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The Laurel Canyon Country Store's Interesting Musical History

The Laurel Canyon Country Store's Interesting Musical History
Bailey Pennick

The Canyon Country Store has been the makeshift cultural center of Laurel Canyon for a full century. Immortalized in the Doors song "Love Street," this deli-market is not a venue, but it's got historical music importance to spare, and continues to be -- as Jim Morrison put it -- the "store where the creatures meet."

Known for its winding narrow streets and terrifying mudslides, Laurel Canyon became a part of the city of Los Angeles in 1923. Its close proximity to Hollywood and ample unused hillside attracted the film industry's elite "photoplayers" including Clara Bow, Errol Flynn and Harry Houdini.

At the intersection of Kirkwood Drive and Laurel Canyon Blvd. a small inn called the Bungalow Lodge opened in the early 1900s (there's conflicting information on the exact date), catering primarily to hunters. The Lodge served as the burg's "downtown" and brought Laurel Canyon denizens together through nightly picnics, but the wood building went up in flames in 1929. Reconstruction using brick and stones (from the original river that flowed where Laurel Canyon Blvd. is now) began later that year, and the spot was re-fashioned as a local market. Thus, the Canyon Country Store was born.

The tiny market and deli was a hit, and it also lent itself to the gatherings of artists and musicians. At the height of the counterculture movement of the 1960s, Laurel Canyon became southern California's answer to Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. But instead of psychedelic-focused performers like Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, the canyon became a secluded haven for the more bohemian performers, including Joni Mitchell, Carole King and the Byrds.

Mitchell, Crosby and Eric Clapton, 1968
Mitchell, Crosby and Eric Clapton, 1968

Throughout the '60s and '70s, the Laurel Canyon Country Store acted as a meeting place for these musicians to write songs together and jam on the market's front patio. Mitchell wrote Ladies of the Canyon and Nash wrote CSNY's "Our House" about the neighborhood.

On what was the main connecting road between the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood, the artists hung out in the open. Mama Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas lived in the shop's basement (now a fancy wine cellar) for a spell, where she penned "Twelve Thirty," better known by its chorus "Young girls are coming to the Canyon."

Jim Morrison...

 

...and Pamela Courson probably frequented the country store most of all. The contentious pair lived right behind the market at 8021 Rothdell Trail and opened their home to seemingly all artists and travelers who came past. According to Laurel Canyon lore, during a Morrison family fight, folks hanging out at the market would watch Jim's books and clothing flying out of the top windows.

In the '80s the Canyon shifted from bohemian nucleus to secluded enclave, and rock stars flocked to the neighborhood for the quiet life. But legends continued to frequent the Country Store in search of their favorite goods, including chocolate. Mick Jagger came for the "English Kit Kats on hand," while David Bowie repeatedly purchased Flakes, his favorite Cadbury chocolate bar.

To this day the Canyon boasts famous residents, including George Clooney, Christina Applegate and Werner Hertzog; they're still known to stop by the Canyon Country Store.

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