Editorial by Paddy Grady in Blues and Soul Magazine
This review can be read in full on the home page of this site
A former disc jockey's assistant at Dunstable's California Ballroom has set up a website about the popular venue. Webmaster Jaybee decided to launch it after she discovered that some well-known names to the ballroom, Mick Ilka and Bruce Benson, had died and there was nothing to remember them by.
Jaybee said: "It started off as a tribute to them, to say thanks for what they did but then more and more things started to come in." She said: "It's just gone ballistic ever since it was launched. From the first week it was up it had visitors from America and it's had quite a few visitors from Australia, Saudi Arabia and all across Europe."
She added: "Anybody with any memories of the place is either e-mailing me or leaving messages on the bulletin board." The California Ballroom was built in the 1950s, attracting some of the UK's best bands. It closed in 1979 and the land was sold for development. It is now the site of Royce Close.
Jaybee who worked at the venue in the '70s, previously lived in Luton but moved more than 20 years ago. She now lives in Berkshire. She said: "I've got in touch with almost all of the DJs that used to play up there, and there are a couple who I'm trying to track down."
Eventually, Jaybee hopes the site will have a detailed list of every event and gig held at the ballroom. She said: "At the moment there are 250 gig dates on the site and I think I'm looking for around 1,500." The site can be found at www.california-ballroom.info.
Over the years much has been written about the great entertainment venues of this country; Wigan Casino, Goldmine, Twisted Wheel etc. and an abundance of information can be found on the internet. Yet, strangely, one is missing - The California Ballroom, Dunstable.
This venue was perhaps the greatest of them all. It can certainly claim the title of Greatest Soul venue, hosting all the top acts between 1960 and 1979 including the Motown and Philly reviews. James Brown who famously refused to appear at Wigan Casino, made sure he put on an impressive show at 'The Cali' and yet the place has been largely ignored.
For many people 'The Cali' was Dunstable. When it closed the town lost a massive connection with visitors from across the country. A new website is addressing this wrong. In a very short time it has received over 1000 visitors from around the globe, proving that although the place has gone, it hasn't been forgotten. You can visit the site at www.california-ballroom.info.