John Densmore

John Densmore biography, photos and artwork

John Densmore was the drummer for The Doors from its formation in 1965 to its end in 1973. This is what he is best known for, but he has also worked as a dancer, actor, playwright and author.

Family life and influences

Born John Paul Densmore in December 1944, John Densmore played piano,  drumming in a marching band for his school in Los Angeles. His parents, Ray and Margaret Densmore, were Catholic and lived in Santa Monica, California. Even as a child, John loved improvising on piano tunes that he learnt, but when considering a second instrument, he didn’t originally choose the drums.

In fact, John wanted to play the clarinet, but was disallowed from doing so as he had braces, meaning that his orthodontist forbade him any attempts to wrap his mouth around reed instruments. Luckily for us, he didn’t disobey his orthodontist, and chose the drums as his instrument instead.

In his teenage years, John Densmore was inspired by Elvin Jones’s playing in John Coltrane’s band, and particularly enjoyed jazz music, a style that expresses itself in a lot of The Doors’ music.

Early Career and The Doors

Densmore met Robby Krieger whilst they were at UCLA together, and they formed ‘The Psychedelic rangers’. Densmore then joined Ray Manzarek, Manzarek’s two brothers and Jim Morrison in ‘Rick and the Ravens’, but when Manzarek’s brothers left in 1965, Krieger joined, and the four of them formed The Doors.

Densmore in fact quit the band at one point, as a reaction to Jim Morrison’s worsening depression, addictions, and self-destructive behaviour. However, the next day he returned. Krieger and Manzarek were resistant to his urges for the band to stop touring, but after a disastrous concert in 1970, they finally agreed with Densmore.

Upon Jim Morrison’s death, the group played as a trio until their dissolution in 1973.

Career after The Doors

John Densmore formed the Butts Band in 1973 with Robby Krieger, but this was short-lived; the group disbanded in 1975. After this, Densmore freestyled as a solo artist – quite literally. He became a dancer, touring for two years, and in 1984 went on to screenplay, performing at the La Mama Theatre in New York.

From 1973 to the present, John sporadically wrote and published some plays and books, and famously filed a lawsuit against Krieger and Manzarek, who were using The Doors branding in a 21st century revival of the group. He won this case, and in ‘The Doors Unhinged’ (2013), reveals his victorious fight against Manzarek and Krieger to stop them using The Doors’ branding. The book also explains his stand against commercialisation, refusing to allow multinationals such as Cadillac and Buick the use of The Doors’ songs.


John Desmore has been married three times, and had many relationships overall. He had a brief encounter with Pamela Courson in 1966, although she is better remembered for being Jim Morrison’s girlfriend. He then met Julia Brose in 1967, and during their relationship, Julia found out that she was pregnant. The couple had an abortion in Mexico whilst The Doors were on tour there, and John married her in 1970 with Robby  and Lynne Krieger as best man and bridesmaid. However, their marriage was brief, and they separated in 1972.

A few years following the divorce, John married Debbie Fife, but this relationship didn’t last either, and they divorced a few years later.

Next, John Densmore married actress Leslie Neale in 1990, and they had one daughter. Unfortunately, they did separate in 2006 due to irreconcilable differences.

Currently, Densmore is in a relationship with Ildiko Von Somogyi, and has been since 2012.


In 2010, Modern Drummer magazine noted that Densmore’s explorations helped to give The Doors’ music its colour and flair:

“There are many reasons to love this slyly inventive, often underrated drummer.”

John Densmore is still active, sharing his political views with the world, and revisiting his time in The Doors. In 2010 he published ‘The Doors Unhinged: Jim Morrison’s Legacy Goes on Trial’, the story of The Doors who, after Jim Morrison’s death, began to unravel at the seams, eventually leading to a court case which split them.

Robby Krieger

Robbie Krieger biography photos and artwork

Robby Krieger joined The Doors in 1965 as their lead guitarist, writing and co-writing many of their songs. He is listed as one of the best guitarists ever by Rolling Stone magazine.

Family life and influences

Robert Alan Krieger was born in 1946 to a Jewish family in Los Angeles. He was fascinated early on by classical music, but at seventeen started playing guitar. His musical style moved through flamenco to blues, then to jazz before settling into rock and roll. However, we can still see these different styles in songs by the doors such as ‘Spanish Caravan’, where Krieger’s flamenco playing comes through.

Robby mentions that he was influenced in his playing by flamenco records by Sabicas, Mario Escudero and Carlos Montoya, only really getting into blues at high school. He liked Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Mace Lipscomb, and Robert Johnson, for his blues themes. Krieger professed his love for Bob Dylan and folk music, as well as Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Bud and Travis, and Woody Guthrie.

Early Career and The Doors

Robby studied physics and Indian music at UCLA, and encountered John Densmore during his time there. They began playing together, John on the drums, and Robby on the guitar, improvising blues melodies. Whilst at a class on meditation, Robby Krieger met Ray Manzarek, and the two halves of the band were brought together as Manzarek and Jim Morrison invited Krieger and Densmore to join the band.

Robby Krieger’s broad musical tastes and skilled playing were combined with his flair for musical composition, and went a long way into helping The Doors to establish themselves as a unique brand of music.

After Jim Morrison’s death in 1971, Robby Krieger continued playing with Ray Manzarek and John Densmore for two years, sharing lead vocals with Manzarek on their two subsequent albums.

Career after The Doors

After The Doors disbanded in 1973, Krieger played in the Butts Band with Densmore, releasing a couple of albums. In 1977, he released his first solo album, Robby Krieger and Friends, which enjoyed some success.

Since then, he has been in various bands, and has also had steady success as a solo artist. In 2002, he joined Ray Manzarek in forming ‘Doors of the 21st Century’, but following a court case against them from John Densmore, they became ‘Riders on the Storm’.


Krieger has been married to Lynne Krieger since 1972, and they have had one son, Waylon Krieger. Although Lynne briefly had a relationship with Jim Morrison before Robby, they have been together ever since.


Robby Krieger is most known for having played a Gibson SG Standard, which he only ended up using as it was the best guitar that he could afford at the time. Since then, his net worth has risen to $15 million, so he certainly no longer has that problem. Although he has played with a Gibson ES-335s and ES-355s, he has always found the SG most comfortable, and been drawn back to it.

Unfortunately, Krieger no longer has the original SG which he bought so many years ago, as it was stolen. However, he says that the ’67 which he uses is practically identical, so he still uses this all the time.

Additionally, Gibson recently reissued a Robby Krieger SG, copying his current 1967 SG, but using the neck of a ’61, as he preferred it. The guitar is made out of Grade A tonewoods, with a Maestro Vibrola tailpiece for performance versatility, and a traditional Lyre plate to complete the retro look.

In terms of amps rigs, when with The Doors, Robby used a Magnatone with two 12″ speakers. After a deal with Acoustic, he and Ray used the Acoustic 260 model for a time, switching later to some Twin Reverbs rebuilt with JBL speakers. However, Robby currently uses two Fender Hot Rod Devilles.


Krieger still plays guitar, in albums and at concerts. The Rolling Stone call him one of the greatest guitarists of all time, as he had such “improvisatory flair” in The Doors.

“Schooled in flamenco and jazz, Robby Krieger pushed beyond rock at a time when most players were still bound to the blues.”

Not having a bass or rhythm player meant that Krieger had to, in some ways, be three players simultaneously. However, this allowed him to really develop his skill and style, and will be remembered as one of the best guitarists of all time.

Ray Manzarek

Ray Manzarek biography photos and artwork

Ray Manzarek was best known as the keyboard player or ‘keyboard bass’ player for The Doors, which he co-founded with Jim Morrison in 1965. He was present on all of the eight albums made by The Doors until they disbanded in 1973.

Family life and influences

Ray Manzarek was born in Chicago, Illinois, as Raymond Daniel Manczarek Jr. to Polish parents Helen and Raymond Manczarek in 1939. Originally, Ray wanted to be a basketball player, until he received an ultimatum from his coach that he could only play defence, or not at all.  Ray swiftly proceeded to quit basketball, and learnt to play the piano instead.

He spent a brief time in the army, but refused to sign the security clearance which would have allowed him to have a role as a ‘spy’, analysing intelligence and transmissions that came through on a radio. This was because, after signing himself to secrecy, he would have been forever barred from visiting Poland, although he was of Polish descent, as, at the time, Poland was part of the Soviet Union, and was therefore considered an enemy to the US. After a few months, he was discharged as a PFC (Private First Class) and went to study cinematography at UCLA in 1962, where he met Jim Morrison.

Musically, Ray Manzarek was drawn to the Blues sound which he heard in his late teens, and was a fan of jazz, like his band-mate, John Densmore. This musical style was perfectly complementary to the darker, more brooding personality of Jim Morrison, and helped The Doors to access their own unique sound.

Early Career and The Doors

After a chance encounter with Jim Morrison on Venice Beach in California, the two co-founded The Doors. Ray then met the next band members, Robby Krieger and John Densmore, at a lecture on Transcendental Meditation, and proceeded to recruit them for the band.

Ray Manzarek acted as the keyboard player, and also played the baselines for songs written by The Doors, as they had no bass player.  Such was his skill at this role that he is considered by USA Today as “one of the best keyboardists ever.”

Ray also sang backing vocals for the band, but was occasionally lead vocalist, for instance in covers of ‘Close To You’ or ‘You Need Meat’. After Jim’s death in 1971, he and Robby Krieger shared lead vocals on subsequent albums, such as ‘Other Voices’ and ‘Full Circle’.

Career after The Doors

After The Doors disbanded in 1973, Ray Manzarek played in other bands, such as Nite City, who released two albums in 1977 and 1978. His memoir (Light My Fire: My Life with The Doors) was published in 1998, and after a collaboration with trumpeter Bal in 2006, he produced the ‘electronica’ album ‘Atonal Head’, which incorporates elements of ethnic, classical, jazz and rock music.  With these and many other publications and albums from 1973 to 2013, Manzarek has been on the music scene for a long time after his depart from The Doors.


Ray met Dorothy Aiko Fujikawa at UCLA, marrying her soon after in 1967, with Jim Morrison and Pamela Courson as witnesses. This relationship was comparatively lacking in melodrama, and the happy couple stayed married until Ray’s death in 2013.


In March 2013, aged 74, Ray Manzarek was diagnosed with  cholangiocarcinoma, a rare cancer found in the bile ducts which drain bile form the liver into the small intestine. He reconciled with estranged John Densmore before his death, and after his passing, Densmore and Robby Krieger performed a tribute to Manzarek, reuniting for the first time in 15 years in 2016. That day would have been Ray’s 77th birthday.


After Ray’s death, both Robby Krieger and John Densmore had great words for Ray Manzarek.

“I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of my friend and bandmate Ray Manzarek today. I’m just glad to have been able to have played Doors songs with him for the last decade. Ray was a huge part of my life and I will always miss him.” – Robby Krieger

“There was no keyboard player on the planet more appropriate to support Jim Morrison’s words. Ray, I felt totally in sync with you musically. It was like we were of one mind, holding down the foundation for Robby and Jim to float on top of. I will miss my musical brother.” – John Densmore

In terms of a musical legacy, that has most certainly been left behind by Ray Manzarek, as his highly innovative playing gave The Doors the unique sound which they are known for, and also allowed him to have continued success after he left the group.

Jim Morrison

Jim Morrison biography photos and artwork

Jim Morrison was the lead singer of The Doors from 1965 to his untimely death in 1971, and is known for his unique voice and presence on the blues and psychedelic rock scene. He was also known as ‘The Lizard King’ and ‘Mr Mojo Risin’, an anagram of his name, and became iconic in his representation of youth counter-culture.

Family life and influences

Jim Morrison was born as James Douglas Morrison on December the 8th, 1943, to parents Clara Virginia and George Stephen in Melbourne, Florida. He had two younger siblings, a sister, Anne, and a brother, Andrew. In terms of the formative events of his early life, Jim often put much emphasis on an accident that he witnessed as a child, when a truck overturned and left a group of Native Americans bleeding at the side of the desert highway.

Many references to this particular event are made in songs produced by The Doors, namely ‘Peace Frog’  from ‘The Morrison Hotel’ in 1970 –

“Indians scattered on dawn’s highway bleeding
Ghosts crowd the young child’s
Fragile eggshell mind…”

Even posthumously, in their songs ‘Dawn’s Highway’ and ‘Ghost Song’, the group acknowledged this key event in Jim’s life.

Bizarrely, despite all of this, Jim’s family tells the story differently. Jim’s father explained that the family drove past a reservation, and that Jim was upset by a crying Native American at the scene. However, his sister even argued that Jim liked to exaggerate the story when he told it, and that it did not have such a profound influence on him as he claimed.

“He enjoyed telling that story and exaggerating it. He said he saw a dead Indian by the side of the road, and I don’t even know if that’s true.”

Jim demonstrated a rapacious enthusiasm for reading early on, and was soon reading obscure texts covering sixteenth and seventeenth century demonology, and the works of many philosophers and poets. He was particularly influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche, whose views on Apollonian and Dionysian duality permeate through Jim’s prose, poetry, and songs.

Early Career and The Doors

Jim briefly met Ray Manzarek at UCLA, where they studied cinematography as undergraduates, and later formed the group in the summer of 1965, where they had an accidental encounter. Manzarek was impressed by Morrison’s poetic lyrics, and they later added Robby Krieger and John Densmore to the mix.

Jim’s idiosyncratic presence on stage and The Doors’ distinctive brand of psychedelic rock was finally fruitful when their second single, ‘Light My Fire’, hurtled to number one on The Billboard in 1968.


Jim Morrison spent the majority of his life in a relationship with Pamela Courson, whom he met at college. Though Jim had other casual relationships and more serious ones, this seems to have been the most long-lasting, up until his death in 1971. Ray Manzarek commented on their relationship in ‘The Life and Death of Jim Morrison’, 1991:

“I never knew another person who could so complement his bizarreness.”

Despite the fact that they never actually got married, when Pamela died (after Jim) she was buried as Pamela Susan Morrison. He also dedicated his published poetry books to her, and based many of his songs on their tumultuous, yet thriving, relationship.

On the other hand, Jim also had regular romantic and sexual experiences with ‘groupies’, fellow musicians, and others in the industry. These included Pamela Des Barres (a groupie), Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane, and
16 Magazine’s Gloria Stavers. He was also in a relationship with Mary Werbelow as a teenager, who said in a 2005 interview that Jim had confessed that his first three albums were about her.


At the forefront of the music scene, Jim’s public and private life became increasingly entangled, causing his drug and alcohol addictions to worsen. Being so relentlessly in the public eye was difficult for Jim, and in a catastrophic culmination of events, he was confronted by a police officer in Conneticut, 1967. While he was backstage at a concert, drunk, high, and making out with a woman before the show, the officer pepper sprayed him, provoking an outburst onstage where he delivered a profane monologue laced with imprecations. This resulted in his subsequent arrest, which sparked riots.

With his condition so rapidly deteriorating, after recording his sixth and final album, Jim Morrison took a break from song-writing and went to Paris with Pamela Courson. However, he continued to be plagued by depression and addictions, resulting in his death at the age of 27. No autopsy was taken after his demise, as there was no evidence of foul play. As a result, there have been many conspiracy theories surrounding Jim Morrison’s death. For instance, some speculate that the true cause of Jim’s death was a heroin overdose, and imply a cover-up of these events.


Jim Morrison was most certainly an influencer, and as the figurehead for The Doors, he inspired many through his songs and his poetry. He is highly regarded as the quintessential rock star, with his leather trousers and dynamic, charismatic personality.

In Fatboy Slim’s ‘Sunset’, we find Jim Morrison’s poem ‘Birds of Prey’, and Radiohead overtly reference him in their song ‘Anyone Can Play Guitar’, and numerous other artists have attributed elements of their music or inspiration to him.

In addition, a fossil of a large lizard was found in June of 2013, and was named the  Barbaturex morrisoni after Morrison himself, due to his common sobriquet ‘The Lizard King’, a nickname taken from his poem ‘The Celebration of the Lizard King’.