From Bob Dylan to Harry Style, these are some of the stars who made history in Troubadour

The club was best known for nurturing new talent in the late 1960s and 1970s (he was instrumental in the careers of James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, and Tom Waits, among others) and is today a vital stop on the path to musical stardom.

The troubadour was originally conceived as a club of singers-songwriters, or “modern troubadours” as its founder Doug Weston called them. The club’s status as a kingmaker has been enhanced over the years by the talent that has been discovered there.

Playing in front of an audience of musicians and music executives, artists including Billy Joel, Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, Linda Rundstadt and Nina Simone have made their cases for stardom. Bob Dylan was one of the first notable singer-songwriters to take the troubadour stage early in his career.

He played an impromptu musical with a local band at a small staff-only concert in 1964, according to Troubadour. Dylan went on to become one of the most influential singer-songwriters of his generation, creating a long list of famous songs, including “The Times They Are a-Changin” and “Like a Rolling Stone”.

His performance in Troubadour became the first in a long line of shows that made history for artists big and small over the next six decades.

James Taylor and Carol King

Troubadours earned their reputation in the 1960s and 1970s for their influential role in the early careers of many famous artists.

For this reason, it has become the perfect place for musicians to find like-minded peers and form lifelong relationships.

James Taylor and Carol King, famous musicians in their own right, have forged a lasting friendship in the wings of the Troubadour Theatre. Taylor made his Troubadour debut in 1969, a party that was a big problem for him at the time.

“It was a proper stage and back, and if I did a good job there people noticed and word spread,” he said, reminiscing about the experience. The pair met through a mutual friend and hit it off on the spot, with King playing the piano for Taylor and later starting a solo career with his encouragement.

Before King made his troubadour debut, she ran into her own playlist for Taylor, and he heard a song he fell in love with instantly. Taylor later recorded “You Have a Friend” with King’s permission, and it went on to become one of his biggest hits.

They have acknowledged the importance of the troubadour in their career and friendship many times. In 2007, they performed their 1970 joint concert in Troubadour to celebrate the venue’s 50th anniversary. They later took this show on the road and brought their 2010 Troubadour Reunion Tour to arenas around the world.

Elton John

With the Troubadour gaining notoriety, many artists came from abroad and headed straight to the venue to play in front of their first American audience. Gordon Lightfoot debuted in the United States there in 1964, and Lily Allen debuted more than 40 years later in 2006.

Perhaps most notably, in Six Nights in August 1970, Elton John shot into the American consciousness with a series of shows that began his career in the United States. Introduced by Neil Diamond to a crowd of industry giants including Linda Ronstadt, Brian Williams, Stephen Stills and David Crosby, John made a serious impression and received a rave review by Los Angeles Times critic Robert Heilborn.

In an interview with The Times, John described the performances, saying, “The atmosphere during those nights in Troubadour was electrifying. Something took hold of me. I knew this was my big moment and I really went for it.”
What the party must have felt for the attendees is reimagined in a scene in John’s biography “The Rocketman”. In the scene, John (played by Taron Egerton) lifts the crowd in a moment of condescension as everything clicks.

Lenny Bruce

Although troubadour is best known for its role in finding music legends, it has also been home to countless comedy greats. Lenny Bruce performed at the club in the early 1960s and his raucous group led to his arrest on obscenity charges. His legacy and contributions to comedy were remembered by his family and peers nearly 30 years later at a tribute event hosted and televised by Troubadour.

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Bruce became the first of many comedians to perform on that stage. Richard Pryor recorded his first album there in 1968, and Steve Martin performed at the venue as a relatively unknown.

Troubadour continues to welcome stand-up fans. Sarah Silverman, Zach Galifianakis, and Dave Chappelle have all performed on sets at the venue. The worship club’s prestige has also made it the perfect venue to host special events for cult television programmes. Abby Jacobson and Ilana Glazer performed there prior to the second season of “Broad City” in 2014, and the cast of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia gave their first live show of “The Nightman Cometh” in 2009.

guns not flowers

Coming out of its heyday in the 1970s, Troubadour needed to change its tune to keep pace with the country’s changing musical tastes.

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Rather than targeting popular singers and songwriters, the club began featuring the glam and metal rock bands that dominated the ’80s. Metallica made their Los Angeles debut with the club in August 1982 and Warrant in 1984.

Future stars Guns N’ Roses made a name for themselves locally after playing gigs all over Los Angeles, including at the legendary Troubadour.

The local hype put them on the radar of Records executive David Geffen, whose label went to see the Troubadour group on June 6, 1986, and signed them soon after to a global deal that made Guns N’ Roses a household name.

Harry Stiles

Troubadour continued to keep pace with the changing music scene through the 1990s and beyond. Pearl Jam played its first show under the name Pearl Jam and Radiohead played their album OK Computer for the first time in the United States. Korn, Nizam Dawn, Franz Ferdinand, and Fiona Apple also appeared on the Troubadour stage.

In the modern era, the club has become the perfect place to host secret parties or exclusive shows. Coldplay released songs from her new album “X&Y” on a secret show in 2005, and Billie Eilish provided an exclusive song with SiriusXM and Pandora for fans of her debut album. Harry Styles made his US debut in 2017 on the venue with his special guest Stevie Nicks on a show that paid tribute to Troubadour’s roots in popularity.

“In Troubadour, a percussion piano on the song ‘Woman’ started like Elton’s ‘Bennie and the Jets.'” Rolling Stone wrote in a concert review, the popular sheen of his ‘Meet Me in the Hallway’ shone like Bowie’s Space Oddity.

The troubadour’s notoriety has made it an essential stop on the tours of performers old and young, old and new. The coronavirus pandemic has forced the club to turn to crowdfunding and public awareness, but it is now back in business, welcoming crowds on Santa Monica Boulevard and adding to its list of legendary performances.


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