Doug Weston’s World famous Troubadour

Doug Weston’s Troubadour
all through the 1970’s
Doug Weston looked like he was right out of “Rockie Horror Picture Show”. He was tall, gaunt, haunted eyes, long white blonde straight hair that flew around him as he sailed around his club like a black leather banshee in heat. Always screaming, always charming, schmoozing, then elitist. He had been an institution in rock n roll and in Hollywood for longer than anyone- and he knew it. No other club owner had more high profile panache and celebrity status than Doug Weston. How did he do it? The club is small. The bar in the front barely held fifty people and the concert room could seat maybe two hundred fifty people. Yet he charged relatively reasonable rates and he had the biggest acts. He flourished even though he was always complaining. He was a genius at survival. In a business where image was everything, Doug knew what to offer. Not to the public, but to the music industry. He had a platform that every new, aspiring artist coveted and craved. That small stage at the Troubadour had been the site of historic performances by every great artist and every great disappointment. It had been the arena for dramas including everyone from John Lennon with Nilssin getting thrown out to Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits, Steve Martin, the list goes on forever but the secret is how he managed to get it to pay when the business itself was intent on self-destruction. He knew he had the coolest venue and he dangled it like a carrot above the record companies. They came to him, hat in hand. Every management company with a new act approached him, begging him for a spot to break their new star. He could pick and choose, and he did. The deal is the art. Doug would listen to the managers pitching their new acts and the record companies promising to pack the house and pay the bar tab for every A and R guy and rack jobber on the West Coast. He knew they would. They would stuff the bar with industry hangers on that were the worst crowds to play for; jaded, snide, bored. Not even listening to their own record label’s new artist. They were there, making the scene, dressed in their satin record label jackets, snorting coke, drinking on an expense account that the unsuspecting performers would pay for out of their meager royalties for the rest of their indentured careers, even into old age, if they lived that long. The record companies’ accounting departments called this “miscellaneous expenses” on the poor artist’s royalty reports. Doug knew how it worked and he worked it, but his genius was that he could afford to sit and wait. When the management arrived from England, they would have a sit down with Doug in the afternoon, in his tiny office, upstairs in the back corner of the darkened performance room. Like a crow’s nest looking down on a small, new version of the coliseum where lions and various predators would nightly drink and eat while music acts sacrificed themselves onstage. The odor of cigarettes and stale beer hanging in the fetid air, reluctantly dissipating from the night before as the East LA kitchen help set up up for the upcoming night’s debaucheries. The British rock industry moguls treated Doug like he was the royal family. But his terms were what they didn’t see coming.
“Sure. I can let your new act come in here and perform.” He would reel them in slowly like a hooked tarpon. “You name the date. We can arrange it.” He would gesture magnanimously. “Tell you what..” He would add as an afterthought, “Let’s book them twice. Get your act in here twice. That should do it. That’ll get everybody’s attention. “
The labels and the management agencies couldn’t believe their luck. TWO shows at the world famous Troubadour for their new act. What a coup! The contract was signed right there. The first date was set and the second date? Well…..
“Tell you what.” Doug was slowly, so slowly turning the screws. “Let’s just leave that open and I’ll get back to you with a date. Okay? And we’ll make the same price for both of their appearances. Since they’re a new act, I can’t pay them very much. So let’s say…a hundred and fifty dollars…per show.”
The management and the labels jumped at the deal.
“So what’s the name of your new act?” Doug asked innocently,
“His name is Elton John.” The Brit replies, all agog with being on the inside of the LA music scene.
“I’m sure he’ll be a big star.” Doug grinned and filed his copy of the contract. “I’ll get back to you about the second date.” They left and the rest is history. This happened with David Bowie and every act that went on to become world class. Doug would just lay back and wait. When their star was at it’s zenith, Doug Weston would call in his tickets. The performers were working hard, every concert they did was sold out. Their price climbed steadily. They were soon starring at their own mega concerts at the LA forum, the Greek Theater, Universal Amphitheater. Then the superstar’s management would get a call from little ol’ Doug Weston at the Troubadour on Santa Monica Boulevard.
“Time to book that second gig, fellas.” He would love to say. “Oh yeah. The price?…. Well, that’s still the same as what we originally agreed on in our signed contract…. One hundred and fifty dollars…”
excerpt: “History of the Groove” Russell Buddy Helm all rights reserved ©2014

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