The Alley was a complex of rehearsal studios that was originally owned by
William “Bill” Elkins and Arnold Kahn. I knew them in the 1970’s and I knew
them as Bill and Arnie (I never knew Arnie's last name until I wrote this!).
It was mostly a family run business with only a few employees. One employee,
I remember, is
Venita Keller whom we all knew as Mom.
Actually, I never knew
if she was an employee or just donated her time because Bill was great at
getting people to work for free. However, I do know that she painted many of
the murals that decorated the place. Another person that I remember, is
individual who worked there named Mark who helped setup the bands and
Although Bill and Arnie seemed inseparable, Bill was the friendliest to me.
That’s probably because he took a liking to me. I was a recording engineer at
the time but I never got any clients from the Alley. I usually stopped by to visit
with musicians that I knew were rehearsing there. I did however, refer musicians
if they didn’t know of the place. I met a lot of people there and some went on to
become legends. Howard Dumble rented space there for awhile.
He was the one who built the much sought after Dumble guitar amp.
I used to talk ‘shop’ with Howard.
The Alley was started in the late 1960’s and added onto (purchased, I believe)
in 1973. The Alley was located on Lankershim Blvd, North Hollywood, CA., at
the corner of Lankershim and Osego St. The parking lot contained a hamburger
stand. The building front was adorned with angular wood paneling and a blue-
sky mural with white clouds. The building featured no signs, no lettering and
only the outline of a front door. No hint of the legends preserved inside. The
office and residences were in the rear, up a flight of stairs. In the beginning, the
stairs were traditional wood. But later on, the stairs were replaced by Bill Elkins
in his usual artistic fashion. Bill used to say: "Started Yesterday, Finish
Tomorrow. Built, but Never measured." Bill was very ‘close to the vest’ about the
place from the beginning so, advertising was word of mouth. The Alley was
always ‘fortress-like’ and remained so throughout the years, much as it did
back in the 1970’s.
The Alleyway was a detached building, although it was considered to be part of
Many years before the area became known as the ‘No-Ho Arts District’, the
Alley was established within the Los Angeles music community. At the time, it
was one of the music industry’s best kept secrets. I don’t know who signed the
brick wall inside for the first time, but so many artists who rehearsed there and
became legends have added their signatures, that the wall itself is a legend.
Bill made provisions for artists to simply ‘crash’ there and get up to continue
with their rehearsal.
The Alley was the inspiration for several songs. I think it’s the place where the
Eagles wrote the song: “Hotel California.”
Bill and Arnie were car and motorcycle buffs. They rode two and three wheeled
Harley Davidson motorcycles and they would ride them everyday.
They also restored a 1937 Ford pickup. Bill Elkins was responsible for naming
the UGLY motorcycle club:
I last visited The Alley in 2009 after a long absence. I met Shiloh Elkins, Bill’s
wife. Arnie had already passed away. Bill was not well and had gained weight
since I had last seen him. He was no longer able to complete his artistry which,
contributed to making the place famous.
On November 4th of 2016, Bill Elkins, who had been struggling with dementia
and diabetes, passed away. Shiloh Elkins passed away on June 4, 201
"Whatever Works" ~ Bill Elkins
The Alley today
In 2015, The Alley was acquired from Shiloh and Bill Elkins by John Strand.
John has done his best to keep the place the way it was, the way that all of us
remember it. John Strand works in the entertainment industry and was married
to Deanna Lynn Hartman, Bill and Shiloh’s adopted daughter who also passed
away on June 19
As of 2023, the building is still there, although the business appears to be
closed. However, the burger stand has changed since the 1970’s.
© Corey Bailey Audio Engineering
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