made a name for themselves locally after performing concerts in Los Angeles, most notably at the legendary Troubadour.
Local buzz put them on the radar of record director David Geffen, whose label went to see their Troubadour set on June 6, 1986, and signed them soon after for a worldwide deal that made Guns N ‘Roses. a well-known name.
The Troubadour continued to follow the evolution of the musical landscape during the 1990s and beyond. Pearl Jam performed their first gig under the name Pearl Jam and Radiohead first performed their album “OK Computer” in the United States. Korn, System of a Down, Franz Ferdinand and Fiona Apple have all made their debuts on the Troubadour scene as well.
In modern times, the club has become the perfect place to host secret concerts or exclusive shows. Coldplay debuted songs from their new album “X&Y” on a secret show in 2005, and Billie Eilish performed exclusively with SiriusXM and Pandora for fans of her debut album. Harry Styles made his solo US debut in 2017 on location with special guest Stevie Nicks in a show that paid homage to the folk roots of the Troubadour.
âAt Troubadour, ‘Woman’ percussive piano began as Elton’s ‘Bennie and the Jets’. The folkloric glow of his âMeet Me in the Hallwayâ shone like Bowie’s âSpace Oddityâ, âRolling Stone wrote in a review of the concert.
The notoriety of the Troubadour has made it an essential stage in the tours of artists, young and old, old and new. The coronavirus pandemic has forced the club to turn to crowdfunding and public education, but it is now back in business, welcoming crowds to Santa Monica Boulevard and adding to its list of legendary performances.
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