Today, most Angelenos think of Laurel Canyon as a great shortcut from Hollywood to the San Fernando Valley. But in the mid-1960s to 1970s, the area was home to some of the greatest musicians of the rock era, including Joni Mitchell, Jim Morrison, Frank Zappa, and members of The Mamas & The Papas, The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Musicians flocked to Laurel Canyon because of its idyllic setting, as well as the cheap rent and proximity to Sunset Strip clubs such as the Whisky A Go Go, The Roxy and The Troubadour.
On May 9, 2014, the GRAMMY Museum opened California Dreamin’: The Sounds of Laurel Canyon, 1965-1977, an exhibition that explores the story of the Los Angeles rock scene during this golden age of music, creativity and culture. Named for the song by The Mamas & The Papas, “California Dreamin’” runs through Nov. 30, 2014.
“Laurel Canyon was as much a mindset as it was a music scene,” says GRAMMY Museum executive director Bob Santelli. “The remarkably rich sounds of Laurel Canyon and the sheer number of songwriters, bands, producers, artists, engineers and record company people who have lived and worked out of Laurel Canyon prove that Los Angeles is and continues to be a vital rock scene. We felt it was important to tell that story, right here in our hometown.”
Located on the second floor of the museum, California Dreamin’ displays four dozen rare artifacts from iconic music acts, interactive experiences, handwritten lyrics, photographs and more. The exhibit will educate visitors about the origins of the influential Laurel Canyon scene, and how it developed into a thriving music epicenter. There are also two walls that display dozens of intimate and candid shots from acclaimed music photographer Henry Diltz, the official Woodstock photographer and a member of the Modern Folk Quartet. As visitors explore the exhibit, they will hear landmark songs from the era, such as For What It’s Worth, Turn, Turn, Turn and Mr. Tambourine Man.
California Dreamin’ features a wide range of unique and rare items on display, including:
- Richie Furay’s (Buffalo Springfield / Poco) 1970s “Nudie” Suit
- Costumes, instruments and ephemera from the Modern Folk Quartet
- Jim Morrison’s (The Doors) writing chair
- Arthur Lee's (Love) 6-String Flying V guitar
- Cass Elliot’s (The Mamas & The Papas) c.1960s, hand-painted chair
- Original photography of Henry Diltz and Graham Nash
- Exclusive interviews with various artists and industry experts
- Original menus, scrapbooks, handbills, and posters
In addition to the main exhibit, California Dreamin': The Sounds Of Laurel Canyon 1965–1977 will include a host of public programming events, educational curricula, intimate performances, lectures, and more.
"California Dreamin’: The Sounds of Laurel Canyon 1965-1977” runs through Nov. 30 at the GRAMMY Museum, 800 W. Olympic Blvd., (213) 765-6800 or grammymuseum.org.