Ray Mansarek and Jim Morrison met at the UCLA film school in Los Angeles California. The introductions were made by mutual friend John DeBella, the cameraman on both Ray's and Jim's semester ending student movies. After graduation in the spring of 1965 Jim's plans included New York City and Ray was staying in LA.
A couple of months after graduation Ray was soaking up some sun on Venice beach wondering what to do now that he had a masters in film but no Hollywood connections. Suddenly he sees Jim Morrison strolling up the beach toward him. Jim had decided to stay in LA after all and had been spending time writing songs. Ray wanted to hear something.
Although shy at first Jim began to sing Moonlight Drive in a really haunting and powerful voice.
The lyrics blew Ray away. After a couple more songs Ray suggested that they form a rock and roll band and that's exactly what Jim wanted to do.
"Moonlight Drive" from The Doors self titled album "the Doors"
Jim suggested a name for the band that day derived from references to the doors of perception in works by William Blake and a book taking the same name by Aldous Huxley referencing his mescaline experiences. Ray seeking to give up LSD and find a natural high found the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's meditation group. At this magic convergence of heavenly students amazingly the three future Doors met, studied, became friends and band mates.
First John Densmore Joined Ray and Jim along with Ray's brothers in picking up the pieces of Rick and the Ravens. This group had a following in the Bay area and one more single to cut but was going nowhere. The group was splitting up. A demo of six Doors songs was cut instead of that Ravens single but without commercial success. Ray's brothers decided that rock-n-roll wasn't for them and left the band for greener pastures.
Robby jumped in and the circle was closed. Jim on vocals, Ray on keyboards and Fender Rhodes Piano Bass to fill in the bottom, Robby on guitar and John on drums. These were the Doors. The one and only Doors born on the Western shores of Venice California.
In between rehearsals the quartet shopped their demo with little luck until Billy James of Columbia Records called to set an appointment. Billy liked their material and offered to set them up with new Vox equipment. The Doors, like kids in a candy shop, helped themselves to all the equipment prudence would allow them to take. The Doors were dropped from the Columbia contract shortly thereafter but they did get to keep the Vox gear.
In 1965 the Doors successfully auditioned and began playing a steady gig at the London Fog, a second rate club on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. (This is were Jim met Pamela Courson, forever lovers until Jim Morrison's death in Paris.) After being fired due to low turn out the band caught a break and was hired to open for the headliners at the Whisky-a-Go-Go.
The Whisky was the big time. No auditions here! If you didn't have a record contract or a chart position you didn't play at the Whisky. That summer of 1966 The Doors were in heaven, opening for and becoming friends with the likes of Van Morrison, The Byrds, The Buffalo Springfield and Frank Zappa. The scene at the Whiskey was electric, the sex, the emotion, and passion. This is where the madness was on Sunset Strip.
The end of that once in a lifetime gig at the Whisky was coming to an abrupt end. That fateful night the Doors launched into an inspired and LSD induced, X rated version of The End. That performance led to the Doors firing. The club owners were enraged at the repulsive performance of that song. The gig was over but oh! What an experience while it lasted.
During this time the Doors created quite a stir at the Whisky. The notoriety, the fame and popularity attracted more than crazed fans and groupies. That year of 1966 they were offered and accepted a three record contract with Elektra, produced by Paul Rothchild with sound engineer Bruce Botnick.
In '67 their first album The Doors was released. A exceptional debut album, one of the greatest in rock history, introducing the band's blend of blues, rock, classical and jazz influences. The album would produce what would be their biggest and most profound single, Light My Fire. After the album version was reduced from seven minutes down to three minutes, better suited for commercial air play, it went to number one for seventeen weeks on the billboard charts.