Strictly come dancing

HERE’S a photo which will prompt huge waves of nostalgia among many local people.

Sunday, 18th September 2011, 11:07 am

This is the California Ballroom at the foot of the Downs in Whipsnade Road, Dunstable. It opened in March 1960 and became the venue for a long series of dance-concerts in the heyday of popular music.

Iconic stars such as Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones, Kathy Kirby, the Rolling Stones, Ronnie Carroll, Lulu and even Jimi Hendrix performed there in their early careers.

The first Rolling Stones concert in the massive ballroom was on July 27 1963. Russ Sainty, the singer with the resident band at the venue, recalls the event in his book “King of the Cali”.

The Stones were very, very late, he said, and then, when they arrived, the Cali’s owner, Edwin Green, was taken aback by their scruffy appearance. He offered to show them to the kitchens where they could change and was amazed to find they had no stage outfits.

They did their hour-long set in the same filthy clothes in which they had travelled, says Sainty, but the wildly enthusiastic audience didn’t care. Mr Green commented afterwards: “Russ, whatever it is they’ve got, you need to get some of it!”

The Gazette in 1963 published many photos of the concert. But Jimi Hendrix was not nearly so co-operative with our photographer as the laid-back Stones, which is why no feature on his gig appeared in the paper. Our loss perhaps…

The Yesteryear photo, the colour of which has faded very much over the years, was taken in 1980 just before the Cali was demolished to make way for the present Royce Close housing estate.

> Yesteryear is compiled by John Buckledee, chairman of Dunstable and District Local History Society