The Laurel Canyon Sound at the Los Angeles Grammy Museum


I haven’t been reticent in telling you about the concerts I’ve enjoyed this past season and by now it should be clear that whenever possible I enjoy a bit of nostalgia mixed in to round out the experience. There are particular periods in my musical memory that I have always found intriguing, and this summer I was able to really jump into one of those periods by way of a very interesting and entertaining  exhibit that opened earlier this year at the Grammy Museum in downtown Los Angeles.


I previously mentioned how much fun it was to meet one of the local Disc Jockeys I listened to throughout my teen years. The more I mused over the memories of my “radio days” I recognized that my curiosity about the story behind people, places and events has always been a part of my entertainment. Wouldn’t I have enjoyed blogging in the 1960’s!

The music associated with Laurel Canyon, represented by many of my favorite artists, isn’t just the songs I heard on the radio, but a much larger story that has fascinated me for decades. My bookshelves show my interest with several volumes specifically dedicated to the Laurel Canyon artists of the 1960’s and 1970’s and the mystique that continues to surround this particularly unique portion of the Hollywood Hills.


The exhibit does not allow for photography, so unfortunately I can’t show you Jim Morrison’s writing chair, Frank Zappa’s drumhead,  Mama Cass Elliot’s hand-painted chair, or dozens of amazing Harry Diltz and Graham Nash photos from that era.  According to Michael Walker’s “Laurel Canyon, The Inside Story of Rock-and Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood,” Laurel Canyon is described as where “Pot and sympathy at Cass Elliot’s, Crosby, Stills and Nash in the living room, Eric Clapton in the backyard, [and] California dreaming’ becomes a reality.”

Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Carole King, Judy Collins, Glenn Frey and Don Henley of the Eagles, Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees and John and Michelle Phillips and Denny Doherty of the Mamas and the Papas as well as Jim Morrison and other members of the Doors all called Laurel Canyon home during Laurel Canyon’s golden era.


IMG_4011One of my favorite photos is Joni Mitchell at her Laurel Canyon bungalow, the inspiration for Graham Nash’s “Our House,” the home they shared together “with two cats in the yard.”

I didn’t know about Laurel Canyon when I was a teen, but it wasn’t unusual to hear stories about the artists playing in the Los Angeles area, and although I didn’t know anything substantive about the private lives of these 60’s music rock stars, the mystique surrounding the Whiskey A Go-Go on the Sunset Strip and other night clubs just down the hill from Laurel Canyon was common knowledge–the local Dee-Jays kept those stories front and center.

Here’s a little piece of trivia you may not know. In November 1966 Buffalo Springfield started playing as the house band at Whisky a Go-Go. Huge crowds of teens congregated on the Strip in order to be a part of the vibrant and exciting psychedelic era music scene. When local residents began demanding a curfew the teens protested the curfew, and fueled by announcements from local rock radio stations thousands of teens flocked to Sunset Boulevard.

The protest erupted with demonstrators clashing with police, and Buffalo Springfield band member Stephen Stills composed “For What It’s Worth,” not as an anti-war song as it is typically regarded, but in response to the “Sunset Strip riots.”

“California Dreamin’: The Sounds of Laurel Canyon” continues until the end of November and if you’re in the Los Angeles vicinity I think you’d thoroughly enjoy stepping back into a musically rich era and seeing some of today’s still wonderfully prolific and entertaining artists captured in photos with expressions of youthful exuberance.

I can’t share the photos, but I can send you on a tour. Ray Manzarek and Bobby Krieger of the Doors have a blog tour you might find interesting. You can hop on board the bus right HERE. This is just a very short tour of “Love Street,” where Morrison and his girlfriend Pamela Courson lived in Laurel Canyon. Parts of the home are still there, but a fire, new owners and more than four decades have erased all but the nostalgia.

If you have as strong an interest in the music and the stories of the 60’s as I do, you might enjoy this rather extensive look at Laurel Canyon history. Access the wealth of stories HERE and you’ll be able to answer any possible Jeopardy questions related to Laurel Canyon and the music of the 60’s and 70’s.

Next time I’m in the area I’ll stop and take a few photos of the “old neighborhood.” Once a year , Laurel Canyon residents gather at the Canyon Country Store for a portrait–without the countercultural “loitering and countless drug deals in the parking lot.” At least that’s what I hear!

55 thoughts on “The Laurel Canyon Sound at the Los Angeles Grammy Museum

  1. dandyknife

    Hurrah for Joni, able to escape the grimy slush of Toronto and move to sunny California. We Canadians still claim her as our own — we’re kinda pathetic that way. 🙂

    1. You know, it’s so funny. Of course I know Joni hails from Canada, but I do forget that! She is such a profound talent and absolutely one of my favorites.:-) You’re not pathetic to claim her. You have every right! Make too much out of that, however, and I will have to remind you that Canada is also responsible for Justin Bieber. Just a friendly little reminder now! ox

    1. If it ever works out for you to be in the Los Angeles area, you be sure to let me know Colleen. I’ll be your tour guide–free of charge. LOL! You would definitely enjoy the Grammy Museum. I can’t imagine anyone who loves music not finding it really fascinating. Have a good weekend, my friend.

    1. Laurel Canyon is a very distinct little area in the Hollywood Hills. I don’t know it well, but I have followed the story and the mystique that surrounds its musical history for such a long time. I’m glad I could share just a little with you. 🙂

  2. Well, there went 40 minutes as I wandered around Laurel Canyon and its famous inhabitants. What a fascinating post, Debra. How I would love to visit this museum! Instead, I might need to pull out the old vinyl records stored in the bowels of our basement and put them on for a scratchy spin. Lots of music that shaped more than one generation, not to mention the impact on the lifestyles of the times. “Our House” was one of several songs under consideration for Katy and her daddy to dance to at her wedding. They opted for “Sweet Baby James” instead. 🙂 We are a nostalgic bunch here on the Cutoff.

    1. I am glad you took a peek at the Laurel Canyon links, Penny. I spent quite a bit of time on them myself, and never made it through all that was offered. I like to think I might down the line, because I do find it all so interesting. I am so pleased that you acknowledge how the music crosses generations. It certainly does! I can see by Katy’s choices for her wedding that she certainly inherited some of her parents’ musical interests, tastes an sensitivities. I’m still quite taken with the fact that you and Tom shared a Simon & Garfunkel concert. There are just some missed opportunities. LOL! I’ll enjoy what I can at the Grammy Museum from time to time. I do wish we could visit together. Who knows? ox

  3. A lot of great stories came out of there. About a mile up from Coast Highway, there was a big culvert under the road. It was fun to sit in there and play and sing. The sound was odd but very pleasing, to me anyway.

    1. I wonder if there aren’t many little culverts and hide-aways in the Laurel Canyon area, Narble. I don’t know it well, but just in general. I’m going to be PCH/Malibu tomorrow to escape the heat! It sounds to me like you enjoy music and if you haven’t yet made it to the Grammy Museum, it’s worth a field trip. 🙂

  4. Beverly

    What a fun and interesting thing to do! Thanks so much for sharing this. We will definitely try to fit this into our lives before the end of November!

    1. I hope you and Brian definitely make it to the Grammy Museum for this particular exhibit. It’s small, but worth it. Be sure to watch the video…it provides good background! There is plenty to see from other eras, too, so build in some quality time if you can! 🙂

  5. So many names I love and revere – Crosby, Stills, Nash.. Almost cut My Hair 🙂 California Dreaming – Jose Feliciano / Mamas and Papas… Wow so much history of the US rock / pop industry there.

    You really must watch ‘The Limey’ starring Terence Stamp with Barry Newman and Peter Fonda some time – lots of good Brit in US vibes and music in that one 😉 As an aside, I really loved Luis Guzmán as the unfortunate sidekick Eduardo Roel in that film 🙂

    1. I will definitely make a point of seeing “The Limey.” I seem to remember the title, but I know I didn’t see it–yet! 🙂 Peter Fonda was arrested at the Sunset Strip riots as a vocal protestor so that adds a little added interest, too. He was definitely a part of the very local music scene as an actor, not musician, but he more than likely knew how to party. LOL!

    1. I’ve started a little reading frenzy since visiting the Grammy Museum and picking up some interesting back story there. It is so interesting to me and with so many different artists the stories are endless. It’s a very fun and interactive museum. I wish I could have shared a few more photos, Nancy. 🙂

    1. You know, Rommel, I think the reason there isn’t photography is the Grammy trademark is very protective of its name and goods! I did sneak in a few photos, but not from the Laurel Canyon exhibit. There were guards supervising this one! The discs are on the sidewalk all around the museum and into L.A. Live. They were fun to read. I think you’d really enjoy this museum if you haven’t already visited. There are so many different exhibits from all eras to choose from. Something for everyone. 🙂

      1. Been there before. I must’ve forgotten it. Why? Because I can’t take pictures!!! One of the main reasons I take pictures is not just photography but really for memories.

    1. Any artist, band or group that has won a Grammy is represented in this exhibit, so it’s really worth the effort. And it’s housed in a great complex with good restaurants and lots of interesting aspects of the city. You would enjoy yourself, Kristy, I’m sure! I hope some time you’ll be able to visit. 🙂

  6. Debra, you are so fortunate for having such a strong bond with music of that era. Me, I can’t tell the difference between a songbird singing and a crow cawing. But I do remember a few of those songs from that era but names like Tony Bennett (in your pic), Bing, Dean Martin and even Doris Day are etched in my memory… Even Elvis, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.

    You sound as if you enjoyed your tour immensely and I am happy for that!

    1. I think going to the Grammy Museum would be enjoyable even if your musical interests run a little think, Koji. Think about taking the kids sometimes. There is so much there that includes their current musical tastes. If a group, band or artist ever won a Grammy, they are represented in this museum, and there are fun listening posts. Something to think about…worth a field trip if they enjoy music at all. 🙂

  7. I can’t say I know much about this style of music, but I listen to a lot of rock from my dads day and love it 😀
    Maybe one day, when I am in LA, we can chill together and catch up with the grammy hits in the background? 🙂

    Choc Chip Uru

    1. Absolutely, Uru. If you come to Los Angeles, I’d love to meet you and you’d like the Grammy Museum. There are some really good restaurants and a few bakeries in the area I think you’d like, too! We’d have to get your opinion on those. 🙂 Hope you’re keeping up well with your studies. You’re amazing in all that you do!

  8. Laurel Canyon–so that’s what the title of Joni’s album “Ladies of the Caynon” refers to. I never knew that. I love all the music you’ve written about–what a wonderful and heady time that must have been! I really enjoyed this post. ~ Jeannie

    1. You’re so right, Jeannie. After I’d posted it occurred to me that I could have added that information about Joni and Ladies of the Canyon. I’m glad you caught that. I have really enjoyed reading about this period of time in musical history. I am old enough to have been really involved in following the music of that time, but I certainly didn’t know any of the stories associated with Laurel Canyon. I have really been enjoying some wonderful books written to tell the stories. Judging by the numbers, I am not the only one enjoying long bouts with nostalgia. I hope you have a great weekend, Jeannie.

  9. I would love to go on that tour. How fascinating. What a shame they won’t let you take any photos! This has been a very interesting post. I’m always saddened by the untimely death of Mama Cass. She had such an incredible voice and you do wonder, if she hadn’t have died so young, what she might be doing today xx

    1. I’m glad you mentioned Cass Elliot, Charlie. I loved her in her hey-dey and I continue to really admire her talent. She played a very large role in the Laurel Canyon assemblies. Apparently she had a lot to do with bringing individual artists together who eventually formed new groups. Her daughter contributed to this exhibit. I know what you mean about photography…I did sneak in a few photos in other areas of the museum, but there was too much supervision in this particular area. 🙂 I think the Grammy trademark is so tied up in value that the photos are some kind of infringement. With cell phones…well, let’s just say there was some sneaking going on. It is a great museum for music lovers!

  10. Dear Debra, I missed much of the 1960s’ music, as I didn’t really start to listen until the summer of 1967. So many of the artists you mentioned I don’t really know much about, but I do remember Joni Mitchell and Mama Cass. Listening to the songs of our youth I think is an important part of gratitude. They give us a comfort and a contentment about the arc of our lives. Peace.

    1. Dee, you so often add a dimension to the conversation that really touches me. Thank you for the comment about listening to the music of our youth as a part of gratitude. What a comforting and lovely way to consider my most recent adventures in musical nostalgia. Your observation fits me well. Thank you, my friend. ox

  11. A fun read, Debra. I have grown up with all the music you mention in the post, but I have never heard about Laurel Canyon. I guess I was more occupied with the music back then that the stories around it. All the more fun to read about the era of old heroes now.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed reading something of the Laurel Canyon musicians and their relationship to the Hollywood/Los Angeles, Otto. I am not at all surprised you didn’t recognize the place name “Laurel Canyon.” It’s mostly a local reference, but it certainly was a breeding ground for some of the best music on the 1960s. I learned quite a few new stories at this very nice exhibit. 🙂

  12. So nostalgic! I grew up in Benedict Canyon and had friends who lived in Laurel Canyon. Just last weekend I went to a Joni Mitchell tribute that almost had me in tears it brought back so many memories. Thank you for the lovely walk down that wonderful canyon!

    1. I grew up one of the “flat landers” in the Pasadena area, Eva, but I always loved the mystique of the canyons. I still do, and we drive through them once in a while just to enjoy the sights! It sounds like the Joni Mitchell tribute was really special. I am certain I would have appreciated it fully. I would say that I have “all” of her albums (or CDs) but I would presume I’ve missed a few! You’d have enjoyed this particular exhibit, I’m sure. The photos from the 60s and 70s really brought back my youth and put a smile on my face. Thanks for sharing your memories, too.

  13. Debra… brilliant post as usual… you mentioned one thing that struck a cord with me… blogging in the 60’s, how I would have loved to be able to blog at that time as well… to read the overseas blogs would have been so educational, to see their photos would have been so much better than trying to learn from outdated books…
    I would have loved to have taken photos then with a digital camera and shared my life with those that call our continent Africa, which we call home…. my mind is now on such a trip imagining what life would have been like then, if we had what we have now… I hate that I’m on the downhill side of life when I have so much more to do and share and feel that time might just catch up to me before I’m ready…. what is the saying….??…I want to arrive such when going to the grave…to slide in sideways, cigarette in one hand, wine in the other… body thoroughly used up, totally worn out… and screaming “WOO HOO what a ride!”

    1. Something tells me you’re going to be around for a long time to come, Rob, although I can at times feel some of those same concerns about how quickly the sand is running through that hour glass! 🙂 I think the international sharing of lives through pictures and stories has been such an amazing gift to me at THIS time in my life. I’m not sure that when I was younger and raising a family and being consumed with work and life at such an accelerated pace I could have settled in to delight in blogging as I do. I miss my friends around the world and throughout the United States when I take time off or they do. 🙂 Let’s just keep running so fast that there is no “downhill side” in sight. Is that a deal? 🙂

  14. You live in an area with so much interesting history…I never heard of Laurel Canyon and its connection to the music of the 60’s and 70’s. I’m sure you must have enjoyed the museum.

    1. I do enjoy the Grammy Museum, Karen. I learn a lot each time I visit. Laurel Canyon isn’t well known outside of the Los Angeles area, but growing up I was aware the musicians of that pivotal era were nearby performing. They were close, but at my age at the time, they might as well have been out of state! My parents weren’t about to let me go down to Hollywood with my friends. LOL! I enjoy some of the documentaries from that era and relive the times and what I missed that way. hahaha!

  15. Americans do love a good riot. I am in LA for 24 hours in October before catching my flight to NZ. I have been wondering what i should do with that day. Would this be a good idea? c

    1. Celi, you gave me a big chuckle with your comment about Americans loving a good riot! I suppose it’s so–I just never really thought about it. LOL! I think you would enjoy the Grammy Museum and find it a good central place to spend some time before heading back to the airport. A little concern is wondering how your 24 hours is composed–for instance, when you get into LAX and have to be back–you know the legendary traffic issues as well as a major construction/upgrade project at the airport giving people quite a headache getting in and out of the airport. All that said, however, if you think you can manage it I do believe you’d have a good time at the museum. There’s something for everyone! 🙂 I enjoyed time last May with two blogging friends traveling from Charlotte to Australia with a LAX lay-over–then the plane had a long delay for a mechanical issue. They called and I came and brought them back to my house for the afternoon–they were part of a five-year old’s birthday party. LOL! If for any reason you find yourself “stuck” or concerned about anything, please don’t hesitate to let me know. 🙂 I’m sure you’re so eager to get to NZ and see your family!

  16. I always give myself a ‘surfacing’ break. i am like a diver slowly rising. I hear you on the traffic. i cannot remember the hotel i am staying at, need to check that booking.. thank you.. the grammy Museum is easy to remember, i shall ask th staff when i surface!..c

  17. As usual Debra you are always enjoying an adventure! Did you know that Joni Mitchell rents her Laurel Canyon nest? I remember reading it somewhere and the renter persuaded Joni into it via a friend. The renter did a fabulous job decorating and obviously loves it.

    1. Cristine, I am so interested in what you’re sharing about Joni Mitchell’s home. No, I didn’t know she still owned up in the Canyon. Now that’s fascinating to me. Wouldn’t we just love to see it. Thanks for that bit of insight. 🙂

      1. I wish I could remember Debra where I read it (online somewhere) this year as well. So much information my brain can’t processes it all, if I remember I will let you know. But the pictures were lovely. Best, Cristina

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