Here you will find all the latest information about what is happening and what changes have been made to the site
Mixology: Ballroom California
Duration 30 mins.
Performance Dates: 21st – 22nd March 2013
Olympian Productions presents an extract from a brand new musical about Dunstable’s music venue California Ballroom. Set in the 1960’s this story is based around the love affair between Pearl and Oscar and how their love starts and blossoms at The California Ballroom. Like the rest of her generation, Pearl adores music and dancing but her strict parents have other plans for her as they desperately want her to take a different path and succeed in life.
Ballroom California is based on the true local story of a music venue which, at its peak in the 1960’s , had every major star performing on its stage – from The Rolling Stones to Dusty Springfield.
WE ARE LOOKING FOR
X 10 Actors
X 1 choreographer
X 2 assistant Stage Managers
Please note these roles are expenses only – we can only offer Travel Expenses up to £100 for actors and up to £150 for the creative team roles. There will also be Light Refreshments provided.
Male actor – playing age 21
Male actor – playing age 50
Male actor – playing age 40
Male actor – playing age 21
Male actor - playing age 18
Male actor - playing age 20-50
Male actor - playing age 40 – 60
Female actress – playing age 15.
Female actress – playing age 25
Female actress – playing age 50
Female actress - playing age 40
Female actress – playing age 16 - 40
The Hat Factory, 65- 67 Bute Street Luton, Lu1 2EY
Monday 14th January 5.00 pm -8.30pm and call backs on Tuesday 15th 5.00pm-8.30pm.
All rehearsals will be held at The Hat Factory 65- 67 Bute Street Luton, Lu1 2EY
Rehearsals will take place every Tuesday and Wednesday from –
Tuesday 22nd January 2013– Wednesday 13th March 2013 5.30pm – 8.30pm
There will also be four day rehearsals on a Saturday on the following dates. These rehearsals will also to be held at The Hat Factory -
Saturday 9th March 2013
Saturday 23rd Feb 2013
Saturday 9th Feb 2013
Saturday 26th Jan 2013
From 10.00am – 5.00pm
We are looking for an enthusiastic and committed emerging Choreographer who is interested in gaining first hand experience on a Musical Theatre production. You’re role will require you to work closely with the Script writer, Musical Director, Director, producers and the performers to develop a piece of crafter choreography for this production.
TWO ASSISTANT STAGE MANAGERS
We are looking for two assistant stage managers who are looking to gain experience in working on a mid scale piece of Musical Theatre. You will have past experience in this field and will be able to work closely with all other cast members and Producers.
To apply for any of the on stage roles please send your head shot and a cv to the following two emails. For the roles of stage manager and choreographer please send a cv clearly stating your previous experience and a covering letter of why you would like to be involved.
Oluwatoyin.email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
For any information please call The Hat Factory on 01582878100 and ask to speak to either Lorie Jo Trainor Buckingham or Oluwatoyin Odunsi.
Refurbished exhibition space to host new California Ballroom Exhibition
Olympian Productions, a theatre production company based in Bedfordshire have teamed up with Dunstable Town Council to present the long awaited – California Ballroom Exhibition. To be held in Priory House Heritage Centre Exhibition Gallery from Saturday 27 October 2012 to Saturday 8 December 2012 as the newly refitted gallery opens its doors to the public.
The California Ballroom was a music / concert venue based at the bottom of Dunstable Downs, and originally hosted swimming baths during the 1940’s, followed by go-karting, car racing and roller-skating. The Ballroom itself was built during the late 1950’s and its official opening was 12 March 1960. Once the doors opened, the crowds flocked in their thousands to see all the biggest and best bands/musicians of the 1960’s and 1970’s.
These stars included the likes of: Stevie Wonder, Ike and Tina Turner, Ben E King, Diana Ross, Lulu, The Rolling Stones and Al Green - plus later on, the likes of; Elton John, the Jam, Slade and hundreds more.
This FREE exhibition holds many interesting artefacts from original posters, wall décor, Stevie Wonders cufflink, signed contracts and photos. An original signed Bob Marley album, original fashion from the era, newspaper articles, music and much more…
This Exhibition is aimed at anyone who went to the California Ballroom and to everyone else who has a passion for music, old and young.
Priory House Heritage Centre, 33 High Street South Dunstable.
Opening Days / Times:
Monday to Saturday 10 am to 4 pm
Please see this website: www.california-ballroom.info
The refurbished exhibition space has been redesigned to enable different exhibitions to be displayed in the future, whilst protecting the static ‘history of Dunstable’ exhibition which has been in situ since Priory House was opened to the public.
David contacted me saying that having worked at the Cali in the late 60s he has a number of autographs from that time which he is looking to sell at £400. Any interested parties please email David on firstname.lastname@example.org. The autographs include:
SATURDAY 8 MAY 2010
AT THE PARK INN HOTEL, ST MARY’S STREET, BEDFORD
Check out the events page for this special night run by Promoter Paddy grady
Be there or be square as a certain DJ was known to say. Still does.
First off, I've been getting contacts from people asking about posters on lamposts. Now, other than the fact that I didn't have a clue what they were going on about, I can safely say I have never had any dealings with posters and lamp posts, so a bit of investigation was needed.
It seems that somebody in the Dunstable area has been flyposting and Dunstable Council have unsurprisingly, got a bit annoyed about it and have fined the perpetrator.
I would like to say here, categorically, this web site and the California Roadshow events have not, do not and will not flypost events. All our advertising is done at the venue, on the web, on the radio and in newspapers. If you see any posters floating around for gigs that appear to be associated with us please let us know so we can check it out. We own the California Ballroom trademark, any events using that name must have been authorised by us and if they are flyposting I want to know about it.
Please do not contact us about events which go under the name of Cali-R. These events are nothing to do with us or this site.
Now for those of you wondering about the California Roadshows, I have some news. Due to a number of issues, we will no longer be running any shows at the Gallery in Bedford. Whilst the club itself is nice there were several problems which made it difficult for us to continue there, BUT.... don't panic, we're working on something right now and should be able to announce it very shortly.
Towards the end of last year I was saddened to hear that live wire, Freddie was seriously ill. I contacted his wife Jan to be told that he was going downhill fast and finally received the sad news that he died at 5.30pm on January 11th.
Those of you who saw him will remember a larger than life character who touched the hearts of many people and lit up their lives. His catchphrase see you later alligator, after a while crocodile will be remembered by many.
Freddie's wife Jan said:
Freddie loved the times he spent at the Cali and still talked about the good old days all the time. He did meet up with his old extravaganza mates not that long ago when we were in Wolverhampton and the band on the night turned out to be none other than Mel Day and co. We had no idea in advance and when Mel saw Freddie he rushed away from the gig only to return about 2 hours later just in time to go on stage with some other old musicians from Freddies old days. That was a great night for him as they reminisced till the wee small hours. I have no problem with you putting anything on your site as Freddie loved it. Keep in touch and if I come across anything that you might like I will forward it to you Best regards and keep up the good work, it is an amazing website. love Jan
Our deepest sympathy goes to Jan and Freddie's children
The legendary ‘Cali’ venue on Dunstable Downs, Bedfordshire was a magnet for almost every top rock and pop act of the sixties – Tom Jones, The Hollies, The Bee Gees, The Walker Brothers, The Rolling Stones, The Searchers, Craig Douglas, Brian Poole and The Tremeloes, The Barron Knights, P.J. Proby, The Dave Clark Five, The Tornados, Lulu, The Eagles, The Byrds, Billy Fury, Dusty Springfield, The Who, Stevie Wonder...the list goes on and on.
But one performer above all was synonymous with The Cali. He was booked by Edwin Green for no less than an incredible 336 sessions up to the mid-sixties, including the magical opening night of March 12th 1960.
Now that star, Russ Sainty, takes us behind the scenes to share some of his ‘Cali Happenings’. For instance, why Mick Jagger and Mel Miller almost came to blows, and why The Spotnicks came off stage with very red faces!
Away from The Cali, we hear of his prolific BBC Radio and Television appearances, and numerous attempts to achieve that elusive hit single. He explains what happened to his backing group, The Nu-Notes, after they split, and where his own career has taken him from then up to the present day, latterly performing cabaret at venues in the South of England.
Recently in 2006, along with legends like Cliff Richard, The Shadows, Wee Willie Harris and others, he was honoured by ‘The 2i’s Coffee Bar’ in London as one of British Rock ‘n Roll’s ‘Founding Fathers’.
During over 50 years in show business he has met and performed with so many other stars, and shares memorable encounters with Arthur Askey, Alma Cogan, Vera Lynn, Frank Ifield, Bobby Vee, Olivia Newton John, Bert Weedon, Matt Monroe, Eden Kane and Tommy Steele. Russ’s story is a roller-coaster ride of triumph and disappointment, but he tells it all with truth and integrity. Life has always been fun and never predictable for the ‘King of The Cali’.
Due for publication in November 2008.
Copies will be available from the publisher - The Book Castle, Dunstable
or, you will be able to order direct from Russ, requesting a signed copy.
The California Ballroom Roadshow
6th December 2008 in Bedford
Tickets are now selling. To get yours, use the Ticket link at the top of the page.
Following a sell out Road Show in Bedford on 14th June, we are pleased to announce
The California Ballroom Roadshow
IS BACK FOR ROUND 5
13th September 2008 in Bedford
Tickets are now selling. To get yours, use the Ticket link at the top of the page.
Hitsville Radio has now launched. All the old Motown music with guest DJs you may have heard of, Martha Reeves, Shorty Long, Francis Nero.... the list goes on. Wrap your lugholes round your speakers and enjoy.
You need Real Player on your machine to listen
Following a sell out Road Show in Bedford on March 1st, we are pleased to announce
The California Ballroom Roadshow
IS BACK FOR ROUND 4
14th June 2008 in Bedford
Tickets are now selling. If you want to get yours, use the Ticket link at the top of the page.
We understand that due to Bedford Council having decided to build all over the car parks that some of you had a real problem, especially those coming in from long distances who arrived later in the evening. We will do our best to find suitable spaces and will post what we find on the event page. If anyone from the Bedford area has some ideas where 100 or so cars can park within reasonable distance of the Town Centre please can you let us know.
Despite the parking issue, feedback was that the music was great, the venue fantastic and people didn't want to go home. There were 65 people still throwing themselves around the floor at 2am.
To all of you who attended. Thanks for making it a great evening. Hope to see you again in June
Wishing you a very Happy Christmas
from all at the California Ballroom Web Site
Apologies, I've had to remove the video as it was getting so many hits the
owner was disappearing under the onslaught.
Trans Siberian Orchestra - Wizards in Winter
The California Ballroom Roadshow
IS BACK FOR ROUND 3
1st March 2008 in Bedford
Please see the events page for further information
I like good quality icons. I use them on this site but professional ones usually cost an arm and a leg. Not these. Sign up for free and you get a monthly token allowance that allows you to grab sets for free. Love em. There are loads of different styles and there are new ones added each month. On the left are some examples but there are loads of others and new ones appearing all the time. You can use them on web sites, MySpace and make great embellishments for cards and projects for kids, do they need stuff to brighten up their homework?. Click the link or the pic and it'll take you to the sign up page. There's no obligation to do anything once you're in there other than grab and download freebies. Enjoy.
Yes I know, two lots in one month, can't be right can it. Well it's down to me suffering from a guilty conscience. Loads of people send me things. When the site first started I was unsure whether I'd have enough to post each month so I stockpiled. Unfortunately the stockpile was turning into a mini mountain and I was conscious that some things had been sitting there for some time. My sincere apologies to those who have been waiting for their contributions to appear. If it's any consolation, I donned a hair shirt this morning and I've been sitting here for the past 14 hours hammering away at the keyboard to catch up.
The result of all this frenzied activity is a load of additions and updates. There are new band pages, updates to existing band pages. Additions to Band Quotes and Memories. Additions to the Jocks pages. Additional information to the Pitney gig in 1963.
I expect you're now thinking I don't have anything left. Wrong!. John from North London sent me a load of info on various bands that he's pulled together from Lord knows where. I still have all of that to add to the site plus a number of other bands have been in touch with promises of site info..... and of course there's Kev Steed.
Now the decks are almost clear, I promise to keep up to date and if I don't you can tell me off at the next Roadshow.
Well it's all rather got away from me. I have been putting the odd few bits and pieces on the site and replying to loads of emails that have come in but I've neglected to update this page. Apologies.
I've had a number of contacts from band members, some of whom are going to dig out interesting bits and pieces for us so I can add new Band pages to the site. It still never ceases to amaze me where all the stuff comes from but as the site is now getting 10,000 visitors a month I suppose it's law of averages that things will appear.
A few people have been asking about the California Roadshows and rest assured things are afoot. I can't give details at the moment as negotiations are still underway but as soon as I have something concrete I'll let you know. In the meantime, keep an eye on the events section in the forum. There are smaller gigs going on all the time hosted by ex-California DJs, most notably Robbie Burns and Paul Gray, and Shossie does a night in Dunstable every week.
On which subject........ EUREKA!!!! We've found him!!!!!
Yes, the elusive Kev Steed has been run to ground. Now you've all got to promise me that you won't go dashing in and scaring him back into hiding but he's doing a gig. It's on Saturday 30th June 2007 at the Froth 'N' Elbow, 183 High Street South, Dunstable. A Jazz/Funk night with DJ Woodzie, 8pm until Midnight with Free admission. Soooooo, just where has the elusive Mr Steed been since the Cali closed? Answers in writing to.......
I'm sure those of you who remember Ray J Day and his wife Jane would wish to join me in sending heartfelt condolences to them both on the loss of their beautiful daughter Trenna.
31st March 1981 - 23rd February 2007
Well this year looks like it'll follow the same path as last year. I've had an email from Mick Parker erstwhile drummer with Inspiration and he sent me a photo which I have placed on the Inspiration page for those ladies who had a "thing" about him. The good news is that Barry Stedman of the same outfit had lost touch with the rest of the guys so we're now well on the way to reuniting them. Likewise, more of Johnny and Mike with the Shades are turning up and with any luck we should soon have a full house.
I've also had an email from Mal Ryder, regular visitor to this site. He's sent me a link to a petition he thought some of the ex-Caliites might be interested in signing. It's to get Neil Sedaka a recognition in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Here's the link to the Neil Sedaka Petition
Last but by no means least, anyone recognise these two reprobates on a trip down memory lane?
Sir Cliff Richard and Russ Sainty at the unveiling of
the commemorative plaque for the 2is coffee bar
Well here we are, 2007. I've just turned........ well let's just say I've just turned and I want to know where the time went. So many of you email in to say how well you remember the Cali and the great times you had there, I guess we're all in the same boat. The brain is still 18 but the body doesn't agree.
So what does 2007 have in store? No idea but if it's better than 2006 then it should be amazing. Last year I either saw or spoke to The Velvelettes, William Bell, Dorothy Moore, The Stylistics, Freda Payne, Billy Paul, Martha Reeves, Candi Staton, Deniece Williams and Peabo Bryson. All in this country and all keen to come back. The soul revival carries on apace.
The Dancing in the Streets tour is being complimented by a Stax version due to get going soon and I was told by the Velvelettes that there are moves afoot in the US to get a tour going with all original artistes from Motown. Now that'll be worth seeing.
Couple that with a whole raft of 60s Shows touring this year and there should be something for everyone. Maybe I'll see you at some of them.
Greetings from Blinky Williams and William Powell
Did you see them? Did you?
Well if not, you missed a treat and I suggest that you grab the few remaining tickets for Peterborough or Kettering. I've done a short review with some pics of the California Roadshow on Friday night.
Five original California Ballroom DJs together live on air plus yours truly
Carl Edwardes, Paul Gray, Robbie St James, Little Richard (Stavros), Robbie Burns and Jaybee chatting to Mick O'Donnell whose show 'Soul Discovery' goes out on the Cambridge Community station 209Radio between 12.00-1400hrs. Everything you wanted to know about Bedfordshire's unique music venue.
Go to itunes-
Click on Advanced-
Click on Subscribe to Podcast-
In box http://podcast.209radio.co.uk
click on Black arrow download Soul Discovery
the DJs all together in the studio with Mick O'Donnell
I was elsewhere but I'm not telling where.
Next month sees the Velvelettes hitting these shores for 4 gigs in and around Northampton. If you're coming to the first one, The California Ballroom Roadshow in Bedford I hope you've got your tickets as they're going really fast. Where else are you going to see a HUGE Motown name, with the original artistes, for £15? Bargain!
Quite a few people have been in touch over the last couple of months with information on their time at the California. If you've not checked out the Guestbook and the forum then I suggest you do as there are some great memories on there. Some of them are digging out old photos for us and I'll put them on the site ASAP.
There's a new page on this month for Paul Tring aka Mr H aka Mad Harry, DJ in the early to mid 70s. I've also been contacted by a DJ from the early 60s. As soon as I get his details they'll be added to the jocks list.
Now we're really saying something. It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack but although a lonely, lonely girl am I, these things will keep me loving you! Got it yet? Huh? Huh?
Well if you haven't you're either not a Motown fan or you're losing your marbles. Ladies and Gents....... 4 appearances only, starting with the California Ballroom Road Show on the 10th November 2006 at the Moat House Hotel in Bedford, we are proud to present the legendary Velvelettes! Yep! The Velvelettes!
Paddy Grady has excelled himself and is flying four of the original five ladies in to the UK. The missing one, Betty Kelly, is now with the Vandellas but this will be a show not to be missed. See the Events page.
I've been putting more band info on over the past month and I've also added a few bits and pieces to the memories page. Yesterday I had a chat with Clem Cattini who played the Ballroom on many occasions with various different bands, I'm sure most of you will know exactly who Clem is. Anyway, he's going to have a trundle through the site and assuming nostalgia doesn't send him sobbing into his pillow, I'm hoping for some memories to go on here. HINT HINT!!!!
Now, the curious case of the Gene Pitney gig. When Gene died I put a book of condolence on here for people to fill out and many of you did, bless your cotton socks, but, I had a query from a friend of mine, Mal Cook, who was not sure Gene had ever appeared in Dunstable. So, I checked out the gig list, and I checked out my research notes, and I checked the ad in the paper and sure enough, they all said.... Gene Pitney, California Ballroom, 23 November 1963.
"Not possible", said Mal.
A quick look at the other bands on the same bill and alarm bells started to ring. They were from Roy Tempest's stable. Now those of you who have read the "Howlin' Wolf " page in the Bands section will instantly recognise that name. I've spoken to a few regulars at the Cali at that time and none of them remember seeing Pitney. I'm on the trail of what appears to be another Roy Tempest gig that never was.
Just for a laugh, given the photos I posted in May, here's another one. I think I might entitle the group of pics - "The 3 ages of DJ haircuts". This one was kindly sent in by Diane Ilka, daughter of John Ilka, Grand-daughter of Edwin Green and author of the "Cali Album" book. Yes, it's Paul again but this time in the Devil's Den doing one of his soul nights circa 1972. Everybody go ahhhhhhh.
Paul Gray behind the decks on one of his Soul nights
in the Devil's Den, circa 1972
Do you know the really sad thing? I remember that shirt. I spent ages looking for one just like it. Something to do with the double buttons. For those of you with broadband you may also be interested to hear that Paul will be interviewing Diane on his California Soul show on RadioFreeMK on Sunday July 2nd starting at 8.30pm. Be there or be square pop pickers! NB. Alteration! I've just been told that Diane has had to pull out which is a great shame as I know from feedback that many of you were keen to hear about her book and experiences. Carl Edwardes, The DJ who set up all the new sound and lighting systems at the behest of Mrs Green, and was instrumental in bringing in the first Reggae and Soul acts, will be appearing instead and giving us all the gen on how things worked in 68 - 73.
Well the California Roadshow was another great success with people converging on Bedford from all directions. Our long lost Cali DJ Clive Mason put on a fine set to back up the regular jocks, Paul Gray, Carl Edwardes and Rob James, not forgetting show organiser and backer, Paddy Grady.
Carl, Clive and Paul
Three generations of California DJs.
I am owner of the California Ballroom Trademark, not cheap to do but it means that I can protect this web site and ensure that gigs and events carrying the name use genuine, verified California Disk Jockeys and that you are not paying out your hard earned cash to see wanabees. Recently there has been some confusion in the press as to who is and who isn't a California DJ.
In one instance I had to insist an advert was pulled from a newspaper as it claimed that the DJs were California originals. To be fair to all parties I should explain that this was not deliberate on behalf of the advertiser who had his wires crossed and the two DJs concerned had never claimed to have appeared at the California.
What constitutes a verified California DJ?
Proof such as this photo of Paul Gray
on stage or the one of Louie Martin below
Any show or event using the name California Ballroom MUST have my written approval and, in order to get that approval, MUST be using at least two verified California DJs. A verified DJ is one where there is absolute proof either from photographs, adverts, payments in accounts books or something similar. There is a list of DJs verified to date on the Jocks page.
If you come across an event using the California Ballroom name that does not conform to these rules, it is in breach of the Trademark and I would be grateful if you would notify me of the infringement.
Frontman of the legendary Heatwave, Johnnie had been in a wheelchair, paralysed from the neck down after a car accident in 1979. He died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Ohio on Saturday May 13th aged 56
Freddie was always such a live wire when he fronted the Dreamers and it was sad to see illness restricting him to a wheelchair in recent years. He had been suffering from emphysema and had been unable to work since 2001. He passed away on Friday 19th May aged 69
Born in Canada Jack stayed on in the UK after the war and set up the CANA Variety Agency. Many of the acts he booked trod the boards at the California including Johnny Mike and the Shades and The Rolling Stones. A lifelong musician himself, Jack marked his 90th birthday by selling his double bass in a final act of retirement. He died on Monday 22nd May
Mention his name and the first thing that springs to mind is The Israelites. Fronting the Aces over many years, Desmond was pioneer for many of the great Reggae singles of the late sixties and early seventies. His death on Thursday 25th May from a heart attack was sudden and unexpected. Desmond was 64
Those of us who were entertained on many occasions by all of these great men send our sincere condolences to their families and friends.
Saturday 29th April
"I've only ever missed four shows in 40 years
and two of those were because of snow in the UK"
The words of Gene Pitney talking to Jim Stewart in a recent interview for The Beat Magazine. Following a superb show in Cardiff on 4th April, Gene returned to his hotel room, laid down on the bed and died peacefully.
If you would like to leave a message of condolence then I have set up a book of Condolences for you to do so and all messages will be passed to his wife Lynne in due course.
I have also received news that Ray Dell (aka Dick - or later, Rik Mardell) lead singer with the Rockin' Deacons died on 3 Feb 2006. The anniversay of the death of Buddy Holly. Very fitting. He was 69.
I've been catching up with things I should have put on here ages ago. I've had a small stockpile of items and some of them should have made it live a long time ago. Apologies to those affected and I hope the results make up for it.
First up.........who's this?
Can't guess? Well it's another one of those elusive DJs we've been on the trail of for so long. Yes, it's Clive Mason. If you want to find out more about him and what he's been up to then head off to the Disk Jockeys page and click on the link for his info.
What else...... oh yes, bands. We have 'Rainbow Reflection' who were one of the groups covered by the irritatingly frequent "plus supporting groups" in many of the adverts. Paul Gardner has been in touch and sent a lovely picture so I've been able to set up a short bio for them. I also had some useful stuff from Mick Franks about his band "Sons of Adam" and finally, a telephone conversation with Steve Ellis, front man with 'Love Affair', resulted in an interesting, if painful, anecdote. All of these can be reached via the Bands link on the left.
Apologies for the dearth of information on here since before Christmas. I've had a run of illness, followed by an accident and then an operation. I'm now on the mend and barring anyone deciding to share their germs with me, things should now get back to normal.
Events are starting to come in and they're going on the relevant page. I'm also told that Mal Ryder is in the process of getting the Primitives back together. There'll be more info on that as soon as I get it. Kim Weston arrives in the UK tomorrow for a month and is touring a number of clubs. Keep your eyes peeled.
Finally, does anyone out there have any idea where Peter Lee Stirling (aka Daniel Boone) is these days. Several people have contacted me wishing to do interviews with him as the anniversary of Beautiful Sunday charting is coming up. If you have any info please mail me via the contact form.
To all who made it to Soul Academy for Louie Martin's 50th birthday bash, thanks for making it a great night. Louie was suitably gobsmacked! I've never seen anyone look so completely dazed. I spent a happy half hour chatting to Junior Giscombe about his new album and work with his nephew Richard Blackwood, had a quick boogie with the Solar Radio jocks and managed to tread on Phil Fearon's foot. Rob James and Louie's wife Anna had worked their socks off to set the do up and a nice touch was a video wall playing birthday wishes recorded by such luminaries as Robbie Vincent and Chris Hill.
Interestingly, people turned up with photos they'd managed to dig out and we've now got the shot below. This was taken in exactly the same venue back in 1989 when it was known as Ronnelles. The occasion? Well the photo says it was the first ever California Reunion.
The first ever California Reunion at Ronnelles 1989
S&V Productions with Louie and Robbie
The photo also says the event was put on by S&V Productions. We know the S was Selwyn Jonette if anyone knows who the V was can they please let us know. Louie and Robbie have age related memory loss.
The host for this site decided the server was getting too busy and mailed me to say I needed to move the whole thing over to a new server. Whilst doing it I was stunned to notice that I'd completely forgotten to finish the gigs list for 1970. How I managed to miss that I'll never know. Anyway, I did a quick dash over to Luton library and trawled through the fiche for the Post/Echo and now have the whole lot completed. Well, the Saturday night band lists anyway. It's a good job I did as I was missing the gig for The Invitations, a great bunch of guys who I met recently and as soon as they get the photos to me, I'll be putting a page up for them along with a link to their web site.
Now is also the appropriate time for me to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I hope the socks fit!
EMAIL ADDRESSES!!!!! People please!! I have received a number of enquiries from people who have either failed to give me any return email address or typed in one that doesn't exist. Now I've got round the first problem by changing the feedback form so that an email address is mandatory and I thought I'd covered the second by requiring the address to be typed in twice which works beautifully except when people type in the WRONG address twice. If you've mailed me with an enquiry and have not received a reply then that's why. I try to answer all incoming mail within two days at most and it's reeeeeeally annoying when they bounce back address unknown.
As mentioned a while ago a book about the California was in the offing and although it's taken a long time to get here it is now about to be released. If you would like a copy, The Cali Album by Diane Ilka can be ordered via The Book Castle in Dunstable. Priced £14.99 it's a paperback containing photos and contracts.
See the events page for more details
There is a new page for the band Respect who performed at the California in the late 60s. Photos and info were sent in by band member Michael Grant. Thank you!!!!
See the events page for more details
Whenever I think things are calming down and I'll have a chance to update this page, life conspires to tell me otherwise. I have over the past month been running around like a headless chicken doing gig reports under one of my other hats as columnist for The Beat and Chatbusters magazines. When the reviews are done I'll put them on here but both events gave me the opportunity to talk to some ex-California favourites. Geno Washington was delighted to reminisce about the dear old Cali and asked me to pass on thanks as he believes you were the people who gave him the life he had and still has. Clem Curtis said hello to you all as did Richie Pitts. Richie has promised to provide me with information to flesh out the Fantastics/Velours page.
Richard Street's Temptations
Richard Street who joined the Temptations in 1971 and now tours with his own Tempts, sent his best wishes as did the original members of Junior Walker's All Stars.
Last weekend gave me the chance to sit and talk to some real legends. Kim Weston, Brenda Holloway and Francis Nero never played the California but all of them knew about it. The Invitations on the other hand, played there as a band and as members of other groups and remember it fondly. One asked if they could play there again and I had to inform him that sadly, it wasn't possible unless a generous resident of Royce Close would give up their back garden for a marquee.
We have info and photos on another band, this time from the late 60s - The Hush. The info was sent in by Keith Fairhurst who was lead singer. Check out the page via the Bands link on the menu.
Can the person who contacted me about Barry Edwards and the Semitones asking for copies of the photos and saying that the drummer is "Tony Walter, NOT Derek Skinner, who is a friend of mine living like myself in SWEDEN" please contact me again. You didn't fill in the box with your email address. You can email me direct, using the address at the top of the feedback form. I'd love to help you out but I have no way of getting back to you.
Well what a busy month it was again. Hope you managed to catch Paul Gray's show on Radio free MK. Ahhhh memories! They've asked him to do another so watch this space.
More new band pages. Two this month plus updates to another. The new ones are for the Kinsmen (all photos courtesy of guitarist Chic Jefferson) and local band, the Barron Knights. Butch Baker has given me some interesting info about behind the scenes panics. There are also two new photos on Johnny Milton and the Condors' page courtesy of the wonderful Janice Hines who seems to keep conjuring them out of mid air.
You should also check out the pictures of YOU in the People section. There is another of Janice's finds plus a fantastic shot of the staff, in the dark, taken in 1972. This one was sent in by Ruth Dorrington. Some of you may remember her working behind the Pool Bar and the Hillside Bar.
Finally, news at last about one of the books that's due out. Diane Ilka's Cali Album is due for release very soon. Priced at £14.99 the book promises to be a little gem full of photographs and contracts from the family's private collection. The cover of the book gives you a foretaste of what is to come and we'll let you know as soon as it's available.
Diane Ilka's Cali Album. OUT SOON.
OUT NOW! If you would like a copy, The Cali Album by Diane Ilka can be ordered via The Book Castle in Dunstable. Priced £14.99 it's a paperback containing photos and contracts.
Blues musician Little Milton, died on August 5th in Memphis after suffering two strokes. He was 70 and had been in a coma since July 27th. James Milton Campbell Jr. was discovered by Ike Turner and initially recorded for Sun records, later moving over to Chess and Stax. In 1988 he was elected to the Blues Hall of Fame and named W.C. Handy Blues Entertainer of the Year. Twelve years later, he received his only Grammy nomination for his album "Welcome to Little Milton".
Drummer Carlo Little passed away aged 66 on August 6th after a long illness. Over the years he played with many big names including The Crusaders and The Flowerpot Men. "Carlo taught Keith Moon how to drum, Screaming Lord Sutch how to scream, and was in demand by many rock stars, including The Rolling Stones".
Our thoughts and best wishes go to their families and friends at this sad time.
Three of the artistes who appeared at the California Ballroom on a number of occasions and were great favourites with the crowd have been lost to us this month.
Renaldo Benson, founder of the Four Tops died aged 69 on July 1st in Detroit. He had been ill for a while and finally succumbed to lung cancer. He was the second of the Tops to leave us, Lawrence Payton having died in 1997. Of the remaining two Tops, Levi Stubbs has also been ill for some time leaving Abdul "Duke" Fakir as the only member still touring. Abdul said of Renaldo "He enjoyed every moment of his life, and put a smile on everyone's face, including my own."
Long John Baldry died at 10.30pm in Vancouver on the 21st July 2005. He had been ill for several months and and finally lost his fight due to a chest infection. His career spanned five decades and despite having only one UK hit with "Let the heartaches begin", he is acknowledged as one of the founding fathers of British Rock-n-Roll.
Eugene Record of the Chi-lites passed away with cancer on the 22nd. He will be remembered as the original lead singer and composer of the greatest songs of the Chi-Lites, including "Oh Girl," Have You Seen Her" and "Coldest Days of my life".
The thoughts and best wishes of all those who saw these great men at the California and elsewhere go to their families and friends at this sad time.
This month we have two new band pages. Lance Fortune and Barry Edwards and the Semi-tones. Both the pages are the result of an email from Barry Edwards himself. He has kindly supplied photographs and is in the process of digging out some more.
July 11th I was privileged to attend the Memorial Concert for agent Hal Carter who died last year. Hal was the agent and tour manager for many bands from the early 60s onwards, perhaps the most notable being Billy Fury. The concert was organised by Hal's daughter Abbie and was set up as a charity do for Cancer Research. The line-up was second to none and included Marty Wilde and the Wildcats, Dave Dee,Dozy,Beaky,Mick and Tich, The Rubettes, The Tremeloes, John Leyton, Eden Kane, Vince Eager, Carl Simmons, The Vernons Girls, Jess Conrad, Class of 64 and Rockin' Horse.
It was a superb evening and I got to chat to a lot of the stars, almost all of them having appeared at the California at one time or another. Each of them said that if they saw the California on their tour schedule, they knew they were in for a good night. Backstage at the London Palladium is a rabbit warren and I spent a considerable amount of time trying to catch up with Mick Clarke of the Rubettes. Finally succeeding, I handed over pictures of him with Johnny Milton and the Condors taken in 1963 and 64 much to the amusement of Alan Williams and a couple of the Wildcats.
Paul Gray will be presenting a California Ballroom Soul Show on Radio Free MK on Sunday 24th July between 8 and 10 pm. You can listen to the show online on www.radiofreemk.co.uk if you have Real Player or Winamp installed on your machine
I have to apologise for the lack of updates, I do have an excuse though. I put my back out whilst putting my shoes on! Two weeks of agony but now I'm moving around again and can spend more than 5 minutes sat at the computer.
Well I've added quite a bit this month, mainly because I've been trying to catch up with all the things being sent through. Check out the You page which you reach from the People link on the menu. There are two new pics sent in by Peter Coleman of him and his sweetheart, Ann Hindson. Are you out there Ann?
The pics from Freddie Mack are on his page and there are new shots of the Stones and P J Proby on their pages. The Band Quotes page has been updated with a quote from Kenny Bell, more memories have been added and we have confirmation of the James Brown gig in 1976.
The first California Ballroom Roadshow gig on June 4th at the Moat House Ballroom in Bedford was a roaring success. The floor was packed for 5 hours solid and at 2am, the bouncers had to forceably remove everyone. Feedback from the night is that it was great fun, nice to hear lots of tracks you'd forgotten, and when's the next one. Plans are in place for another in November with a major surprise. Watch the events page for details.
Finally, Ruff Justice on www.radiofreemk.co.uk featured an interview with Paul Gray on the Dave Watts show last week. I'm now told that Paul will have his own show - 24th July is planned, I'll confirm the times when I know more.
Crumbs what a busy few weeks. I've got pictures and emails coming through like nobody's business. Please bear with me contributors, I'm putting them on as fast as I can. So far I've managed 2 new pages for Johnny Milton and the Condors who later became The Symbols. You can get to those from the Bands link on the menu.
Janice Hines, who now lives in the US, contributed the photographs and you can see a picture of Janice herself on the You page which you reach from the People link on the menu
I've had some pics from Freddie Mack and those will go on ASAP, I've had memories from all sorts of people and I'm told that one of the barmen in the mystery shot is Grant Osborne.
Don't forget the first California Ballroom Roadshow gig which will be taking place on June 4th at the Moat House Ballroom in Bedford. Be there or be square
Well what a month for people coming along with their memories. I've been hard pushed to keep up. Lots of you who went to the Cali have contributed info and that's all gone on the Memories page. A number of bands have turned up as well so there are new items on the Band Quotes page. Freddie Mack also known as K-Tel's Mr Superbad dropped me a line and has enabled me to add some comments to his page. Geoff Gibbs who was with "Him and the Others" and "The Hand" has contributed info and pictures, Rory Wilde got in touch, as well as Chic Jefferson from the Kinsmen. All of these have either contributed or are about to contribute information so keep an eye on the Bands page for new ones turning up.
DJs are coming out of the woodwork too. There's a new page for DJ John Jones with photo!!!! And a new photo of Robbie St James as he is now
I had a very nice email from one of the Directors of Radio London and we now have reciprocal links. If you want to reminisce about the old days, go check out our Links page for the Big L - Radio London web site and The Oldies Project - 24-7 streaming of the good stuff from the 60s and 70s
Finally, the Events page now carries details of the first California Ballroom Roadshow gig which will be taking place on June 4th at the Moat House Ballroom in Bedford. Tickets are going fast so get in quick
I've been out and about this month and the result is a new page for Mick Rutter who was the Ballroom Manager from 1977 to 1979 when it closed. You can get to it via the People link on the menu.
I also went along to the preview of a new photographic exhibition to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Motown Invasion of the UK in 1965. Details of this, on until June 4th, are on the Events page. Whilst there I had the opportunity to have a chat with Gary Crowley and was amazed to discover that he was still in touch with another missing California DJ. John Jones, you've been a tough man to find.
Also on the Events page is info for the bi-monthly Funk nights being run by Louie Martin and Rob James. The first one was so popular that regular dates have now been arranged. Originally running as Sunday Soul, a hang-over from the nights held at the Devil's Den, the name has been changed to cater for the fact that the gigs are on Saturdays and it's now known as Soul Academy. From September, it is intended to add another room playing Soul and Motown and this will be hosted by a number of ex-California DJs.
Those of you who can get Solar Radio will also be interested to know that Louie will be doing a 2 hour Jazz Funk special on April 30th between 12 and 2pm.
Finally June 4th, Bedford Moat House. Block this date out in your diary, highlight it in red, do whatever you need to do to make sure you're free. The California Ballroom Roadshow will be making its debut. A number of California DJs will be running the decks along with guest DJs from other notable clubs around the area. Details will appear on the events page in the near future so watch that space!
Two new band pages have gone on the site this time. One from the early sixties: Dave Douglas and the Vistas and one from the late 60s: The Inspiration. Dig those haircuts!
Dave Douglas of the Vistas is celebrating his 60th birthday on the 29th March and should by now have got a surprise, or maybe it's a nasty shock, organised by his children. We've managed to scrape together a load of old memorabilia and put it together in a frame to remind him of his misspent youth. I really hope you enjoy it Dave and I wish you Many Happy Returns whilst trying to refrain from making rude comments about a 60 from the 60s!
Well what a great time was had by all on Saturday. I attended the first Soul Academy run by the Sunday Soul crew and held at the Royal Oriental in Luton, which used to be known as Ronnelles. Rob James and Louie Martin were fully prepared for a smallish turnout due to it being the first one but they needn't have worried. The place was jam packed.
Our latest find, Stavros, put in an appearance, much to Louie's surprise as they've not seen each other for many years. Other Cali DJs and faces turned up as well and you can see the resulting photo, taken by Terry Oliver, below. I spent a large chunk of the evening having a fascinating chat with Derek from Hi-Tension and got a promise from Steve Silvari of Central Line that he would dig out his old diaries to provde us with some more California info.
Discussions are now underway to run Soul Academy on a regular basis so keep your eyes on the events page for the next one.
Left to Right: Tony Simmons, Paul Gray, Derek from Hi-Tension
Robbie Burns, Stavros and Louie Martin
Stavros, bless his cotton socks, turned up with a small selection of his old photos and a couple of them now appear on the Stavros page and on the Player's Association page. He was also able to recall a lot of information on the DJs covering the period 1974 onwards. Put together with info from other DJs and Cali regulars, we have been able to flesh out a few more blanks on the personnel front.
I've been getting quite a few emails from people asking the same question so I've set up an FAQ page. I'll add to it as requests come through
First off an apology. The site search box that I included when I set the new site up was the biggest load of rubbish going. It seemed to have a mind of its own and happily turned up a page one day and then told you it wasn't there the next. That'll teach me to use a freebie. I have now changed it over to a super dooper version which seems to find everything..... and then some. And it's fast too.
The latest news is that we've found Stavros (AKA Little Richard), alive and well and living in North London. He tells us he has loads of pictures and memories so watch out for those. Richard, Danny McGarry would like to know if you've still got your wage packet?
On the Band front, we've been contacted by people associated with or part of Dave Douglas and the Vistas, and Ray Dell and the Rocking Deacons. If anybody has any further information on either of these bands please mail it through.
My thanks to all those who have sent in compliments about the new site layout. I'm glad you find it easy to use. Feedback is always appreciated as I can't think of everything and I know it so well that I don't notice problems. Rob James..... you can take your glasses off now, I've increased the size of the font on the menu. Which reminds me, if you are having trouble reading small text whilst browsing the Internet you can do something about it. If you go take a look at the troubleshooting page which you can access from the link at the top right of most pages on this site, there are instructions.
Well what do we have that's new this time? If you take a trundle over to the page about the Pools, which can be reached from the California link on the menu, you'll see the original plans and a photo of the construction work taking place in 1935. Rob James..... put your glasses back on, the print on the scans is hard to read. I've done my best to translate it but I might need to borrow your glasses!
Here's a picture I hadn't previously loaded as I wanted to get permission from the Hal Carter Org. It shows Edwina Green with John Leyton and was taken at the end of last year. Poor John had only just arrived and hardly had time to take his coat off when I grabbed him and shoved him in front of the camera.
Edwina with John Leyton
I've been contacted by Paul Hanford who appeared at the California in the early sixties. Paul released "Itsy Witsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" and sang it live on the large stage. He is sending through some bits and pieces and when they arrive I'll put a page up for him for you all to peruse at your leisure.
Drummer Carlo Little's daughter Giselle has been in touch to tell me she's linked this site to her father's. Carlo is acknowledged as one of the best drummers this country ever had and he taught Keith Moon to play. There is a link to his site on the links page and it gives you all the details about his career.
Finally, best wishes and a speedy recovery go out to Roger Dean, guitarist with the Nu-Notes and the Bluesbreakers amongst others. Roger had a nasty car crash just after Christmas and suffered several broken ribs and a smashed left arm. He is now on the mend and expects to have his cast removed next week.
and welcome to the brand new version of the California Ballroom web site. I hope you like it and find it easy to use.
You will notice the menu has changed considerably and you now have access to a bands page. This doesn't list every band that ever played at the California. I've only put pages on there where I have something that specifically refers to the Cali. Other band info is coming in all the time so pages will be added.
There is also a new breadcrumb menu. You can see it just under the logo and it tells you where you are at all times. If you don't want to use the main menu, or your back button, then just click on the links in the breadcrumb and it will take you back to that page.
There is also a new People section. In there you will find pages about people who were closely associated with the California Ballroom.
This site will always be a work in progress so keep checking back and if you have any problems with anything on the site then please let me know.
Commemorative sign at Royce Close
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