Its debauched theme may appear to have sprung from the wild lifestyle of Doors’ singer-songwriter Jim Morrison, but “Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)” was written by German playwright Bertolt Brecht and set to music by composer Kurt Weill, part of an early 20th century opera.

The tune would help win the band a contract with Elektra Records and appeared on the band’s 1967 self-titled debut album.

When they began a months-long gig at Hollywood’s Whisky a Go Go in May 1966, the Doors were still without a record deal. Their unpredictable, drugged-out live shows scared off many label executives. Jac Holzman…


“I would rather turn my head and cough than see any part of ‘Patch Adams’ again. The title of this movie should have been ‘Punch Adams!’

— Gene Siskel

This story appeared in Rock Cellar May 14, 2021

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show (Photo by Bernard Gotfryd)

11. “P.S. I Love You” by the Beatles

“P.S. I Love You” was recorded by the Beatles in September 1962, a month after drummer Pete Best was replaced by Ringo Starr. Producer George Martin, unaware of the change, hired session drummer Andy White for the recording. As it turned out, White played bongos on the track and Starr added marimbas. …


“Bob Dylan (Bring it All Back Home Sessions)” by ky_olsen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

To commemorate his 80th birthday, we repost a story that first appeared in Rock Cellar Jan. 12, 2017.

When he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012, President Obama said of Bob Dylan, “There is not a bigger giant in the history of American music.”

Hailed as the voice of his generation, Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016 but his greatest achievement may be his influence on musicians that have included the Beatles and Bruce Springsteen, who said Dylan “changed the face of rock and roll forever.”

We asked some of the most respected artists…


Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

With their 1963 hit “Surfin’ U.S.A.” the Beach Boys made surfing more than just a southern California sport. For baby boomers coming of age, it represented a break from the staid 1950s.

In the Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, Jim Miller writes that while the Beach Boys were not the first to celebrate catching a wave, they did seize upon something unique.


Steve Lukather (Alex Solca Photography)

This story first appeared in Rock Cellar May 13, 2021.

Steve Lukather is the guitarist extraordinaire of Toto, best known for the classic hits “Hold the Line,” “Rosanna,” and “Africa.” With the band’s tour sidelined during the lockdown, Lukather has made good use of his time, releasing his latest solo album, I Found the Sun Again, in late February. The tracks feature Lukather’s trademark guitar solos, which sound live because, he says, “All that stuff you’re hearing is being played live. No sequences, there’s no click tracks.”

Lukather is also a renowned session player and here he’s assisted by some…


The Beau Brummels appeared to be part of the British Invasion; their namesake was real, a 19th century English dandy known for his fashionable style of dress.


Mountain is considered the forerunner of the heavy metal bands that followed. Guitarist Leslie West, bassist Felix Pappalardi, keyboardist Steve Knight, and drummer Corky Laing roared through songs like the 1970 classic, “Mississippi Queen.” Laing, who co-wrote the track, had the task of cutting through the band’s stacks of Marshall amps with his drum kit—and provided the song’s iconic cowbell.

“Mississippi Queen” by Mountain

Laing takes us through the first 50 years of his life in Letters to Sarah, his 2019 autobiography written with Tuija Takala. As much of that half-century was spent on the road, Laing intersperses letters he…


This story appeared in Rock Cellar April 16, 2021

Nancy Wilson’s accomplishments and leadership in the music industry were recognized by the Women’s International Music Network at January 2021’s SheRocks Awards. Wilson joined the Go-Gos, Cherie Currie of the Runaways, Cindy Blackman Santana and others who have inspired women in music.

The singer-songwriter and guitarist will release her first solo album, You and Me, on May 7, 2021. Wilson recorded the album at her home studio in northern California without the benefit of having other musicians in the room. Wilson used a file-sharing service to distribute the tracks among the…


The British Invasion knocked many American groups off the charts in the mid-1960s. Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs, who scored a number one hit with “Sugar Shack” in 1963, decided to adopt a grittier sound with “Bottle of Wine.” Gilmer still performed lead vocals, but the band shortened its name to the Fireballs to reflect ‘60s fans’ preference for groups.

“Sugar Shack” by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs

Recorded at producer Norman Petty’s studio in Clovis, New Mexico, where Buddy Holly got his start, “Bottle of Wine” reached number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967. While the Fireballs’…


Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty abhorred the recording industry. His first success as a member of Stealers Wheel, 1972’s “Stuck in the Middle With You,” was a parody of Bob Dylan’s style that poked fun at an industry cocktail party.

“Stuck in the Middle With You” by Stealers Wheel

Rafferty’s opinion was reinforced by royalties that disappeared and an onerous management contract that took three years to unravel after Stealers Wheel dissolved.

“Gerry Rafferty” by monosnaps is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Unable to release any new material until his legal issues were resolved, Rafferty returned to Scotland, where he continued to write. …

Frank Mastropolo

Author, Fillmore East: The Venue That Changed Rock Music Forever (late 2021) & Ghost Signs: Clues to Downtown New York’s Past FB @fillmoreeastnyc @ghostsignsnyc

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