As long as there has been a Los Angeles rock scene, there has been the Whisky a Go Go club. And as long as there has been the Whisky, there has been Mario. As co-founder of the Whisky and nicknamed "The Godfather of the L.A. Rock Scene," Mario is such a part of L.A.'s musical history that no one ever calls him by anything other than his first name. This month Mario turns seventy-five, but don't think that he's planning on slowing down. "Retirement is for old people," he says. "I'm only seventy-five. My aunt died at 105. I figure I got at least another 25 more to go."
On Saturday (Jan. 16), the Whisky hosted an all-star party in honor of Mario's birthday, and to begin a weeklong celebration of the Whisky a Go Go's thirty-fifth anniversary. Kicking off the evening with his blend of rockin' soul, Johnny Rivers burned through a set that included "Secret Agent Man" and "Memphis," the Chuck Berry song from Rivers' album Live at the Whisky a Go Go that became his first hit in 1964. Rivers' smooth and soulful set would be a tough act for anyone to follow, let alone Nancy Sinatra. Fortunately, she brought a top-notch band (including studio session veterans Hal Blaine on drums and Don Randi on keyboards) that made even her silly renditions of "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Born to be Wild" sound good.
Robby Krieger showed off his deft guitar skills on some Doors tunes, as well as a jazzy instrumental piece, backed by a youthful band that included Krieger's son Waylon on rhythm guitar. Doors drummer John Densmore joined them to close the segment with "Love Me Two Times" and "Light My Fire."
The Grass Roots were joined by Phil "Fang" Volk
and Drake Levin of Paul Revere and the Raiders
(who took the stage in full revolutionary regalia) to bring the
night to a fine close with songs from both bands, including a
spirited performance of the Raiders' "Kicks."
All evening, Mario, surrounded by his family and friends, beamed with pride. Retirement? Forget it. "I'm gonna stay here," he says, "and I'm gonna rock & roll 'til I'm gone" . . .