Basic Background Info

Birth: December 1, 1944
Location: Los Angeles, California
Band: The Doors, Tribal Jazz
Genres: Jazz, Rock, Blues
Instruments: Drums
Occupation: Musician, Author


LA-born rock and jazz drummer John Paul Densmore was a member of the Doors from 1965 to 1973. Drawn to music as a child, John Densmore grew obsessed with "the universal, ancient call of this heartbeat." John Densmore loved studying piano and often improvised with songs he learned during lessons. John Densmore tried to branch out and play the clarinet, but his orthodontist forbade it. So he made the logical choice: he moved on to the drums. John Densmore played in orchestra and marching band. Despite its amateur nature, John reflects, "I got a rush from playing with forty musicians." As a teenager John Densmore discovered jazz, particularly Elvin Jones's evocative grooves.

After meeting guitarist Robby Krieger, John and Robby started writing music and played together in Psychedelic Rangers. While playing with Krieger, John Densmore met Chicago keyboardist Ray Manzarek. At that time, Manzarek played with his own brother and vocalist Jim Morrison in another outfit called Rick and the Ravens.

Eventually Krieger, Manzarek, Morrison, and John came together to form their own band. They found that they all worked well together while trying to create a signature sound. John Densmore in particular incorporated a global flavor: for example, he used a bossa nova beat on the song "Break on Through."

After playing local bars and dancehalls, The Doors' 1967 debut album catapulted the band to prolific status. Later critics would claim that "the band's dark, sonically diverse sensibility, and Morrison's invention of the 'rock shaman' archetype set them far apart from their peers." The album, due in no small part to "Light My Fire," was an absolute magnum opus. Even today it is regarded as a groundbreaking composition. The novel incorporation of blues, classical, Eastern influences, and pop music was entirely unique. In fact, the album was so great, it was nearly impossible for The Doors to match it. They followed up the same year with Strange Days and, one year later, Waiting for the Sun. After a foray into brass instruments on 1969ís The Soft Parade, they steadily returned to cold, hard blues with 1970's Morrison Hotel and the fully-realized L.A. Woman in 1971.

Throughout the band's successes and struggles, charismatic frontman Jim Morrison grew more and more unstable. After recording L.A. Woman, Morrison died of a drug overdose while in Paris. John, Manzarek, and Krieger continued playing for a short time before ultimately disbanding after Morrison's death.

John Densmore moved on (literally, figuratively, and musically) to reggae music long before reggae was popular in the U.S. John Densmore and Krieger performed reggae with The Butts Band in the early 1970s. In the late 1970s, John, Krieger, and Manzarek reunited to record An American Prayer, an album of new music to Morrison's poetry.

Ready to get away from the rock & roll scene, John Densmore started working in theater. He created music for Tim Robbins' Methusalem. John Densmore described his contribution: 'This piece we did, I just approached it like Peter and the Wolf. I had a cymbal or a drum for each actor, and I improvised behind them continually while they spoke. It really worked. Tim let me do what I wanted; I would be so loud that sometimes you couldn't even hear their lines--but it was so in the moment. It was like jazz: this is [going to] happen right now. It's not [going to] be on a record. If you weren't there, you missed it. And that's precious.' 

John Densmore started writing his own productions including the one-act performance Skins, in which he also performed. He also worked as a producer and received an award from the NAACP for his production of Rounds in 1987.

In 1991, John Densmore wrote his autobiography, Riders on the Storm: My Life With Jim Morrison and The Doors. The book was lauded as the best-written history of The Doors. In 1993, John, Manzarek, and Krieger reunited for The Doors' induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. 

Since then, John Densmore created Tribaljazz, a unique group fusing ethnic drums with jazz saxophonist Art Ellis. They recorded several demos with guest performances by pianist Quinn Johnson, Egyptian bassist Osama Affifi, Guatemalan conga player Miguel Rivera, Italian-born/Brazilian-trained percussionist Christina Berio, and African drummers Marcel Adjibi and Azziz Faye. They finally recorded their self-titled debut album and released it in 2006. Tracks included guest vocals by Michael Franti and actress Alfre Woodard.

John Densmore also recently performed with Persian musician Reza Derakshani.


1967 Doors The Doors
1967 Strange Days The Doors
1968 Comfortable Chair Comfortable Chair
1968 Waiting for the Sun The Doors
1969 Brothers-4 Don Patterson with Sonny Stitt and Grant
1969 Soft Parade The Doors
1970 13 The Doors
1970 Absolutely Live The Doors
1970 Morrison Hotel The Doors
1971 L.A. Woman The Doors
1971 Other Voices The Doors
1972 Full Circle The Doors
1972 Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mine The Doors
1974 Butts Band Butts Band
1975 Doors/Strange Days The Doors
1975 Hear & Now Butts Band
1975 Star Collection 2 The Doors
1975 Star Collection The Doors
1977 Robbie Krieger & Friends Robby Krieger
1978 American Prayer Jim Morrison
1980 Greatest Hits The Doors
1982 Doors/Waiting for the Sun The Doors
1982 Morrison Hotel/L.A. Woman The Doors
1983 Alive, She Cried The Doors
1983 Krieger-Densmore Reggae Bonanza John Densmore
1983 Versions Robby Krieger
1984 Soft Parade/American Prayer The Doors
1985 Best of the Doors The Doors
1985 Classics The Doors
1987 Live at the Hollywood Bowl The Doors
1988 Light My Fire The Doors
1989 Roadhouse Original Soundtrack
1991 Doors Original Soundtrack
1991 In Concert The Doors
1993 Flashpoint Featuring Eddie With The Doors Pearl Jam
1996 Complete Recordings The Butts Band
1996 Greatest Hits The Doors
1996 Versions/Robby Krieger Robbie Krieger
1997 Dead Man Walking Original Soundtrack
1997 Doors Box Set The Doors
1999 Complete Studio Recordings The Doors
1999 Live in Europe 1968 The Doors
2000 Best of the Doors The Doors
2000 Essential Rarities The Doors
2000 Lost Interview Tapes Featuring Jim Morrison, Vol. 1 The Doors
2000 Stoned Immaculate: The Music of the Doors Various Artists
2001 Flowers in June EP Sam Densmore's Silverhawk
2001 Live at the Aquarius Theatre: The First Performance The Doors
2001 Live at the Aquarius Theatre: The Second Performance The Doors
2001 Live in Detroit (Cobo Hall, 05/08/1970) The Doors
2001 Live in Hollywood: Highlights from the Aquarius Theatre The Doors
2001 Very Best of the Doors The Doors
2002 Backstage and Dangerous: The Private Rehearsal The Doors
2002 Box Set, Pt. 1 The Doors
2002 Box Set, Pt. 2 The Doors
2002 Bright Midnight: Live in America The Doors
2002 Live in Hollywood: Highlights from the Aquarius Theater The Doors
2002 Sprits in the Wind Burning Sky
2003 L.A. Woman/Morrison Hotel/The Doors The Doors
2003 Legacy: The Absolute Best The Doors
2003 Lick and a Promise Bobby Lindstrom
2003 Live in Hollywood/Absolutely Live The Doors
2003 Tigermouth Kelli Ali
2004 Westward Silverhawk
2005 Independence, Vol.: 1: Demos And Out-Takes Jeremy Wilson
2005 Paul & Georgia Album Paul & Georgia
2005 Reza: The Ray of the Wine Reza Derakhshani
2006 Forever Changing: The Golden Age of Elektra 1963-1973 Various Artists
2006 Other Voices/Full Circle The Doors
2006 Perception The Doors
2006 Tribaljazz Tribaljazz
2007 Doors The Doors
2007 L.A. Woman The Doors
2007 Live in Boston '70 The Doors
2007 Morrison Hotel The Doors
2007 Soft Parade The Doors
2007 Strange Days The Doors
2007 Techno 2007 Various Artists
2007 Very Best of the Doors The Doors
2007 Waiting for the Sun The Doors
2008 Future Starts Here: The Essential Doors The Doors
2008 Live in Pittsburgh 1970 The Doors
2009 Astral Weeks: Live at the Hollywood Bowl Van Morrison
2009 Doors: Live In New York The Doors
2012   Live at the Bowl 68' The Doors


  • John took acting classes from Peggy Fury with Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeifer, and Anjelica Houston. He said, "I didn't have my drums, and I realized I'm more nervous in front of 12 people than 20,000 at Madison Square Garden. I thought, 'This is good--this'll keep me out of trouble! OK, I'm the instrument.'"
  • In Oliver Stone's 1991 biopic, The Doors, Kevin Dillon played John.

Instruments of Choice



Drums: Ludwig
Hardware: Ludwig
Heads: Remo
Sticks: Pro-Mark

Pics & Clips