The Full Story Of The First Rockstar Arrested Onstage
via The Doors Guide/ Youtube
It’s a rare occurrence for law enforcement to interrupt a live music performance and detain a musician, but it happened once in music history.
On December 9, 1967, during a concert in New Haven, Connecticut, Jim Morrison, the iconic and often controversial lead singer of The Doors, became the very first rock star to be arrested right there onstage in the middle of his performance. This event marked just one of several times Morrison found himself in trouble with the law during his career.
Robby Krieger, the guitarist of The Doors, recounted this remarkable incident in his memoir, Set the Night on Fire: Living, Dying and Playing Guitar With the Doors. In an excerpt published on Literary Hub, Krieger mentioned that the distinction of being the first musician arrested onstage actually goes to Italian singer Carlo Albani, who experienced a similar incident in Boston back in 1908.
This event was documented in a New York newspaper. However, there’s a notable difference: Albani managed to finish his performance before the authorities intervened, while Morrison was not as fortunate.
Why Morrison Ended Up Getting Arrested
Morrison’s arrest in New Haven unfolded during a rather unexpected backstage encounter. As the story goes, Morrison was engaged in an intimate moment with a woman in a shower stall backstage.
However, the police who stumbled upon the scene were unaware that he was a performer. Their initial request for the couple to leave the area was met with a defiant response from the singer, which led to an officer using mace on him. The painful incident prompted screams from Morrison, but he appeared to recover after washing his eyes.
Later during the performance, while The Doors were playing “Back Door Man,” Morrison launched into a tirade about an encounter with what he described as “a little blue man, in a little blue hat, a little blue pig” who had sprayed him backstage. He issued a warning to the audience, suggesting that if it could happen to him, it could happen to anyone present. This drew the attention of a group of officers who started making their way towards the stage.
The situation escalated rapidly, with the police surrounding the band. A police lieutenant even took the stage, and Morrison, ever the showman, handed him the microphone, inviting him to speak. At this point, Krieger, the band’s guitarist, noted that he wasn’t particularly nervous, as it seemed unlikely that they would arrest Morrison right there, in the midst of a live performance, for simply recounting a true story.
However, to their surprise, that’s precisely what happened. The police apprehended Morrison, leaving the rest of the band standing in shock. And with that unexpected turn of events, Morrison made history as the first rock star to be arrested while performing onstage.
What Morrison Faced Legal Charges For
The singer was brought to the New Haven Police Department and accused of engaging in inappropriate and offensive behavior, causing a disturbance, and resisting an officer, as reported in The Day. According to CT Insider, the charges were eventually dismissed, but he had to pay a fine for creating a public disturbance. Krieger recalled:
“A few weeks later the entire incident was detailed in a feature story in Life magazine, with beautiful play-by-play photography.
“We were thrilled with the article and the photos. Jim came across as a righteous rebel and the police came across as uptight buffoons. And you didn’t have to be a defiant teenager to see it that way: even my parents were on our side when they read the story.”