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The Roxy is 50: Here’s how the landmark Sunset Strip venue is celebrating

The Roxy is 50: Here’s how the landmark Sunset Strip venue is celebrating

Fifty years ago, Neil Young and the Santa Monica Flyers walked on stage at a brand-new Sunset Strip nightclub and the Roxy Theatre was born.

On Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023 – 50 years to the day later – Young returns to the West Hollywood theater to celebrate the kind of anniversary few music clubs ever achieve.

In the half-century in between, the club co-founded by Lou Adler and the late Elmer Valentine, and still co-owned by Adler, now 89, with his son Nic Adler, has held a rare place in the history of pop culture and the dreams of artists and fans alike.

The Roxy Theatre was co-founded by music and film producer Lou Adler and club owner Elmer Valentine, who also owned the Whisky A Go Go and the Rainbow Bar & Grill. Adler, seen here second from left, who still co-owns the club with his son Nic Alder, also had a handful of investors, seen here with him outside the club around the time it opened. Left to right are concert promoter Bill Graham, Adler, Chuck Landis, who owned the Largo burlesque club that preceded the Roxy at its Sunset Strip location, Asylum Records founder and music manager Elliot Roberts, and music executive David Geffen. (Photo courtesy of the Roxy Theatre and Lou Adler)

Exene Cervenka, left, and John Doe of the band X perform at the Sunset Strip Music Festival on Friday, Aug. 17, 2012, at The Roxy in West Hollywood, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Maneskin performs on Monday, Nov. 1, 2021, at The Roxy Theatre in West Hollywood. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

John Lydon of The Sex Pistols performs to a sold-out crowd at the Roxy in West Hollywood, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 25, 2007. The concert marked the legendary British punk rock band’s first-ever club performance in Southern California. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Billy Zoom of the band X performs at the Sunset Strip Music Festival on Friday, Aug. 17, 2012, at The Roxy in West Hollywood, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Maneskin performs on Monday, Nov. 1, 2021, at The Roxy Theatre in West Hollywood. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

A neon sign above the Roxy Theatre is pictured Monday, May 11, 2020, in West Hollywood. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

A photo of the Roxy Theatre circa 1970. (Photo by Robert Landau, Courtesy of The Roxy)

Keanu Reeves of Dogstar performs onstage at The Roxy Theatre on July 18, 2023 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter, Getty Images for Dogstar )

Foo Fighters performed a NoCap livestream concert on Nov. 14, 2020 from the Roxy Theatre in West Hollywood during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy of NoCap)

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Between Young’s six shows over the Roxy’s first three nights and the end of 1973, the Roxy hosted multi-night runs by Cheech & Chong, Linda Ronstadt, Frank Zappa and Genesis.

And throughout the ’70s and ’80s it continued its role as the premiere small venue to play in Southern California, especially for newer artists poised on the precipice between unknown and famous.

In 1975, the Roxy booked significant shows by Billy Joel, Bob Marley & the Wailers, Bruce Springsteen, and Patti Smith. A year later, Jimmy Buffett played at least three different multi-night runs and the Ramones made their California debut. (A few years later, the Ramones filmed their concert scenes for “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” at the Roxy.)

Many of those, and more that came later, were recorded and released as live albums, including Springsteen performances from 1975 and 1978, a 1976 Marley show, Zappa’s 1973 shows, and Young’s club-opening run.

The Young album, “Roxy: Tonight’s the Night Live,” includes not only the first music ever played on the Roxy stage, but in Young’s wry banter a nod to the building’s previous life as Largo, a swanky strip and burlesque club.

“First topless girl we get up here gets one of these boots,” he says at the outset, referencing the cowboy boots that along with hubcaps and fake palm trees decorated the stage that night. (At several points in the live record he also notes the famous stripper Candy Barr used to perform in the same room.)

Lou Adler, a film and record producer, also used the venue for theatrical productions from time to time. “The Rocky Horror Show” had its United States premiere at the Roxy on March 24, 1974 and played for nine months. (The next year, Adler produced “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” movie.)

Not all the years that followed were as successful or groundbreaking for the Roxy. The Sunset Strip scene waned in the ’90s and early aughts. But the name and the reputation never lost its appeal. Adele played the 500-capacity room on her debut U.S. tour in 2008.

In the last decade, acts that long ago moved up to arenas, such as Foo Fighters and Arcade Fire, occasionally booked special small shows there. When actor Keanu Reeves and his band Dogstar decided to get back together after two decades, the Roxy was where they played their first show in July.

So yes, there’s a lot of history inside the black-boxed walls of the Roxy, and there’s a lot of reasons, and ways, to celebrate its living legacy as the 50th anniversary arrives this week.

A Grammy Museum tribute

A new exhibit, “The Roxy: 50 Years on the Sunset Strip,” opens at the Grammy Museum in downtown Los Angeles on Sept. 18 and runs into early 2024.

The exhibit, which draws heavily on Lou Adler’s personal archives, includes photographs of famed performers on the Roxy stage, as well as pictures of celebrities partying at On The Rox, the private club Adler created above the Roxy that attracted such famous folks as Jack Nicholson, John Lennon, Keith Moon, and Bernie Taupin.

The white piano that stars like Elton John, Springsteen and Lennon once played will be on display, as well as artifacts from “The Rocky Horror Show,” and a short film on the Roxy will be screened.

Go to grammymuseum.org/event/50andstillrockin for all the details.

50th anniversary shows

Neil Young and Crazy Horse kick off a run of special 50th anniversary shows at the Roxy on Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 20-21, and good luck to you trying to get one of roughly 1,000 tickets to those. The shows are sold-out benefits for The Bridge School and The Painted Turtle, organizations that help children with special needs that have long been supported by Young and Lou and Page Adler, respectively.

There are, however, other shows in the Roxy 50 series that might be easier, or at least not quite as impossible, to get into. They include:

Sept. 23: Wallows

Sept. 24: Stephen Marley recreating his late father Bob Marley’s 1976 album “Live at the Roxy,” with an early and a late show.

Oct. 4: Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul

Oct. 12: Metric, celebrating the 20th anniversary of “Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?”

Oct. 14: MAE, celebrating the 20th anniversary or “Destination Beautiful.”

Oct. 18: Rickie Lee Jones, playing an early and a late show.

Oct. 24: Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives

Oct. 27: STRFKR

Oct. 28: Nation of Language

Nov. 6: Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Nov. 30: Dillon Francis

For details on these shows and other 50th anniversary shows go to Theroxyturns50.com.

Sunset &  Vinyl Market

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The parking lot at the Roxy will turn into a record market from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 17. Vinyl vendors including Record Safari, Deadly Was, Boogie Maru Sounds, AudioPhileUSA, Shattered Music, Galaxy Music, Str33t Records and more will be on site.

The Roxy is located at 9009 Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood if you want to attend. And if all that record shopping gets you hungry, there will also be food vendors including the nearby Rainbow Bar & Grill and Holey Donuts.

The West Hollywood Library exhibit

The city of West Hollywood has its own exhibit on the landmark live-music club, with a mostly photographic exhibit titled “The Roxy: 50 and Still Rockin.’”

The exhibit, which opened earlier this month, was organized by the Roxy Theatre and curated by Jason Emmons of the Grammy Museum.

It runs through May 2024 at the West Hollywood Library, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd. For more information go to weho.org/community/arts-and-culture/visual-arts/library-exhibitions.