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At Grammy Museum, spirit of protest will offer break from awards

February 11, 2012 |  4:30 pm

Sunset Strip Riot

While fans wait to find out if Adele, Rihanna or Bruno Mars walks away with a golden gramophone at Sunday night's Grammy Awards, trouble is brewing at the Grammy Museum. Preparations have been underway for an exhibition that looks at a tumultuous period in the Los Angeles music scene.

Part of the Getty-sponsored Pacific Standard Time, "Trouble in Paradise: Music and Los Angeles, 1945-1975," examines how the changing urban, ethnic and economic landscape collided with the diverse music scenes, significantly reshaping the city's post-World War II identity.

On view will be photographs by Henry Diltz, who covered the Laurel Canyon folk scene; Robert Landau, famous for his shots of Sunset Strip billboards; and George Rodriguez, who captured the bedlam of the Sunset Strip riots. One fourth-floor wall will be covered with a blown-up black and white photo of Scrivner's Drive-In, L.A.'s first 24-hour drive-in where DJ Art Laboe would broadcast live from Hollywood.

Marvin Gaye billboard The multimedia exhibition, running Feb. 22 through June 3, will feature an interactive timeline of events and listening stations focusing on an array of L.A.-centric music genres including surf rock, jazz, R&B, folk rock and the East L.A. Chicano sound.

"The joy of this show is being able to share the art and music of familiar musicians such as the Beach Boys, Ritchie Valens and Johnny Otis but also highlight bands and singers too often sidelined and marginalized," said USC professor Josh Kun, co-curator of the show along with Grammy Museum director Robert Santelli. Kun lists jazz singer and pianist Hadda Brooks, jazz pianist Horace Tapscott, and Chicano rock bands Thee Midniters and Cannibal & the Headhunters as examples.

 "I want people to come away learning about all the different communities and layers of music in L.A.," he said. "But also think about the contrast between how TV was presenting these mythical bikini-beach-party images of white teens in a perfect utopian automobile-driven suburbia while L.A. was battling with massive racial and social uprisings," said Kun, referring to the Watts riots, the 1970 Chicano Moratorium and the Sunset Strip curfew riots. 

 "There's Something Happening Here," the Buffalo Springfield song and soundtrack for the 60's protest movement, was inspired by the Sunset Strip riots.

Jazz at the LighthouseThe music that grew out of the turmoil of this era had a profound effect on future generations.

"It was a crucial time when rock 'n' roll and especially R&B was the soundtrack in East L.A.," noted Kun of their influence on such bands as Los Lobos. "Galvanized by the Watts riots, musicians used their art and music to rebuild the neighborhood. Horace Tapscott was a kind of father figure for aspiring and experimental jazz musicians. The Watts Prophets are often mentioned as forerunners of hip-hop culture."

In addition to clips of "Hollywood A Go-Go," "Shindig!" and "Where the Action Is," rare footage of Otis and Brooks' TV shows will be shown. Love lead singer Arthur Lee's wife donated some of his clothes, and Thee Midniters' Willie G's amp and guitar will also be on display among other ephemera.

The Grammy Museum, 800 West Olympic Blvd. (213) 765-6800. Monday - Friday 11:30am - 7:30pm, Saturday - Sunday 10:00am - 7:30pm. Feb. 22 through June 3 www.grammymuseum.org  


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Images: Top: A Harold-Examiner news editorial photograph, credited to Terry Sullivan, documenting a large group of anonymous teenagers involved in the "Sunset Strip Riot" of 1966. Credit: Herald Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library. Middle: Marvin Gaye billboard on the Sunset Strip circa 1974. Credit: Robert Landau from the book "Rock 'n' Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip," Angel City Press. Bottom: An uncredited 1959 Harold-Examiner editorial photograph of anonymous college students listening to jazz at the Lighthouse, "home of modern jazz on the west coast."  Credit: Los Angeles Public Library