Monday, November 24, 2008

1961-1968 - P.J.'s for Cool Jazz


  • P.J.'s
Eddie Cano
Trini Lopez
Barney Kessel
Joe Castro
Watusi
Bossa Nova
June Christy
Standells
Bobby Fuller Four
P.J.'s Night Club (after hours club)
8151 Santa Monica Boulevard
West Hollywood



P.J.'s opened in February of 1961. The new owners were Paul Raffles, Chuck Murano, Bill Daugherty and Elmer Valentine.

The owners aimed to create a late night hot spot that nightclub performers and other Hollywood celebrity types would want to go to after the other clubs closed down.

It advertised itself as having  fine food,  fair price and fantastic jazz. No argument here.
P.J.s' offered a great, cozy jazz atmosphere.  There was no cover charge, no minimum and no pretense. 


source: LA Times

The owners could not recall why they named it P.J.'s. Maybe there was place in New Orleans or Miami named P.J.'s. 

Initially,  P.J.'soffered a few hip gimmicks, such as - earphones for each guest to listen to his or her favorite stereo record - or a wood burning set to carve your name into the white oak tabletops - (don't know how long that great idea lasted).

From the get-go  P.J.'s wanted to be the show people's club.

Indeed, from 1961 thru 1967 - P.J'.s was probably the hippest and swingin'est club in town. It had a capacity of 485 people within its two showrooms. 

P.J.'s had two rooms - the Main Room (back) and, - the Junior Room (front).  Progressive jazz was often played in the more intimate front Junior room, which was smaller.

For years the club featured the Eddie Cano Quartet in the front room. 
Eddie Cano had developed a strong rhythmic style.  His music often switched styles from Latin to straight jazz. 


Eddie Cano was an Afro-Cuban jazz and Latin jazz pianist.  He had a hit LP  A Taste of Honey recorded live at P.J.'s. 

Cano's music  drew on the new dance craze music taking place at this time, such as the Cha cha cha, and the Watusi.
 
The modern  jazz movement was very popular in the early 1960's. Most of the old supper clubs in Hollywood and the Sunset Strip had become stodgy and old fashioned. Many of the better acts had left town for Las Vegas. 

P.J.s was a showcase for new music that was hip and happenin' and popular with a younger crowd. 
 
The Back Room was a never ending jam session provided by the great legendary jazz guitarist Barney Kessel and swinging singer  Trini Lopez.




1962- early 1964 at P.J.'s
Trini Lopez played P.J.'s for two years. Lopez helped to make P.J.'s swingingest club in town. During this time period,  P.J.'s was always packed!  Elmer Valentine was the manager here. He noticed that there was a pent up demand for an exciting dance club that would cater to a hip younger crowd. However, at this time, no dancing was allowed. Those in the audience had to star in  there seats.
 
Jan 1962 - There was an alteration to the bar and lounge.
March 1962 - The marionette theater was converted into a 187 seat showroom. 





P.J.'s had the swingin'est crowd in town -  and it jumped from 5 pm to 5 am. 


L.A. Times

 A band called the Joe Casto's Trio played in the Main Room nightly from 9 - 2 am. Joe Casto was an accomplished  bebop jazz pianist and drummer.  He called his style aggressively swingin'

Joe Castro was friends with tobacco heiress and jazz enthusiast Doris Dukes. They together with Duke Ellington formed Clover Records. Castro recorded  Bossa Nova All the Way recorded a Duke's Falcon Lair. 




 In early 1960's  jazz clubs started popping up all over town. Other late night jazz hot spots which  catering to a younger hipper crowd included: Manne Hole on Cahuenga, the Cinegrill at the Roosevelt Hotel, the Cresendo, the the Golden Violin and the Le Crazy Horse on Sunset.





P.J.'s  was frequently by many celebrities. After hours celebrity regulars included Joey Bishop, Steve Allen, Don Rickles, Lenny Bruce, Ann Margret and Henry Fonda. 

In 1963 - 1964, the latest dance craze was sweeping the nation. 

Doing the Watusi

UCLA photo archive

March 1964 -  dancing was introduced at P.J.'s - 
YEAH!  The owners removed the piano bar in the back room, installed a dance floor, and the Twist, Mashed Potatoes, Watusi the Swim, the Bird etc were demonstrated for the first time at the club at 8151 Santa Monica Boulevard.





1964 photo: UCLA photo archives

JUNE 1964 - 
When dancing finally came to P.J.'s  - the response was overwhelming. The nitery undertook  a $125,000 expansion program - enlarging the club's main room by 2,000 sq ft - built out to the rear portion.  It also greatly enlarged the present dance floor - which was now on two different levels.  The upper dance floor had 154 seats. 



1964
P.J.'s was L.A.'s first complete entertainment center and destination  and - there was a no- charge policy.  

Edie Cano's Trio remained in the front room, food was still served till 4 a.m. 

The new back room offered dancing to new rock bands. This is where The Standell's and Bobby Fuller Four  played. 


photo from: flickr
October 1965 
PJ's hosted a Halloween Mask Ball. Three bands played including the Eddie Cano Goup on the dance floor. The  honored guest included Johnny Mercer, the Four Freshmen and June Christy
The judges were Gary Crosby, Tommy Sands, and Stella Stevens.







Nov 1965
PJ's had three band rooms. 
In the front corner of the bar was Eddie Cano and his group.  
On one dance floor The Standells played.
 One the other dance floor the Jerry Wright Trio. 

There was the vast difference in patrons. Some of them were bearded beatniks into cool jazz, some were youngsters into the new rock beat,  others were well dressed ladies and gentlement. Who could tell who danced to what music.  Even the owners,  Paul Raffles and Bill Daugherty didn't understand what was happening here.  - the LA Times reported.

November  1965 
Bobby Fuller Four played an engagement at P.J.'s  dance floor and recorded a live album there. 

1965 - Music was going through a revolution.  In 1964 the Beatles had started the first wave of the British invasion. 

The times they were a changing. Teen agers were restless. The Sunset Strip became a teen age hangout.  They were dropping in and dropping out, challenging the establishment.
Bobby Fuller Four's I Fought the Law would be a  teenage anthem for years to come.

Just after I fought the Law became a big hit, Bobby Fuller was found  dead in a parked car. 
Cause of his mysterious death ruled a suicide by the police, but by many believed it was a murder.




1967-1968
P.J.'s hung in there as a jazz hang out for a couple more years. There was more competition from other clubs such as Shelly's Manne Hole, the Ice House in Pasaden and the Lighthouse.  

Edie Can remained popular there. 

April 1967 

Frances Faye played PJ's.

(Side note: In late 1965 Paul Raffles and business partner Doherty took over the lease at the old Ciro's club on Sunset Boulevard  and turned it into a teenage spot called It's Boss
Raffles planed to use younger live performers at the club.
 Elmer Valentine opened the Whisky A Go Go. He would also open The Trip - formerly the Crescendo.) 

Edie Cano's band continued to play at P.J.'s until it closed 1968.

February 1968 
Paul Raffles decided to close PJ's . Raffles was busy working in television and motion picture business. 
 
March 1968 - The day the music stopped.
P.J.'s -  long a bulwark of the Hollywood nightclub scene for the last seven years -  was sold to the owners of Sneaky Pete's, a well known restaurant of the sunset Strip. They continued to call the club P.J.'s.
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17 comments:

Anonymous said...

August and September 1966, Larry Devers and the Endeavors also played PJ's.

Anonymous said...

The Sin-Say-Shuns played for a long 26 week engagement, one of the longest engagements, and along side of the Eddie Cano Trio, 1965-1966. Members of the Sin-Say-Shuns rock group were Clark Lunde (lead singer and Bass Player), Bill Eidsen (guitarist), Bob Cottle (Drummer) and Tony Visco (Keyboard) They made their first "Recorded Live at PJ's in Hollywood" album (available from internet vinyl providers) with the song "I'll Be there" as the "A" side release, (written and arranged by Bill Eidsen and Clark Lunde) along with numerous other songs co-written by the group, and some by Bill Eidsen (Guitarist). Most all the originally released songs on their first album were from Clark Lunde singing Lead, which was, "by far", the best the group would ever attain, (from a quality viewpoint) due to his prior professional training and singing background. While the Sin-Say-Shuns had a fresh quality to their songs and arrangements, they lacked the professional management support and expertise from their manager (Bill Layne) and never received a professional studio mix to their songs, to spur them on to higher levels. The Sin-Say-Shuns played numerous engagements in the Southern California areas, and also seattle, Washington while releasing their first Album "Recorded Live at PJ's" in Hollywood. After their return to the Hollywood nightclubs, their demand diminished, as Clark Lunde chose to leave the group after the lead Guitarist (Bill Eidson) had physical fights with nightclub patrons. The original recording group "The Sin-Say-Shuns group finaly broke up after a final fist fight encountered during an Eagle Rock nightclub performance around 1966. While the group later engaged a new bass player and released a new single, (written while Clark Lunde was part of the group earlier), the new 45 release of "All my Lonely Waiting" never received ratings or entered bill board chart areas.

Anonymous said...

I wonder when this place became the "Starwood"? In the late 70's it was a rock-punk club. Wonder when that happened? The Starwood closed around 1982 or so.

Jerry Patrick said...
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Jerry Patrick said...
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Jerry Patrick said...
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Jerry Patrick said...

Great to find this. My father, Jerry Wright, sang there for a few years, and even put out an album produced by Lou Adler titled, "Jerry Wright, Live from PJ's" Sure wish there were pics of all the happenings back then!

Jerry Patrick said...

Great to find this. My father, Jerry Wright, sang there for a few years, and even put out an album produced by Lou Adler titled, "Jerry Wright, Live from PJ's" Sure wish there were pics of all the happenings back then!

Jerry Patrick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jerry Patrick said...

Great to find this. My father, Jerry Wright, sang there for a few years, and even put out an album produced by Lou Adler titled, "Jerry Wright, Live from PJ's" Sure wish there were pics of all the happenings back then!

Jerry Patrick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jerry Patrick said...

Great to find this. My father, Jerry Wright, sang there for a few years, and even put out an album produced by Lou Adler titled, "Jerry Wright, Live from PJ's" Sure wish there were pics of all the happenings back then!

Jerry Patrick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jerry Patrick said...

Great to find this. My father, Jerry Wright, sang there for a few years, and even put out an album produced by Lou Adler titled, "Jerry Wright, Live from PJ's" Sure wish there were pics of all the happenings back then!

Clark Lunde said...

The owners of PJ's back then were very accomodating, wth great vision for fronting new enertainers. They also owned "The Losers" Night Club down the street on La Cienega (restaurant row) The Losers club was the 1st topless nightclub to open in the area getting a lot of attention then.

I met Jerry while working at PJ's during our 26 week engagement. He was a super nice person and had a great commercial voice, along with a great personality. Also knew Lou Adler personally, and had met Jerry long before he cut his album (he was especially proud of that album and had great hopes of recording more) PJ's was a special place where we all knew Eddie Cano, and Trio. We met and got to know Walter Wonderly (a unique organ sound, even to this day), along with many, many others. PJ's was the place to be and a hopeful spin-off to those entertainers and musicians aspiring to achieve greater heights by meeting those already well known artists, producers and entertainment managers that would frequent the club. I still remember Johnny Mathis comming in where he would sit in a dark corner by himself and listen to Jerry play and sing, and maybe stay a few minutes longer to listen to the rock music we would play. I think we all enjoyed PJ's during the mid 60's. It was a special place with memorable times not to be repeated since. Thank you PJ's. Clark Lunde "Sin-Say-Shuns"

Anonymous said...

I went to the starwood in '74 and didn't get the impression it had just opened so sometime before that

Frank Mitchell Bradley said...

Does anyone know the owners names who owned both PJ's and Losers?