Some might say that Los Angeles couldn’t exist without music. While that is certainly true, there was a time when the music scene in the City of Angels had yet to take its form. Los Angeles has long been known as one of the hottest places in the United States for music, but it didn’t get that way overnight.
Defining moments throughout the city’s musical history not only helped make it a major player in the industry, they also illustrated the talent, creativity, and diversity of the LA music scene. From symphony to hip-hop and everything in between, Los Angeles has been at the frontier of musical greatness since the early 20th century. To think it all began when Trinity Auditorium hosted Los Angeles Philharmonic’s first show in 1919.
How Hollywood Played a Part
The LA music scene was heavily influenced by the presence of Hollywood, largely due to it being the home of the rich and famous. Naturally, this attracted many musicians and singers to the area, to live and work making melodies for the many motion pictures being released. The Hollywood Bowl amphitheater was built long before, but held its first concerts in 1922. It went on to later host many iconic artists, including Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, the Beatles, and Cher.
Radio Music’s Beginning and Ascent to #1
In 1922, the first LA radio stations emerged. Two of the first stations were KFI and KHJ, both AM-frequency channels. The start of these two stations was crucial to shaping the LA music scene because they broadcasted the songs of local musicians to Los Angeles. In the 1960s, KHJ became the nation’s most popular radio station by playing a fast-paced, top 40 countdown of hits. This was monumental because it turned the attention of the music industry to Los Angeles. It also showed that LA was a trendsetter in the industry.
The Palladium Opens
In 1940, the Hollywood Palladium opened with performances by Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. This event led to a number of future shows in Los Angeles by similar jazz artists, making it one of the leading locations in the country for jazz performances. The Palladium’s historic opening night cemented the venue, and Los Angeles, as one the best places in the country for live music. The Palladium’s proud tradition still holds its place today as wonderful performances continue at its Sunset Boulevard location.
The Beatles Beat All
August 28, 1966, at Dodger Stadium: the Beatles are playing, and the crowd goes wild. The performance is their second to last concert ever, with their final tour ending the next night in San Francisco. The fact that arguably the greatest band in modern music chose the City of Angels as one of their last live performances displayed just how important the LA music scene had become. It also put the attention of the entire music world on LA for the night. With bands like The Doors, The Byrds, and The Turtles also achieving fame locally and nationally at the same time, this night made it clear that LA was the leading city in the rock n’ roll world. Whiskey a Go-Go, after all, had become one of the best locations for rock concerts in America. The Beatles’ concert confirmed that LA was the place where the best would come to play and where the most creative would go to achieve greatness.
Guns N’ Roses Plays at The Troubadour Nightclub
Guns N’ Roses formed and first played in LA. They put the city at the cutting-edge of heavy metal and hard rock, and that all began on June 6, 1985, when the band performed at The Troubadour in West Hollywood. Their energy, charisma, and downright insanity brought new life to the LA music scene and reasserted that the city was capable of cultivating any kind of music. Great shows at The Troubadour still continue, but that night was one of the venue’s most memorable.
NWA Releases the Album Straight Outta Compton
In 1988, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and the rest of N.W.A. released one of the most controversial albums ever: Straight Outta Compton. While a few of their songs led to radio bans nationwide and even got Dr. Dre’s recording company a warning from the FBI, the album did bring issues of racism, street violence, and drugs out from under the rug. Additionally, it catapulted LA to the forefront of the hip-hop universe and reaffirmed the importance of self-expression in music. It is undoubtedly one of rap’s most important albums, and it came right out of Compton.
These iconic moments have helped define the LA music scene in myriad ways. These events, and others, show the diverse array of music that has been created and played in LA. So many different styles of music came of age in LA and that tradition is being carried on by the eclectic mix of talented musicians that abound here today.
Photo by Alexis Fam