The Troubadour: West Hollywood History

When you mention “The Troubadour” (or “The Troub” as many call it), most locals and people in the music industry know you mean West Hollywood’s iconic bar and restaurant since the late 50s. Located on Santa Monica Boulevard, where Beverly Hills and West Hollywood meet; Doug Weston initially opened The Troub as a coffee house in 1957 where it was originally located on La Cienega Boulevard that would later become known as “Restaurant Row,” he moved the club to its current location in 1961.

The club by the mid-60’s the club had become known for helping singer/songwriters in particular and new artists in general get their start. Among the beneficiaries of the exposure that Weston’s Troub brought them were Elton John, Carole King, Jackson Browne, The Byrds, the Eagles, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Bonnie Raitt, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Linda Ronstadt, J.D. Souther, James Taylor, and Tom Waits; among many others. It was a major center for folk music in the 1960s, and subsequently for singer-songwriters from all genres. Almost any band that has played in Southern California played the Troubadour, and the epic stories about their exploits could fill several books, and I believe there are already a few out there.

At the beginning of their careers, James Taylor and Carole King played there in 1970, and reunited to do an encore performance in 2007 for the club’s 50th anniversary celebration. A favorite story is when 2 of the original “Hollywood Vampires,” John Lennon and Harry Nilsson were ejected from the club for drunkenly heckling the Smothers Brothers in 1974 during Lennon’s infamous “Lost Weekend” period (1973-74).

Several comedians got their starts there as well. Steve Martin and Cheech and Chong were amongst those who were discovered on The Troub’s stage. Lenny Bruce was arrested on obscenity charges for using the word “schmuck” during his onstage act in 1962.

While the Troub was focused on folk singer/songwriters in the 60s, the club started featuring more rock acts in the early 70s. On August 25, 1970, Neil Diamond (who had just recorded his first live album at the Troubadour) introduced Elton John to the club and he went on to perform his first show in the United States there. The late 70s and very early 80s saw the rise of punk, new wave, and post punk and the club featured bands, such as Bad Religion, The Meat Puppets, and Napalm Death. Local L.A. proto-grunge band The Melvins have played The Troubadour stage 24 times and counting as of the end of 2019.

The mid to late 80s were definitely the time of rock and glam/hair metal metal bands such as Cinderella, L.A. Guns, Mötley Crüe, Poison, Ratt, Warrant, and W.A.S.P. Guns N’ Roses played their first show at the Troubadour, and it was there they were discovered by a Geffen Records A&R rep. It also continued to attract other genres through this time and through the 90s such as Fiona Apple, Steve Earle, Mudhoney, Papa Roach, and Radiohead.

Sadly, The Troub lost its founder Doug Weston in 1999 at age 72 from pneumonia. The charismatic 6’6” promoter was well known on the L.A. music scene for finding and nurturing new artists, and also became infamous for the agreements he made with some of those artists, stipulating that after they became famous, they would return to the club to perform. Though he retired from the scene in later years, he still retained ownership until his passing in February 1999. The club name was then changed to “Doug Weston’s Troubadour” in his honor.

In the 21st century, they have continued to move forward in the same fashion, featuring the ongoing cycle of new artists who would get their starts at “The Troub.” They were well known for promoting such diverse artists as Arctic Monkeys, Bastille, Billy Talent, Coldplay, Franz Ferdinand, Kina Grannis, Ray LaMontagne, Lawson, and The Libertines. In recent years, Billie Eilish and the Black Crowes have played there. Many CD release parties have been held in this historic venue. Movie scenes have been filmed here.

The club continued to flourish and do well until 2020. With the Covid-19 pandemic crippling the live music industry, owner Christine Karayan was forced to lay off most of her staff, losing all but two of her employees. She has recently started a GoFundMe in an effort to save the historic club and has raised over $60,000 since April 1. I would hope many of those who got their start there would consider contributing.

The Troubadour is a huge part of Los Angeles history, and we wish this historic nightspot, and everyone affected, all the luck and success they need to continue on after this epidemic passes. It would be truly heart wrenching for them to have to shut their doors permanently. This venue is truly one of the hearts of Los Angeles and music industry.

Tami Danielson is the main in-house blogger and Director of Operations for Pop-Daze. She was raised in California and Florida and currently resides in Oregon. Tami has written for a variety of periodicals and has provided digital marketing services for a number of artists. She can be reached at [email protected].