Doors slammed shut on 'The Doors'

Densmore says this is The Doors
Densmore says this is The Doors

The Doors haven't been The Doors since Jim Morrison took his last dip in the tub. But now the California Supreme Court has told surviving members Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger they really can't be 'The Doors' anymore.

The court denied a petition by keyboardist Manzarek and guitarist Krieger to review a lower court's decision that blocked them from touring under the name of the band that rose to fame on the Sunset Strip in the '60s and recorded dark hits such as Light My Fire, L.A. Woman and Break On Through.

Manzarek and Krieger had toured with other musicians (including Cult singer Ian Astbury) under the name The Doors Of The 21st Century and advertised their shows with images of Morrison, who died in 1971. The use of the name led to joint legal action by the Morrison family, the family of Pamela Courson (Morrison's common-law wife, who died in 1974) and the third surviving Doors member, drummer John Densmore.

Densmore opposed use of band name

In 2002, Densmore declined an offer from the other two to go on a concert tour as The Doors. Densmore said he didn't object to Manzarek and Krieger touring and singing The Doors' songs, as long as they didn't call themselves The Doors, use the group's distinctive logo or any other Morrison-era imagery.

"You can't have The Doors without Jim Morrison" - Densmore attorney

"You can't call yourselves The Doors because you can't have The Doors without Jim Morrison," Densmore's attorney S. Jerome Mandel said.

With the recent court ruling, Manzarek and Densmore are on the hook for more than $5 million from profits netted from touring under The Doors name. Payments will have to be made to Densmore, the estate of Jim Morrison and the parents of Pamela Courson.

Band made unamimous decision-making agreement in 1970

The problems Manzarek and Krieger face stem from a 1970 agreement signed by the four original band members, including Morrison, that any business deal would require an unanimous vote of The Doors.

The agreement was reached after Morrison and three others got into a "violent disagreement" over using Light My Fire in a Buick television commercial. While the three partners had agreed to the commercial, Morrison vehemently disagreed and the commercial was not done.

Since Morrison's death in Paris in 1971, the remaining band members and the parents split Morrison's share of the still-flourishing sale of The Doors' music and memorabilia. Each partner has veto power over business deals.

Seven years ago, General Motors offered the partnership $15 million to use Light My Fire to sell Cadillacs, and everyone but Densmore wanted to take the deal. Densmore also refused an endorsement deal offered by iPod maker Apple.

"Morrison had been adamant against doing commercials and Densmore wanted to honor Morrison's memory," the court noted in its ruling.

Densmore says he is deeply relieved to have the matter settled. "A five-year cloud has passed over my head." As for Manzarek and Krieger, a dark $5 million cloud has just stalled over theirs.

Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar WorldGuitar PlayerMusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.