Some of you may have noticed not as many Doors Examiner articles in your mailboxes lately, here’s the reason. I’ve been working on a book, “Strictly from Hunger!” which is the story of John Morton and his band Hunger! In 1968 Hunger! was one of the biggest up and coming bands of the Sunset Strip. John Morton, who started the group that became Hunger! first met Jim Morrison when his group, the Outcasts won the Teenage Fair in Portland, Oregon in June of 1967. When Morton and the Outcasts moved to Los Angeles they discovered they had moved in next to Jim Morrison. Not only will “Strictly From Hunger!” tell John Morton and Hunger’s story it will show a dimension of Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek that others weren’t privy to and hasn’t been told in public before. Here’s part of the first chapter of “Strictly From Hunger!”
Don Koss, the popular local DJ in Portland, Oregon stepped up to the microphone and introduced us. “And now we have the number one band and the winners of the Teenage Fair, The Outcasts!” Our drummer Don Marrs threw his drumsticks into the air, then slammed them on the snare. We broke into our medley of the Young Rascals tunes ‘Good Lovin,’ ‘Lovelight,’ and ‘Groovin.’ It was flawless. Our fans and the audience were cheering! We had beat eighty-five other bands. The Outcasts, my band, was the number one band in Portland! All of the sudden we were celebrities. Standing on that stage, lights in our eyes, sweat pouring off of us, we were instantly hometown stars when only the year before we had lost the very same contest, we’d come in last place, and we weren‘t sure the band was even going to survive.
Milling around the stage after the show basking in our win, it was my first encounter with The Doors. The promoter of the Teenage Fair, Rick Desart knew he could draw a large crowd with a lot of bands, a popular local DJ, prizes that included a $500, radio airplay, a recording contract, and bringing in up and coming national acts. Around Portland it was rumored that he had connections in L.A. In June 1967 The Doors were the up and coming band. “Light My Fire” had been released as a single, but it was still climbing the charts. Not yet the number one song in the country, The Doors weren’t yet the band they were about to become.
It was also the night I heard “Light My Fire” for the first time and I knew they were light years ahead of the Portland scene and that music was taking a new direction. The Doors weren’t affected nor did they have any onstage gimmicks. They were real. Jim Morrison hung onto the mic like he was making love to it, his eyes were closed. I imagine he was somewhere else. The words drifted out of his mouth like honey even as he yelled “try to set the night on fire!” They weren’t well received that night. For the most part, the rock scene in Portland was still into cover songs. We still wore matching outfits, knee high boots and had choreographed steps. They looked liked they were from another world with their long hair and sandals, their hippy style was strange. Jim was dressed like a poet laureate, black shirt, rolled up sleeves, tight black leather pants swinging from his hips, long wavy hair, a real lady killer. Ray Manzarek had what I call a California cool, he looked like a surfer with long blond hair, sideburns, blue paisley shirt, light brown pants and brown sandals. All I remember of the guitarist Robby Krieger was a flashy red Gibson SG fuzzed out guitar, and the drummer, John Densmore was tight and on the money. The different sound they came up with no one was ready for. It’s like The Doors were sending a message to the higher part of my brain and it transcended into a message that was real and true. I was intrigued by The Doors. It was then that I began to think beyond three chord frat songs.
Jim was off in a corner with a bunch of sophisticated looking women hippies signing autographs telling them stories of the adventurous vagabond and his love for film. The women were mesmerized. I could see the desire in there eyes from where I was. Robby Krieger and John Densmore were on the edges of Jim‘s circle talking with the women trying to meet Jim about their gear and how they got their unique sound. I went up to Ray Manzarek, who was off by himself, he had just lit a brown Sherman cigarette snapping closed a gold lighter. I introduced myself.
“Hi, I’m John Morton, guitarist for The Outcasts.”
“Ray,” he said, extending his hand. “Portland’s a groovy town, a little backward and weird but people here are friendly. I like the gold satin shirts with the long lapels you guys wear, I wouldn‘t mind ordering one. Who’s your tailor?”
“Our bass player’s mom made them.” We both laughed. “We’re kind of behind the times here! Folk music and Peter, Paul and Mary, and ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’ is hot right now! Really not my scene.”
“Well, ‘Light my Fire’ wouldn’t even had made it on the radio if it wasn’t for ‘Puff the Magic Dragon.’”
“I like your keyboard and bass set up.” I said.
“It’s easier than having another member in the band.” Just then Jim Morrison glided over.
“Hey, man, where’s a good place to get something to eat?”
“Lido’s is great for Italian food and a lot of performers who come to town eat there and nobody will bother you.” I said.
“Thanks man! Great!” and that was my first meeting with Jim Morrison. Little did I know it wouldn‘t be the last.
For more information on Hunger! And want to keep up with the progress of “Strictly From Hunger” visit the Facebook page Strictly from the 60’s and Beyond.
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