Jim Morrison and The Doors Played a Concert at CV High School
It sounds incredible but it’s true. On May 26, 1967, one of the biggest rock groups of the ‘60s, The Doors, played a short set for students in MacDonald Auditorium at our own Crescenta Valley High School. Accounts of this concert come to us from the memories of several locals, but in particular from the writings of Ralph Hulett, a rock photographer and author of some fame. Ralph Hulett, a student at CV High in ’67, was the son of famed artist Ralph Hulett Sr. For young Hulett, this was his first exposure to live rock music and the brief experience changed his life. He wrote about this concert in a magazine article that can be found online today, and I’ve pulled much from that article.
The student body leaders of 1966-67 had created an after-school concert series called “The Day.” They booked up-and-coming L.A. bands for hour-long concerts in the auditorium after school. They had pulled a major coup by booking the already successful pop group The Association earlier in the year. For May they booked The Doors, a little-known band playing the clubs in Hollywood, who were just beginning to get radio airplay with their first hit “Light My Fire.” The Doors were perhaps a mismatch for the fairly conservative Crescenta Valley. The blues/rock group was fronted by vocalist Jim Morrison, whose theatrical performances were an unusual mix of sexuality and insanity.
The 3 o’clock concert started with a blast of Robby Krieger’s guitar work and the band launched into the as yet un-released “When the Music’s Over.” A black-leather clad Morrison swaggered drunkenly on-stage, grabbed the mic stand and launched into the bizarre, provocative lyrics of the song (“Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her, Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn.”) The more conservative in the crowd had already begun to leave the auditorium as Morrison writhed through the song and rubbed his crotch against the mic stand. A member of the stage crew remembers that the sound mix was beautiful, the guitar and keyboard blasting against the walls of the auditorium. It’s thought that someone at the soundboard sought to add a little more power to Morrison’s vocals. The school’s electrical system couldn’t take the load of the band’s amplifiers, and things began to crackle and pop loudly. Suddenly Morrison’s microphone sound dropped to nothing and the band stopped mid-song, while the stage crew scurried to fix the problem. The band talked amongst themselves while Morrison glowered.
After five minutes of silence, during which more of the audience trailed out complaining about the weird band, The Doors launched into “Light My Fire.” The iconic keyboard intro was beautiful, the sound perfect, but when Morrison began singing “You know that it would be untrue…” his vocals sounded dim and tinny. The frantic stage crew had plugged his mic into the auditorium’s speakers, which were more suited to student speeches than screaming rock vocals. Morrison’s body was now static, leaning on the mic stand – his hands clutching the microphone and his eyes closed. According to one eyewitness, when the song ended, Morrison stomped offstage mumbling profanities, and the band began to break down their equipment. They had been on-stage for less than 20 minutes, and played one and a half songs. The concert had been a disaster.
Most students forgot the incident with the bizarre band except for a few like Ralph Hulett, whose first taste of rock music was a life-changing event. It was only in the years to come that many attendees realized they had witnessed an early performance by one of the biggest “shooting star” bands of the ‘60s. There is an enduring legend at the school that Morrison somehow got himself locked in an equipment room after the show, and while there, or immediately after, scrawled his name on a wall backstage. Generations of students have looked for that signature, but it is gone now, erased or painted over. Just like Jim Morrison himself – legendary, mysterious – and gone forever.