Ray Manzarek: The Doors’ peace-maker and torch-carrier
Manzarek was also instrumental in discovering the other Doors members since he met drummer John Densmore and guitarist Robby Krieger at a Transcendental Meditation lecture in downtown LA. “There wouldn’t be any Doors without the Maharishi,” Densmore said.
Ray’s own interest in music he traced back to his childhood in Chicago: “The biggest radio station in the South was in Texas, XERB, the Wolfman Jack station. That broadcast right up to Chicago where I lived – because there were no laws on radio power in Texas, it had to be the biggest. Before Wolfman came on the air, all we’d had was Connie Francis. Now here was someone playing the dirty low notes of R&B, Muddy Waters to Buddy Holly. The Wolfman had the minor notes, the backbeat.”
Manzarek’s keyboards weren’t his only contribution to The Doors’ sound. In the absence of a regular bass player at first he also supplied a left-hand Vox organ ‘bass’ part that was both rudimentary and effective in giving many older Doors songs a peculiar Germanic marching beat. “But that was from necessity. Boy, was I glad when we hired people like Doug Lubahn or Jerry Scheff as bassist. I do like to play with both hands y’know!”
Ray was always the go-between when Morrison’s on-stage antics threatened to destabilise the band completely. Acknowledging his friend was “a fully-fledged alcoholic and was his own worst enemy”, Manzarek frequently persuaded Densmore and Krieger back into the ranks. He seemed to see his role as a fraternal one. “I knew from the outset what Jim’s strengths and weaknesses were but maybe because I’d known him longest I also wanted to pursue our career to the max. It could be a thankless task. On the other hand it was usually worth the aggravation because the records we made still stand up, I think.”