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Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek bump into each other on Venice Beach?

Doors fans and even the casual rock fan is familiar with The Doors origin story. Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek, who had known each other at UCLA film school bumped into each other on Venice Beach. Manzarek, who was meditating on the beach, had last seen Morrison at UCLA in May 1965 and thought Morrison had gone to New York, so he was surprised to see him walking along the beach. The two caught up with each other and Manzarek asked Morrison what he had been doing. Morrison volunteered that he had been writing songs. Manzarek encouraged Morrison to sing one, Morrison sang “Moonlight Drive” and Manzarek thought those were the greatest song lyrics he had ever heard and that they should start a rock band and make a million dollars.

But did it happen exactly that way? Was the meeting on the beach mere chance? I don’t think so, and there is some evidence to indicate this. While still at UCLA Jim Morrison had some pretty clear intentions to try and start a rock band. Under the guise of a joke Morrison floated out the idea of starting a band. He told roommate Dennis Jakob they should start a band called The Doors: Open and Closed. Clearly starting a band was on Jim Morrison’s mind.

Was the meeting on Venice Beach an accident? Jim Morrison knew Ray was in a band. He and other film school friends had gone to see Manzarek’s band Rick and The Ravens at The Turkey Joint West. Jim had even “performed” with the band on a couple of occasions, once an impromptu, drunken rendition of “Louie, Louie” with other college friends. The second, an occasion in which the guitar player for Rick and the Ravens didn’t show up and Ray needed a guitar player to fulfill the contract with the bar, so he got Morrison to be onstage and feign playing an unplugged guitar. Morrison later said “it was the easiest money he ever made.” Lastly, Morrison knew where Manzarek was living on Venice Beach. He had appeared in a party scene in Ray’s student film “Induction” which was filmed at Ray’s beach house so Morrison knew not only where Ray lived, but the general area of the beach where Ray might hang out. How many days, how many times had Jim Morrison walked passed that part of the beach hoping Ray would be out there?

Note: This article is an updated version that was published in “The Doors Examined”.

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