The Doors had a relatively short career, but their fallen lead singer, Jim Morrison, continues to live on in the memory of fans forty-two years later. Drummer John Densmore wrote another book about him and recently spoke of the late singer. (April 2 AP
If you want to go where Jim Morrison went you don’t have to visit the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris where he is interred along with other poets and artists. You can stroll through some of our beautiful oak tree shaded streets where he once walked and thought.
In the fall of 1963 "It’s My Party" by Lesley Gore, and "Surfin’ U.S.A." by the Beach Boys topped the record charts. Kids were dancing to surf music on the west coast and the Shag on the east coast. Los Angeles and Myrtle Beach couldn’t have been more different but had one thing in common: dance music. It was an innocent time. It was a simpler time.
Then came James Douglas Morrison who co-founded “The Doors” in 1965; one of the most influential and change agent bands of the 1960s that swept the music industry into the psychedelic age.
Jim Morrison’s TPD mugshot from 1963. (Photo: Special to the Democrat)
The formative years
Jim, the son of Rear Admiral George Stephen Morrison, was born in Melbourne, Florida, in 1943. Like all military families, they moved frequently until he went to live with his paternal grandparents in Clearwater to attend St. Petersburg Junior College. In 1962, he transferred to Florida State University.
While attending FSU, Jim was described as a voracious reader, often quoting Friedrich Nietzche, the German philosopher and poet. It seems to be a reasonable assumption that it was about this time that he began to become the rebellious poet without a cause. After transferring to the University of California at Los Angeles in 1964, he received an undergraduate degree from the UCLA film school in 1965.
The grave of Jim Morrison at Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris shown on Dec. 8, 2003.
Living what could best be described as a bohemian lifestyle in Venice Beach, he co-founded “The Doors” taking that name from the title of Aldous Huxley’s book "The Doors of Perception" that described unlocking one’s perception using psychedelic drugs.
While playing as the house band at the famous Whiskey-a-Go-Go in Los Angeles, the band exploded onto the scene with their break-out hit Light My Fire in 1967 eventually recording six studio albums. After a series of behavioral mishaps and arrests, Jim moved to Paris where he unexpectedly died in 1971. A brief but bright flash that changed music in the late 1960s.
The Tallahassee Connection
In the early ‘60s, student housing was limited. According to "No One Here Gets Out Alive" by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugerman published in 1980, Jim lived at different places including a trailer in the area of Palm Court, located off North Macomb Street, and an apartment in the area now occupied by the College of Law.
His last known residence, in the fall of 1963, was in room 206 in the Cherokee Hotel. The Cherokee was formerly located on the southwest corner of East Park Avenue and South Calhoun Street next to the Park Avenue Chain-of-Parks.
Anyone who followed Jim’s life would surmise that he either had or at least displayed behavioral problems. Whether his behavior was unintentional, or the byproduct of a brooding artist is subject to debate, however he experienced a series of arrests for what would best be described as nuisance offenses such as public drunkenness. He had been arrested five times for such offenses with the most severe being for indecent exposure during a concert in Miami in 1969. At least it was thought he had been arrested five times.
The Cherokee Hotel, where Jim Morrison lived in 1963. The hotel was on the southwest corner of Park Avenue and Calhoun Street in Tallahassee. It was built in 1922 and demolished in 1964.
In the late 1980s, intrigued by local folklore that Jim had been arrested while a student at FSU, Sergeant Phil Kiracofe, then the Public Information Officer for the Tallahassee Police Department, began to search for any documentation of an encounter.
While rummaging around in some old dusty cardboard boxes, stored in the basement of the police department, he solved the mystery by locating the original booking card and mug shot where Jim had been arrested while attending a football game in 1963. This would have been his first known arrest for a total of six.
On Sept. 28, 1963, Jim had been charged with Disturbing the Peace and petit larceny of a police riot helmet and umbrella from a police car. As one would imagine, a student wearing a trench coat and police riot helmet carrying an umbrella tends to stand out. This resulted in Captain Kenneth Causseaux taking him into custody.
The Tallahassee Police Depart arrest record for Jim Morrison from 1963.
Prior to the two-tier court system that we have now, the City of Tallahassee maintained its own city court for misdemeanors. As was the practice of the day, Jim was simply turned over to the FSU Dean the next morning.
TPD still had the old box booking camera and metal letter board, that was held under the subject’s chin for identification, that was used for Jim’s photo. Of course, I had to have my photo taken with that camera holding the same letter board that Jim had. Just a tiny brush with fame.
And so, you don’t have to go to Paris to see things that influenced Jim. You can stroll west on East Park Avenue and walk on the same sidewalk, see the same oak trees, and pass the same sights that probably influenced his lyrics.
David Brand is a retired police officer who works for a nonprofit that represents the interests of law enforcement. He lives in St. Teresa Beach, Florida.