From Rick & The Ravens To The Doors: The Earliest Roots Of The Doors

The Doors were by far one of the most popular, fantastic, critically- and commercially-successful American rock bands of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Nevertheless, few actually know (even among their most longtime fans) the fact that the band was rooted in another very interesting musical projected entitled ‘Rick & The Ravens’ which unfolded during the early to mid 1960s.

Publicity photograph of The Doors from June 1968. From left to right: Jim Morrison (lead vocals), John Densmore (drums), Ray Manzarek (keyboards; bottom-right), and Robby Krieger (guitar; up-right). Image source: Commons Wikimedia

Surf rockers in Los Angeles

Rick & The Ravens were a rather obscure surf rock band which is the actual forerunner to The Doors. This musical project was established in 1961 and was centered around the Manzarek brothers (the name of the band itself actually partly stemmed from its guitarist, more specifically Rick Manzarek). While the band did not manage to release any major full-length record, they were signed with Aura Records and then Posae Records for three singles they successfully issued throughout their musical activity, all of them in 1965.

Initially, Rick & The Ravens had a line-up which consisted of Rick Manzarek on guitar, Jim Manzarek on organ and harmonica, Patrick Stonier on saxophone, Roland Biscaluz on bass guitar, and Vince Thomas on drums. All of the aforementioned had been sturdy members of the band from 1961 up until 1965.

Legendary keyboardist Ray Manzarek joined in 1962, after he had moved from Chicago to Los Angeles. In addition to playing the piano, Ray Manzarek also provided vocals. During the early years of Rick & The Ravens, the Manzarek brothers wrote their surname with an additional ‘c’ (i.e. ‘Manczarek’). It wasn’t until the beginnings of The Doors that keyboardist Ray Manzarek would change writing his name from Manczarek to Manzarek, as it is widely known.

Rick & The Ravens performed mostly for college student crowds, stemming from UCLA Film School, at the Los Angeles-based British bar Turkey Joint West located on Santa Monica Boulevard. The setlist of their concerts included their own original songs along covers of blues standards such as ‘I’m Your Doctor I Know What You Need’ by Muddy Waters, ‘Louie Louie’ by Richard Berry, ‘Money’ by Barrett Strong, or ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ by Willie Dixon.

Jim Morrison, the famous frontman, lead singer, and poet of The Doors, joined the band in 1965, at the invitation of his former college colleague Ray Manzarek. Morrison accepted the lead vocalist position in the band. Before formally accepting Ray’s invitation, Jim went on stage one time (also at Ray’s invitation) and performed the song ‘Louie Louie’ by Richard Berry, much to the astonishment of the public during that concert. Jim wasn’t quite prepared and performed the song rather hoarsely. However, later on, he formally agreed to join Rick & The Ravens and the rest is history. The final line-up of Rick & The Ravens would eventually turn into The Doors.

Before the actual transformation from Rick & The Ravens to The Doors, it is important to note the fact that the band recorded their first demo acetate at World Pacific Studios in Los Angeles for a session lasting only three hours. On their demo tape, the following songs were featured, more specifically: ‘Moonlight Drive’, ‘My Eyes Have Seen You’, ‘Hello, I Love You’, ‘Go Insane’ (simply featured as ‘Insane’ on the acetate disc), ‘End of the Night’, and ‘Summer’s Almost Gone’ (sound familiar already?). Previously, Rick & The Ravens only released the promotional singles ‘Soul Train/Geraldine’ and ‘Henrietta/Just For You’ through Aura Records in 1965 and ‘Big Bucket “T”/Rampage’ also in 1965, but this time through Posae Records.

The line-up for the recording session of the aforementioned songs on the 1965 World Pacific Studios demo was as follows:

  • Jim Morrison – lead vocals;
  • Ray Manzarek – keyboards and backing vocals;
  • Rick Manzarek – guitar;
  • Patricia Sullivan – bass guitar;
  • John Densmore – drums.

Therefore, the only Doors member not to be featured on the earliest demo acetate of the band as Rick & The Ravens is guitarist Robby Krieger. Subsequently, Morrison, Ray Manzarek, and Pat Sullivan were not satisfied with the feedback that their demo tape received. In turn, Rick Manzarek and Jim Manzarek followed suite and they both decided to quit the band. Rick and Jim noted in particular the fact that, according to them at that time, they felt the band was ‘going nowhere fast’.

Rick & The Ravens demo acetate disc/vinyl. Image source: Blogspot

Close-up view of the 1965 demo acetate disc/vinyl by Rick & The Ravens. Image source: Blogspot

With these departures from the band and no direction anymore as Rick & The Ravens, Morrison suggested the band name should be changed to The Doors (this happened after one month from the recording session of their demo). Shortly afterwards, legendary guitarist Robby Krieger joined the band in October 1965 (having previously played with drummer John Densmore in the band Psychedelic Rangers). As Ray Manzarek would start covering bass lines with the then newly introduced Fender Rhodes Piano Bass, bassist Pat Sullivan had to be eventually dropped from the band in December 1965, thereby closing in the established, classic Doors line-up Morrison-Manzarek-Krieger-Densmore. Few people actually know that The Doors was actually a quintet. From then on, the quartet did history as one of the leading musical acts of the American counterculture of the 1960s.

Last but not least, it is very important to note the fact that all songs featured on the 1965 World Pacific Studios demo acetate were later on featured on Doors albums which were released throughout the late 1960s.

That being said and without any further needless ado or unwanted spoilers on my behalf, down below you can listen to some of the original songs by Rick & The Ravens:

Documentation sources and external links:

    1. Rick & The Ravens on (in English)
    2. Rick and The Ravens on
    3. Rick & The Ravens band biography on
    4. The Doors on (in English)

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