Musical tastes can change with the introduction of a single great artist, but some things never lose their taste. More than 50 years after the ‘British Invasion’ of rock bands to the U.S. in the early 1960s, the Sunset Marquis still has as much brand recognition as the famous stars that have stayed there over the decades.
The Golden Age of Rock
“The hotel was built in 1963, right off the bat we had music here coming to the property.” Ron Gruendyke, General Manager and Vice President of Hotel Operations said. “Jeff Beck tried to take credit for it and we probably should give him credit for it. One day he was walking through the neighborhood and came upon Sunset Marquis and loved it because he felt there was more privacy here.”
While many of the Marquis’ original musical guests are no longer touring, there is no shortage of musicians lining up today to stay at the same property where The Who, Led Zeppelin, and countless Rock and Roll Hall of Fame artists visited.
“We have probably 200 to 250 bands a year go through the Sunset Marquis per year,” Gruendyke said.
The Secret Studio
The property’s walls and landscape serve as a barrier to the rest of the city and guests hardly feel like they are in the middle of downtown Los Angeles. The Marquis sprawls into uniquely different sections with music memorabilia decorating the pathways between them.
While the first bands to stay at the iconic hotel were encouraged by the isolation the Marquis provided through its cul-de-sac setting on Sunset Boulevard, a plethora of current musicians and pop stars are motivated to call the location their second home because of the attention the famous-yet-secluded studio provides them.
In the middle of the hotel, an unassuming staircase leads visitors to one of the most highly-regarded music studios in the world, NightBird Studios. The recording room has been home to more than 50 Grammy-winning albums ranging from Jeff Beck to Green Day.
The hotel did not seek to be known as a recording studio, but became one by chance when its former general manager received noise complaints about music coming from Beck and Jed Leiber’s room one day in the early 1990s. Not wanting to rock the boat with any of its famous music clientele, the then-GM offered the rockers a laundry room in the basement to play in.
Eventually the room transformed from a bare bones space to a one-of-a-kind recording studio steps away from one of the most exclusive bars in the city, 1200, and the Marquis’ luxurious pool.
“When I started there, three different times in the first week I walked into rooms that had the gas left on the stoves — rockers were using them to light their cigarettes and then walking away. The first thing I did was pull out the gas lines for the kitchens in the hotel. It scared me to death,” said Rod Gruendyke
Three Generations of Design
Balancing nostalgia with modern luxury is a challenge for any historic property and the Marquis is constantly evolving. The West Hollywood location can always draw on its past and high-profile guests but still focuses on providing amenities in line with current expectations.
“The remodeling of this hotel is unique and it’s not easy. We have three different time periods here at the hotel. So, the main building was built in 1963, the villas that we’re in right now were built in the 1930s and the newer villas were built in 2008,” Gruendyke said. “Each section is on its own different remodeling schedule, so we cannot do it all at the same time each year.”
The most recently-built villas are remodeled every two years and the main building every four, according to Greundyke.
More than amenities, hotels are turning towards unique guest experiences to differentiate themselves. The Sunset Marquis utilizes its musical roots to provide guests and Angelenos something not many hotels can offer with its summer concert series, bringing bands to the property for live performances from June through October.
Times and tastes may be different now than when Jeff Beck stumbled upon this West Hollywood hotel in the 1960s, but the musical influence has positioned the Sunset Marquis as a place of both the past and present.
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