The Laurel Canyon Country Store's Interesting Musical History
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.
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.
LA Weekly Mitchell, Crosby and Eric Clapton, 1968
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."