Whisky A Go-Go, a Live Music Icon on the Sunset Strip

The Whisky on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard
Dave G. Houser/Getty Images

The Whisky a Go-Go, a live music venue on the Sunset Strip, is known for launching the careers of musicians of every genre since the 1960s. The Whisky, as it's known, has always been a major part of the Los Angeles rock scene and has hosted such rock legends as The Doors, Janis Joplin, and Led Zeppelin.

History of the Whisky a Go-Go

Whiskey a Go-Go is the oldest live music venue still operating on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. The venue first opened in 1964 and continues strong today after a short closure in the 1980s.

The Whisky a Go-Go in LA was patterned after a "discotheque" of the same name in Chicago—the West Hollywood venue opened with Johnny Rivers playing a live set with DJ music in between for dancing. But, as the story goes, there was no room on the floor for the DJ booth, so the owners built a glass-walled booth suspended over the stage. When the female DJ started dancing to the band, the crowd thought it was part of the show and loved it, so the club hired additional dancers to don fringed dresses and white boots to dance in the glass cubicle and the Go-Go dance craze was born.

Everyone who was anyone in the rock n' roll scene played at the Whisky and many careers were made here. Soon after The Whisky opened, they hired Neil Young, Stephen Stills and the newly formed Buffalo Springfield as the house band for a seven-week run, followed by Jim Morrison and The Doors who were "discovered" playing there by scouts from Elektra Records and received their first recording contract.

Other big names who have played the Whisky A Go-Go include The Who, the Kinks, the Byrds, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Sonny & Cher, The Byrds, Alice Cooper, Germs, The Runaways, X, Blondie, Talking Heads, Patti Smith, The Police, Motley Crue, and Guns N' Roses. Avril Lavigne broadcast a live acoustic set from the Whisky in 2009.

The Whiskey closed as a club in 1982 and reopened in 1986 as a venue that could be rented by promoters and bands and became part of the "pay for play" model, where instead of venues paying bands, bands pay venues for a block of tickets to sell to their fans, or, another way of making money, bands can earn a percentage of the cover charge.

This practice has led to fans following bands they know rather than counting on any particular venue to have reliably good music, which has been to the detriment of the reputation of the venues themselves. Whereas once upon a time you knew the venue's booking agent was looking to discover the next great star, now they'll take just about anyone who can bring in their own crowd and pay to play.

Current Music at the Whisky a Go-Go

Gone are the Go-Go Girls in white boots and you never quite know what to expect at The Whiskey. Bands range from thrash metal to hip hop but lean more toward metal. You might find the occasional lesbian-themed night or singer/songwriter set, just to confuse people about the venue's offerings. Check their website for the current line-up.

The Venue Today

Whiskey a Go-Go is an all-ages venue, so you may see teens and the band members' kids in the audience. While the venue is still located at 8901 Sunset Boulevard, things have changed. The main floor is a dance floor and overseeing the dancers, you'll find a limited number of tables on an upper balcony, often reserved for VIPs. There are full bars upstairs and downstairs for those over 21.

Was this page helpful?