I was strolling in the sunshine down Colorado Boulevard when I saw it. Just standing there, hiding in plain sight.
Pasadena Presbyterian Church…the birthplace of progressive rock.
The story goes that this southern California parish inspired John Phillips, leader of the Mamas and the Papas, to write their most iconic song. In the late 60’s, Phillips lived in New York City. But one winter day, he walked down this street, soaking up the rays in LA, headed for an interview with B. Mitchell Reed.
Reed, a legendary DJ, discovered that this church housed a radio station, legally licensed as KPPC. The station was tucked deep in the basement, beneath the sanctuary. Back when underground stations were literally under ground.
Beamer, as he was known, figured the station was rarely used. So, he met with the ministers and offered $50/month to let him broadcast progressive rock music at night.
For some inexplicable reason, the pastors agreed.
Broadcasting from the bowels of the Pasadena Presbyterian Church, KPPC played religious programs by day. But after dark, Reed flipped the script and cranked out new bands like Hendrix, Cream and The Doors.
Within a few months, Reed put KPPC at the epicenter of coolness.
One day, John Phillips was tooling around Pasadena, headed for an interview at KPPC’s studio. Upon entering the church, Phillips was moved and felt inspired to scribble these words:
Stopped into a church
I passed along the way.
Well, I got down on my knees,
and I pretend to pray.
Walking in the sunshine, while New York was buried in snow, Phillips decided to move his band to Laurel Canyon. Many more bands followed.
And we’re all still California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.