- The Washington Times - Monday, October 12, 2015

To want to be a rock star requires a certain narcissism to thrust oneself unapologetically before thousands. And it likewise takes great humility to turn such star power to focus on the cause of helping others.

Former Doors guitarist Robby Krieger did precisely that earlier this month at the eighth annual Scott Medlock – Robby Krieger Invitational & All-Star Concert benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The event, sponsored by Microsemi and Monster Energy, was hosted by Mr. Krieger and acclaimed sports artist Scott Medlock at the Moorpark Country Club in Moorpark, California. Topping all expectations, the combination golf and rock event raised $500,000 to assist in the treatment and travel expenses incurred by the families of children suffering from cancer.

“Pretty much every year it gets bigger and better,” Mr. Krieger told The Washington Times from his California home. “I think this is our best one ever.”

Celebrity golfers included Adrian Young of No Doubt and actor Robert Hays from the film “Airplane.”

Mr. Krieger, 69, has been an avid golfer since his father first took he and his brother out to the links at Riviera Country Club as a young man (“I’m still a member there,” he said). His charitable event started in 2008 and partnered with the Pat Tillman Foundation, named for the NFL player who joined the U.S. military in the wake of 9/11 and was tragically killed in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan in 2004.

At the end of the affair, Mr. Krieger was joined for an impromptu jam session with such rock stars as Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, Cherie Currie of The Runaways, Danny Seraphine of Chicago and Sebastian Bach, formerly of Skid Row. One of the first tunes was The Doors classic “Roadhouse Blues,” which turned into a “15-minute jam session,” according to Mr. Krieger.

Actor Jack Black took center stage for vocals on “Hello, I Love You,” a reprise of the same performance Mr. Black and Mr. Krieger gave on a recent episode of “Conan,” featuring host Conan O’Brien also joining in on guitar.

“He does this vocalizing thing that lasted for about two minutes,” Mr. Krieger said of Mr. Black. “I don’t know how he did it; I thought he was going to run out of breath.”

Doors and windows

Los Angeles natives Robby Krieger and John Densmore first formed a band with UCLA film students Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek in 1967. Morrison, an aspiring poet, suggested the name The Doors based on a line from the William Blake poem “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”: “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite.”

“I had no desire to be out front, man,” Mr. Krieger said with a laugh of his preference to play guitar in the background. “As time went on, obviously I had to be more the frontman. But back in the day, I was kind of new to it. I was 19 years old, and Jim was too.”

When the band first played the famous clubs of L.A.’s Sunset Strip, Morrison was so nervous he sang with his back to the crowds.

“It took Jim a while to really face the audience,” Mr. Krieger said.

Manzarek was on keyboards, Mr. Densmore on drums and, of course, Morrison’s full-throated baritone alternately lamented and screamed on such classics as “Break on Through,” “The End,” “Strange Days” and “Love Me Two Times.”

While members of The Doors shared equal credit for their compositions, it was Mr. Krieger who came up with the initial riff that became the seven-minute opus “Light My Fire.” The scene was recreated in Oliver Stone’s eponymous 1991 film about the band — starring Val Kilmer as Morrison — with Mr. Krieger (portrayed by Frank Whaley) introducing the short riff to the band during a rehearsal session.

The film “The Doors” — based largely upon the biography “No One Here Gets Out Alive” by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman — created somewhat of a schism among the band’s surviving members. At first both Mr. Krieger and Manzarek were involved as consultants on the film, but Mr. Krieger said Manzarek walked when he saw the direction Mr. Stone was taking the film.

“It wasn’t the ‘real story’ of The Doors maybe, but I thought it was a great rock ‘n’ roll movie,” Mr. Krieger said of the finished product. He praised Mr. Kilmer’s spot-on performance as Morrison and also Mr. Whaley’s interpretation of his “character” as well.

“I taught [Mr. Whaley] pretty much how to play guitar, or at least look like he was playing guitar,” Mr. Krieger recalled. “But seeing somebody play you is kind of weird. To me he totally didn’t look like me or talk like me, but … I kind of liked how he played me.”

After years of chronic alcohol abuse, Morrison died in a Paris hotel room in 1971 at 27 of a heart attack. The surviving trio released three more albums, with Manzarek and Mr. Krieger trading turns on vocals, before calling it a day in 1978.

For decades, Mr. Krieger said he was loathe to perform any Doors songs, opting instead to concentrate on his own projects. However, as the millennium turned, Doors tribute acts became en vogue.

“I would sit in with them sometimes,” Mr. Krieger said. “I saw how much fun they were having, and slowly but surely, I started doing more Doors songs.”

In 2000 Mr. Krieger and Manzarek fashioned a mini-Doors. Their act was alternately known as Manzarek–Krieger and The Doors of the 21st Century due to an ongoing legal dispute with Mr. Densmore over the name of their former band. The revised Doors, fronted by former The Cult singer Ian Astbury, continued playing until 2013, shortly before Manzarek’s death at age 74.

At the time of his passing, Manzarek was in Germany seeking treatment for a rare form of cancer.

“He was in good spirits,” Mr. Krieger said of his bandmate and friend upon their final telephone conversation. “I talked to his brother, who was with him over there, and he said a couple hours before he died, they were singing ‘Light My Fire.’”

Continuing in the spirit of charity, Mr. Krieger and Mr. Densmore are working on a cancer benefit concert in Manzarek’s name to coincide with The Doors’ 50th anniversary in 2017.

Rock ‘n’ roll lives on

In addition to keeping the Doors music alive — now with his son Waylon on vocals — Mr. Krieger has his own jazz band, Robby’s Jam Kitchen, fronted by Mr. Krieger and his preferred Gibson SG guitars.

Mr. Krieger has also opened his own analogue recording studio called Horse Latitude Studios, named in honor of a Doors song.

“A lot of these young bands want to get that sound from the ‘70s and ‘60s, and they’re getting kind of sick of this digital sound [where] everybody sounds the same,” Mr. Krieger said of the pet project, bemoaning the common use of such digital tricks as auto-tuning. “People aren’t bothering to really learn their instruments like they used to. That’s where your individuality really comes out instead of doing synthesizers for everything.”

Mr. Krieger, who admires such contemporary artists as Muse, Gary Clarke Jr. and Lady Gaga, says his goal for next year’s benefit golf tournament/concert is to top $600,000 in his ongoing quest to help the children. He is also hard at work on his own Doors retrospective book.

When asked if he’d ever put down the Gibsons, Mr. Krieger says you’re never too old to rock.

“I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t still fun,” he said.

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