Head to the corner of Rush and Chestnut on West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip to experience a slice of rock history. Often cited as America’s first true discotheque, Whisky a Go Go has been hosting hot bands and packed houses since 1964.
Named after a famous Paris nightclub, Whisky helped usher in critical crazes, including go-go dancing, So Cal punk, and all-American rock. Rolling Stone contributor Frank Schruers told California Now Podcast host Soterios Johnson that Whisky is “central to everybody’s rock ‘n’ roll education”—just one of the reasons he named it one of the top five music venues in Los Angeles.
As legend has it, when owner Elmer Valentine opened Whisky in 1964, he hired female DJs to keep the party going between sets. With space at a premium in the tiny club, Valentine built a glass-walled box above the stage for the young, attractive women to spin and dance—the rest, as they say, is history.
The club’s history extends well beyond short skirts and fringed boots: It’s served as a launchpad for famous acts that included Buffalo Springfield, Janis Joplin, and The Doors. In the 1970s, the club became central to the Los Angeles punk scene with The Screamers, X, and the Mumps, who became Whisky fixtures.
Today you can sense the rich history in the “intimate, smoky, beer-spattered little place,” says Schruers. Bands of all genres—think everyone from Saving Abel to Sponge—play in the 500-seat establishment. The club is also known for tribute nights and live Rocky Horror Picture Show jam sessions, complete with a rowdy crowd. “Sometimes,” Schruers says with delight, “you can’t even get to the bar.”