Rock and Roll Behind the Orange Curtain (Photo Essay)

Rock and Roll Behind the Orange Curtain (Photo Essay)

To many, Orange County California is a sleepy series of bedroom communities and beautiful beaches. Not exactly a hotbed of rock ‘n roll history.

But sometimes, if you know how to look, there are surprises. As it turns out, the OC has a stellar rock ‘n roll history and I had lots of fun documenting much of it in my upcoming book, Rock ‘n Roll in Orange County – Music, Madness and Memories.

Here are some excerpts, 10 places worthy of any rock ‘n roll pilgrimage.

  • The Golden Bear

golden bear

Of all the music venues in Orange County, arguably the most beloved, historic and significant was the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach. The Golden Bear opened at 306 Pacific Coast Highway (just across from the pier) as a restaurant in the 1920s.Then, in 1963, Delbert Kauffman took over the club and established it as a folk venue.

In the mid-’60s, Kauffman brought in a variety of diverse acts that represented the modern folk movement that was taking place. The very first act they hosted was a group called Les Baxter’s Balladeers, which featured a young David Crosby. The Lovin’ Spoonful, Hoyt Axton, Buffalo Springfield and many other bands would appear at the Golden Bear in the three years the Kaufman ran the place.

George Nikas reopened the club in 1966 while also opening venues in nearby Seal Beach. With his guidance, the club continued to grow and was soon booking more national acts, including the Flying Burrito Brothers, Richie Havens and Janis Joplin, who appeared many times at the club. Nikas would operate the club until 1974, further establishing it as one of the most popular and acclaimed venues in Southern California.

  • The Everly Brothers break up


Somewhat controversially, the famed Everly Brothers, on July 14, 1973, at Knott’s Berry Farms’ John Wayne Theater (later to be called the Good Time Theater), nearly came to a permanent halt. They’d been bickering for years, but it all came to a head midway through the second of three scheduled shows.

The band’s manager came on the stage and halted the show. He explained to the audience that he was upset with Don Everly’s sloppy performance. Phil Everly in turn smashed his guitar on stage and then abruptly left. Don Everly announced to the stunned crowd that the Everly Brothers had split. Quoting Don, “The Everly Brothers died ten years ago.”

  • Cosmos club


Closer to the ocean, club owner Theodore “Ted” Nikas ran the Golden Bear, the Prison of Socrates, the Rouge et Noir and Cosmos in Seal Beach.

A tragic story that took place in 1966 is attached to the Cosmos club. The popular American gospel folk duo Joe and Eddie (Joe Gilbert and Eddie Brown) had finished a show at the club on August 6. On the way home, Gilbert was killed in a car accident. He left behind a wife and two sons, and Eddie Brown continued as a solo act.

Today, what was once Cosmos is now Hennessey’s Grill, serving up fine food to O.C.’ers on a daily basis.

  • The Marina Palace

marina palace

Just a few blocks away from Cosmos was the Marina Palace, a converted Quonset Hut that in the mid- to late ’60s hosted such headliners s Ike and Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder, Little Richard and then later in the ’60s, the Seeds, Strawberry Alarm Clock and early appearances by Alice Cooper and Van Morrison, among other shows. In 1974, the Marina Palace went out of business, though some of the ruins still remain today on Pacific Coast Highway in Seal Beach.

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2 Responses to "Rock and Roll Behind the Orange Curtain (Photo Essay)"

  1. Randy Smith   February 17, 2018 at 12:55 am

    Wow Chris! It is late at night in Boulder, Colorado…… I am 67 last time I looked. I knew Joe and Eddie and Bud and Travis. And Hoyt…… took away his girlfriend one night.. never forget his look as we walked away from The Cosmos.He said something to me… as she and I walked in front of him on our way out…… “I have always been trying to return to the womb…… ANYONES !” …. He was a very big guy! There was always a constant river of sweat flowing from his chin! …. He just kept playing! SO…. How are you doing these days ? We got old …. didn’t we ? My name is Randy Smith….. . You can reach me at: Thanks so much for your stories! Love to hear from you….

  2. Nola Felton   June 22, 2018 at 8:27 am

    Your research failed to find Melodyland, a Theater in the round where many artists performed. In 1966 I saw Simon and Garfunkel performing with The Mamas and The Papas. Eventually Melodyland became a church before it was finally torn down. If I remember correctly, it was on Disney Way east of Disneyland.
    I originally found this site because I was trying to confirm that Hennessy’s in Seal Beach used to be Cosmos.


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