When Ambassador Theatre was Home to Counterculture in D.C
Fifty years back, Jimi Hendrik would enshrine his name in the history of rock n roll. On August 1967, he had just been kicked off a tour with The Monkees. Luck or fate would have him booked to play for five nights in Adams Morgan. Whisking the moment, Hendrix and his band put a sensational show at the D.C’s Ambassador Theatre setting fire to his guitar and cementing his place in the world of local rock n roll. The Ambassador went on to close, but those with memories of the theatre say it shook the button-down culture in D.C and expanded the minds of the people.
At the Songbyrd Music House, several people gathered to reminisce of the short-lived revolution brought by the Ambassador Theatre. According to Duke, Who by then played drums in an act at the theatre, the experience offered by the hall could not be matched in Washington. It was just music and no politics. People in search of counterculture had little options back then. Joel, Rodgers, and Tony leased a former movie house, Adams Morgan and set out to make the Ambassador more like San Francisco’s Fillmore. They booked bands and dancers, but despite resisting the status quo, it fought back with might.
Cops hassled them all the time. On the other hand, D.C had 1,500 hippies, unlike San Francisco which had 50,000. As a result, the Ambassador proceeded to close in January 1968. Patty Ferry, a teenager by then, would cross to Georgetown in search of hippies. However, when Ambassador opened, she felt like she’d found home. The place gave them a sense of pride. It made them feel important. At such a time, having a hippie felt like they had already made it. Richard Harrington discovered his career in Ambassador Theatre. The music there inspired him to become a music critic. Today, he works for the Washington Post.
While it may have lasted six months, the shows and context changed the lives of those that visited the Theater. According to Harrington, the theatre compares to that moment when black-and-white turned to color.