Quotes from the bands themselves

 

copyright California Ballroom

Message from Geno Washington

to all of you.......

"Great memories and the highest respect."

Geno

When I spoke to Geno at the beginning of October 2005 he instantly remembered the California. He asked me to pass on his best wishes to all of you and said that without people like you he wouldn't have had the life he's had.


Contributions welcomed


Albert Lee - Found your site by accident, it brought back many memories. I played with Jackie Lynton, Bob Xavier and the Jury and Chris Farlowe during the 60s. We seem to have played there more times than I remembered.

I especially recall that girl friends were not allowed into the dressing room. That would be the kitchen then - ed.

I've been living in California for the past 35 years.

Albert Lee

Albert's Web Site


Brass Construction - I can never forget the fantastic time I had playing the California Ballroom back in Da' Day. The crowd was awesome and the funk was thick enough to cut with a knife.

KEEP SOUL ALIVE!!

Randy Muller

Listen to Randy - Boom Chang Bang at Myspace


Les Fauve - I remember playing at the Cali many times in the 60s. It was a great place. Bus-loads of people used to turn-up from all over England. I first played there with a Band called Les Fauve, I was fourteen. Then with Bryan and the Hangmen, Mike Dean and the Kinsmen, The Symbols and I think with The Orange Bicycle. I played Electric Bass in all those Bands as well as busked with many others. I became friends with many musicians from other Bands, most played-at or knew the Cali. I went there when my friends played there or as a part of the Audience. Of course I lived local, Luton, and it was easy.

I, like all musicians of that time, have played thousands of gigs all over the UK and I can honestly say there were not many places like The California. I enjoyed the Playing, the Girls, the Fun and the overall atmosphere that was almost gauranteed, I have done everything at the Cali. To add to this, Micky Ilka was my good friend and he is still sadly missed. Some of you will know his Grandfather built the Cali.

John Bachini


The Scorpions - What a great site this has become. I haven't visited since it first started. It's great to be able to pinpoint the exact date bands played.

John Barber (Bass) The Scorpions


The Clearways - I was an original member of the Clearways who worked under several names 'John Mazzi and the Clearways' and 'Al Clear and the Clearways'. John was actually my identical twin Derek, Al was Tommy Archer. The band went onto do the clubscene in Yorkshire and then signed with Hughie Green's managment team then controlled by John Heyman.

The band won Opportunity Knocks and made their first record with Colombia and published six songs with Ardmore and Bechwood then the Beatle publishers. The band toured in the Baron Knights old bus aquired after a crash in Scotland that wiped out their transport and the drummer.

The band disbanded after doing Royal Command Charity event and Eric and Derek then launched under the name the Twins with EMI. After many ITV spots and another record we all went our separate ways.

I now live and work in France as a writer/Producer my brother is a successful artist. If you want to know more you will have to wait for the book and the TV sitcom under way, or Check the BBC website for some of the background.

Revealed on John Peals Sat show just before he died. If anybody has any memories or is in contact with the band members, Laurie Jeffs - lead Guitar in particular, I would like to hear from you. Incidently I have a son now an actor, his partner is currently in Cabaret. Alex James catch her on www.cabaret.lastminuteliving.com.

My daughter Charity is a leading light at the stage rights and media company Chorion in London, so all in all the family have continued the showbus connections. The California was where it all took off and I have fond memories for that unforgettable period.

Regards Eric James Massey.


Forever Changes / Brain Police - The past becomes hazy you know, or maybe you dont yet. In all honesty, all I can recollect is playing on the small stage and I think Ike and Tina were on the big stage and the dressing room was across the room from the entrance nearer the small stage end. If I was playing there in 68 then it would have been Forever Changes and before 67 the Brain Police. I will enquire from a former band member about this matter as I only want to give correct info.

A point of interest, I recall a friday, I think, as I stood just inside the Cali doors Keith Moon (the Who) came dramaticalLy in wearing the target tea shirt which I saw him wearing only a short time before on Ready Steady Go. I remember he walked all the way around he dance floor in order to maximise his arrival, lets face it, all bands do the same.

I will purpose to find out about your question, but for now, I would say that Forever Changes were a semi-pro west coast style group, (only one in bedfordshire) 6 members, Mick the singer, Cliff, Dennis, Paul, Mick the drummer, and me Barry. Between 67 and 69. Luton and Dunstable based. We practised at the Luton Boys Club and our manager was Rocky Rivers who had an office in London.

Barry Sinfield


Pussyfoot Tram - Hi, I was amazed to find by chance your website re California Ballrooms, amazing it bought back lots of memories. You list Pussyfoot Tram twice on your gig list but we played with JJ Jackson and the Ethiopians, also Junior Walker and the All Stars, as well as Picketty Witch, we also played with Greenfield Hammer as our backing band but later changed their name to Edison Lighthouse after joining up with Tony Burrows. There was also a brilliant Harmony band we did a gig with – The Endeavours comes to mind, an amazing sound from a band that toured the working mans clubs and totally under rated themselves.

Killing floor, Katch 22, Consortium, Toast, Sir Percy Quintet, Pink Fairies were also on the same circuit as us and we worked for John Edward Entertainment Agency.

Pussyfoot Tram spent a lot of time in the recording studios with John Edwards but alas after recording a version of Everyday I have to cry the band went there separate ways albeit we did hear a demo played on Caroline a few times, but with no band John never pushed it and instead concentrated very successfully on Edison Lighthouse. Unfortunately lost track of John Edwards but would have loved a copy of the demo’s.

Keep up the good work, you have an excellent site, it is sad to see the California Ballrooms are no more but we all still have fond memories.

Robert Bishop


The Federals - The list of performers is great but incomplete. I played the Cali around 1960. I was with the Beatniks (we were with David Stones in those days). They later went on to become Tony Bolton and the Federals and I got a proper job. What about Rhett Stoller, Paul Hanford, and I am sure many more. Great website a real shot of nostalgia. Bloody marvellous

Kind regards,
David White

Does anyone have any idea of the date? Many of these bands were on the ads as "plus supporting act"


Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders - If memory serves there were two stages, one at either end of the room. One band would finish then the whole audience would turn round and watch the next band. Also, if I recall, we were on with the Rolling Stones, Kinks, Small Faces and several other minor names.

Wayne Fontana
web site: www.waynefontana.com
shop: www.waynefontana.co.uk


Kenny Bell and his Orchestra - Hi there, I've just discovered your site after a friend told me about it. I played at the California during June/July of its opening year as Kenny Bell & his Orchestra. We played on 3 Saturday nights, June 4,18 and July 2. The singer you show as Josephine Star was in fact Josephine Stahl and the vocal group the Aristocrats were in fact The Aristocats. Both the singer and vocal group were all part of my package and performed with the orchestra.

We were supposed to be resident every Saturday night, but due to the fact that members of the orchestra came from Croydon, south of London, the cost of travelling and doing the show did not prove financially viable (with the fee we received from the booking agent - Ron somebody or other from Galaxy Entertainment on Oxford Street, London) so we had to call it a day and cancel out.

I went on to become an agent in the rock business and subsequently looked after artistes such as Rod Stewart, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Marc Bolan, Brian Ferry & Roxy Music, The Jam, Boy George and many more. I always looked back fondly on the 3 evenings we performed at the California and it's good to know that your site is keeping its memory going. All the best,
Kenny Bell.


 

Freddie Mack - Mr Superbad - My most wonderful memory at the California was Xmas Eve 1969 when my band played on the same bill as my greatest friend Jimmy James. He had the hit "I'll Go Where the Music Takes Me" with the then Vagabonds. Baby, the whole place rocked and the audience were amazing, a crowd that will never be seen again, they were dancing and singing, clapping and boogieing and it was a terrific inspiration to the band as we felt the love they had for our kinda music.


Freddie Mack


Rory Wilde and the Wild Cats - Great to see my name on your band list. I was there on many occasions with my band the Wildcats but the 16th September 1960 sticks in my mind as I got married the day after. I am still playing.


Rory Wilde


Him and the Others - Wow, what a great nostalgic site! As a member of Him And The Others, (later The Hand), we had several great gigs at The Cali. I remember asking our agent that when Cream were booked, to put us in as support - sure enough he did! and when we supported Bo Diddley, we lent him two of our amps, and he blew one up.


Geoff Gibbs


The Kinsmen - I was the rhythm guitar player with The Kinsmen who played several gigs at the Cali in the 60s. Last year I was on vacation in Cheyenne, Wyoming and met a guy calle Micheal Degreve (singer/song writer) who was a great friend of Graham Nash Ex Hollies and of Crosby Stills and Nash Fame. Micheal, after my discussion with him, mentioned the Cali to Graham who after all this time remembers it well and the gig with the Kinsmen in 1963. Just proves that the Cali lives on in many people's memories of great times.


Chic Jefferson


Inspiration - Hi I found this site by accident and it really made my day. I was the lead guitarist with Inspiration - we did loads of gigs at the Cali, we supported big names like the Tremeloes and we topped the bill a few times too! I remember we turned up one night expecting to support Del Shannon and ended up backing him! The late 60's - what a great time. I would love to hear from anyone who remembers us, I've lost track of everyone (including the other 2 members of the band) What a great site. Thank you.


Barry Stedman


Mal Ryder & the Spirits - Yes, I do remember "The California" I worked there on 3 or 4 occasions in 64 & 65 as "Mal Ryder and the Spirits" (I used to kick up as they always wrote "Mal" as "Mel " By mistake.)

They used to say "you weren't  anyone until you played "The Cali." It was the biggest best gig around in the 60's, all the top names went there. We were honoured to get booked even though we'd made 4 records, we were considered a small group from Oxford, but we soon proved our worth, as the first time we were put on the small stage at the far end, but after, always on the big one. We had quite a big following around the area.

"The Cali." was the only gig I can remember where we were asked to turn up, and not down!!! It was a big place, a groups paradise!!, and the girls?? if I hadn't left for Germany just after our last show there in 65, I would have quite possibly settled down in Dunstable??. But Germany changed my life as the band broke up, and we returned to England, so all future bookings at "The Cali." were cancelled.  I hope I didn't break too many hearts??

I later joined the "Primitives" and went to Italy in 66. where I've made an incredible success selling maybe 10 million records, starred in 4 films, toured the world many times, USA, Australia, Japan, South America, etc. etc. I'm  still living in Italy and even though the years are ticking by I'm still invited on TV at least once a week and doing about 100 or so gigs a year. Anyway its all on my web site, www.mal.it.  If anyone's interested and remembers me, please get in touch, as, my memory needs a little jogging, because after all that's happened in my life I've decided to write a book, and I want the days of "The California Ballroom" to have an important part in it.!!!!


Paul Bradley Couling (Mal Ryder)


 

Mike Berry - It was 1960 or '61 when we, as 'Mike Berry and The Outlaws', played 'The California Ballroom' Dunstable for a Mr. Green (can't remember his first name)  I remember the ballroom was like an aircraft hanger and although I think we played there on more than one occasion I can only recall the time we were there with 'The Allisons' and they'd not long had their big hit 'Are You Sure'.  There was a stage at each end of the ballroom and bands would play alternating from stage to stage.  At least I don't think we both played at the same time, although we were far enough away especially at the volume we played at then!


Mike Berry www.mikeberry.net


 

Fleur De Lys - Thank you for the California Ballroom info. I do not really remember much about the place, except that it was the biggest venue that  we played in at that time.I seem to have a memory of us playing at one end, and another support group playing at the same time at the other end.   
 
I kept a notebook from the inception of the Fleur De Lys with all dates of gigs etc. I had the first two, and the fourth, but the third one on Friday 15 April 1966 is interesting. The night before, Thursday 14 April, we played at the Moonfleet Hotel in Dorset. My notebook says, "Big row and Frank quit the group". That was the last gig of the original lineup. Myself, and Gordon Haskell (bass) moved to London and reformed the group with a few other musicians. So, although we were advertised on the 15 April, I am positive we didn't go because of the bust up the night before. My book also states that on the last time we played there on Friday 3 Feb 1967 I was paid the sum of £20 for my talent!

Keith Guster


Roger Dean - Your website brought back some great memories. I was the guitar player with Russ Sainty's band the 'Nu Notes', and I thought I'd let you know that we've kept in contact with each other throughout the years. Russ is still down on Hayling Island, Melvyn lives near me, Roy passed away a couple of years ago.... We had just had a reunion shortly before his illness, and had so much to talk about that we didn't even bother to get the guitars out !! I remember the Rolling Stones first performance at the Cali... it was so cold in the dressing room (kitchen!!) that we had all the cookers roaring away to keep warm. Do you remember the visit by the 'Spotnicks'? their guitar player couldn't play their own hit (Orange Blossom Special) and the crowd made such a fuss that we played it instead....a bit uncool if you think about it now but... it's a tough life !!! Great site, best wishes, 

Roger Dean.


The Mavericks - We were supporting group to Russ Sainty and the Nu-Notes. They looked very smart, all dressed in blue. They played the main stage at one end of the ballroom. We were on the small stage at the other end, sharing a tiny dressing room with the other support band, The Rolling Stones. The Stones were also in blue, tab tops and leather trousers. 

Gerry Parker - The Mavericks


Russ Sainty & the Nu-Notes - we were playing a gig in Romford, Essex when Eddie Green asked us if we would perform at the opening night of the California Ballroom. The Greens were fantastic, they treated us like family. I was there when Edwin died, that was a really sad time. 

We worked a lot with Rhet Stoller, the band was interchangeable really, I worked on his songs and he worked on mine. I still see all the old band, we have get-togethers at my house every now and then. 

Russ Sainty



Scorpions - 1961 Although we're now up to date, let's end with a few more anecdotes from those halcyon days of the sixties. The boys recall a memorable gig at The California Ballroom, Dunstable, with Nero and The Gladiators. They were in awe of the lead guitarist to whom John gave a guitar lead as he was struggling with his own which had broken.  

Reproduced by kind permission of Pipeline Magazine



The Herd established itself as a good Club/Ballroom band. We played The California Ballroom, Dunstable where there was a balcony over the stage which enabled disgruntled punters to pour their beer onto the hapless musician below, or indeed, hurl their glasses onto the stage.

From the sleeve notes of The Herd - AN ANTHOLOGY


The Niteshades - WOW! Couldn't believe it when I saw a reference to the old Cali! - really looking forward to seeing some photos on the upcoming website. We (a Stevenage group called the Niteshades) used to play there fairly regularly - always on the little stage at the far end of the hall. Mr. Green was the owner in those days (c.1960-63).
Some of the groups I remember playing with were: The Searchers, The Arrows, The Sorrows, The Merseys, Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers, Manfred Mann, Mal Ryder and the Spirits, The Redcaps, Neil Christian and the Crusaders, The Big Three, The Barron Knights, The Undertakers, Spencer Davis Group. What a marvellous time.

Howard Roberts


The Who - We were also working six nights a week, and as I was handling the bookings, I made sure that we rested on the seventh day whenever possible, to get are (sic) washing done. With the success of the records, the venues had stepped up a notch. We were now out of the pub circuit and into colleges and up-market gigs, like the Bath Pavilion, the California Ballroom in Dunstable, the Ricky-Tick in Windsor and the Red Shoes Ballroom in Elgin.

Mike Shaw, The Who's first Production Manager


Killing Floor were picked up on by ex-Radio Caroline DJ John Edward. Martin recalls, "Edward thought we sounded like Hendrix and as the British Blues boom being in full flow saw us as a chance to get involved in the scene."
Edward booked the band for Dunstable's California Ballroom and so gave Killing Floor support slots to the likes of  Ten Years After, Jethro Tull, Chicken Shack, The Herd, The Casuals and Junior Walker And The All Stars amongst others.

Reproduced by permission of Mick Clarke - Killing Floor


Pink Floyd interview transcribed from Brain Damage Issue 20. Reproduced with kind permission from Glenn Povey.


ZZ= Zig Zag     RW= Roger Waters     NM= Nick Mason 


ZZ: Were the gigs in the early days really scary? 

NM: No, not really, we got jolly annoyed but we weren't really scared. We just went on and on and on. We never said, 'Damn this, lets pack it in'. We just trudged around for a daily dose of broken bottle. 

RW: Where was it that we actually had broken beer mugs smashing into the drum kit? 

NM: East Dereham, and The California Ballroom, Dunstable. 

RW: The California Ballroom Dunstable was the one where they were pouring pints of beer on to us from the balcony, that was most unpleasant, and very, very dangerous too.


 

Paul Weller - from an interview with Paul Baker courtesy of paul_weller.com

Paul Baker asks; When did the Jam start using the 'sheet backdrop' at their concerts? A friend of mine reckoned that someone sprayed this design in the toilets of the California Ballroom in Dunstable, and wondered if there was any truth in this?

Paul replies; I can't remember for certain, but it sounds feasible - I think our roadies at the time Alan and Nick done it.

 


 

Real Thing - a brief chat with the guys at the California Reunion 10/5/2003

Dave: Yes of course I remember the California, it's gone, what's there now?

Me: A housing estate.

Dave: Ha! Houses.

There was then a general discussion on Edwin Starr's comments in an interview with Paddy Grady, that if he was to choose the one place he wanted to play then it had to be the California Ballroom. Dave and Eddy agreed.

Me: It wasn't until I started doing this site that I realised it was so famous.

Eddy: Yes, everyone knew it, all the big American artists wanted to play there. It's a shame it's gone.


 

Fantastics - Malcolm Baggott - Tenor Sax

I'm sorry I couldn't be more precise but it was a long time ago. I can remember drinking 6 bottles of champagne, 1 bottle of Vodka and 1 bottle of brandy between us, then being driven back to Sheffield feeling very ill to play at Baileys the following night. So it does have its memories as vague as they may be.

Malcolm remembers working with John Cheetam, Jerry Rammos , Adolfus Beal and Don Haywood

 (Comment from webmaster - The Fantastics played the Cali on New Years Eve and celebrated after the show, I doubt if they drank that amount on a daily basis!)


Mick Abrahams

I played at the Cali as a young lad with a band called The Hustlers way back in the 50's we were there nearly every fortnight supporting some of the most famous acts of the times. McGregor's engine came about long after Yensons Trolls disbanded. We decided to break up because the bass player turned round and told us he was leaving the very next day! So me and Clive Bunker were pondering what to do when The John Evan Smash (as they were then known) asked me to join! Clive joined the band about three weeks after that! and it eventually became Jethro Tull. Unfortunately your info on the venue where it happened is incorrect. It was at the Beachcomber Discothèque which was next to the (then) bowling alley above Caesar's Palace in Skimpot Lane .

Mick Abrahams 15/08/2003