The story surrounding the location of Morrison Hotel used in the Doors album of the same name is a rather interesting one. That is, the location is what dictated the name of the album, and the rear album cover photo is what inspired the name of the famous Hard Rock Cafe chain.
Ray Manzarek and his wife spotted the hotel when they were driving around LA location scouting. The name of the then real hotel made it perfect. Unfortunately, when it came time to do the photoshoot, the desk clerk had other ideas and wouldn’t allow them to shoot inside the building.
I can picture how this played out. Working with the legendary rock music photographer Henry Diltz, they posed outside of the hotel for various shots. As the stories go, they happened to notice the clerk leave for the break, the group ran inside and they got the shot.
My take is that it was completely rehearsed. They only had a brief moment to get the shot before the clerk would return to his desk. I’m thinking Diltz probably told each member of the band where to sit and how to pose should they get their chance to slip in. There wouldn’t be any time for fine tuning poses. Especially with the photographer outside and the band inside. When the clerk stepped away, they dashed in, took their positions, struck their poses, Diltz fired off several shots and they slipped back out as fast as they entered.
The cover photo was taken in December 1979 by Henry Diltz and the Morrison Hotel album was released in 1979 by Electra Records. The location of the actual Morrison Hotel is 1246 S Hope Street in Los Angeles. Currently it’s just a vacant building in disrepair. Oh and if you want to get a concept of just how much the cost of living in Los Angeles has gone up, notice the price for rooms on the sign. $2.50 per night. The worst dive hotel in LA’s skid row would probably cost at least $50 per night now!
The Morrison Hotel album was actually a two titled album. One side was titled Morrison Hotel and the reverse side was titled Hard Rock Cafe. After wrapping their shoot at the Morrison Hotel, they hopped in the van and went in search of a bar to celebrate the moment. Driving through the skid row section of LA they spotted a run down bar called the Hard Rock Cafe and decided that was the spot.
As they enjoyed their drinks, Diltz fired off the shots that became the back cover of the album. And shortly thereafter this unheard of bar at 300 E 5th Street became a legend. Or at least its name did.
In 1971, The Doors got a call from a couple of guys in England who asked them if they would mind if they used the name of the back cover of the album for a cafe they were starting in London. The first Hard Rock Cafe opened in June 1971 on Old Park Lane under the ownership of Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton, who were Americans.
Despite the name, the rock and roll memorabilia theme its known for today didn’t become part of the decor until 1977. Since then the chain has grown to having a presence in 74 countries, including 185 cafes, 25 hotels, and 12 casinos.
Not bad for outcome from what started as just a drink to relax after a photoshoot! Granted the Hard Rock Cafe would have started anyway, but the name and theme most likely would have been different.
Morrison Hotel peaked at number 4 on the Billboard 200 charts. Morrison Hotel has also become the name of an art gallery in NYC and LA started in part by Henry Diltz featuring classic photography of the rock and roll legends! Also see our post on Jim Morrison’s house on “Love Street” in Laurel Canyon, the Jim Morrison mural in Venice and a second Jim Morrison mural on the Ellison Suites Hotel also in Venice.
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