Merchandise emblazoned with the 50th Anniversary logo is sold at the Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood, Calif. (VT Photo)
It’s been a rockin’ 50 years. The Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood, Calif., which opened Jan. 16, 1964, played an important role in the careers of many iconic bands including former house band The Doors. The venue is celebrating its anniversary with a month of performances.
“We’re celebrating all month long with every major band you can possibly imagine,” said Owner Mikeal Maglieri.
Originally, he planned a five-day celebration with each day honoring a decade. “It ended up becoming a month-long celebration because, even with everyones' tight schedules, we still had artists we couldn’t fit in,” he said. “I was quite honored at the fact that people were jumping forward to be involved.”
Lita Ford recently played with Glen Hughes from Deep Purple and Slash from Guns and Roses. Robby Krieger of The Doors graced the stage Jan. 16 and Faster Pussycat will play Jan. 25, with The Bangles performing Jan. 26. Infectious Grooves caps off the month with a Jan. 31 show.
“It’s almost a family atmosphere with rock stars coming in and saying if it wasn’t for the Whisky and my father, they wouldn’t have made it,” said Maglieri. “Honestly, with each of these anniversary shows I don’t pay them the big dollars. They’re doing it because they want to be here.”
During the Jan.16 show, West Hollywood Mayor Abbe Land presented the Maglieri family with a plaque and said a few words about what the Whisky A Go Go has meant to the city.
“This is an iconic business and an amazing business,” said Mayor Land, who added, “the Sunset Strip is the heart and soul of West Hollywood.”
She also credited the Maglieri’s with being instrumental in making the Sunset Strip Music Festival a reality.
Maglieri has worked at the venue for 48 years, beginning back when the Whisky A Go Go was managed by his father Mario.
“I started when I was 15 years old as a bus boy, and I’m still a bus boy at heart,” he said. “I still know these people after all these years and think of them not as rock stars, but as people I met when they were just starting out.”
Mario and Scarlett Maglieri with their son Mikeal. (VT Photo)
As Maglieri worked, he listened to the Doors practice songs like “Light My Fire,” since back then there weren’t traditional sound checks. Instead, bands would hold their rehearsals at the venue itself.
“This is where I got my formal education,” he said, adding that it was anything but normal and lived up to the image of “sex, drugs and rock and roll.”
Maglieri said that the Whisky was one of the first clubs to integrate, bringing in Berry Gordy of Motown and artists from his label.
The Whisky A Go Go has hosted comedy and plays, and stays relevant by changing with the times and drawing on multiple generations. Maglieri’s father was one of the original managers of the Whisky A Go Go, and now Mikeal Maglieri’s son is also involved.
“My son will tell me that me and ‘my rocker friends’ are outdated,” said Maglieri. “You listen to what the kids want and what the youth wants. The Whisky has always gone with what’s current and that’s the same thing we’re doing now.”
As far as future plans, Maglieri will continue to grow the venue while also celebrating its history.
In fact, Maglieri said, “I think we’re going to start doing an annual anniversary instead of waiting every 10 years — people enjoy it too much.”
Interviewed for this story: Abbe Land, (323) 848-6400; Mikeal Maglieri, (310) 467-2251