Yesteryear: All dressed up for California ballroom’s opening night

Opening of California Ballroom, Dunstable, in 1960.
Opening of California Ballroom, Dunstable, in 1960.

No-one could have dreamed, on that Saturday in March, 1960, that Dunstable’s newest nightspot would be such a success, or that it would eventually become such an iconic venue for rock ‘n’ roll and soul music.

Eddy Green (pictured on the left of the group) had built the huge California ballroom in front of his swimming pool in Whipsnade Road, and invited the Mayor of Dunstable, Alderman Louis Palmer, to perform the grand opening ceremony.

The Mayor relied on his knowledge of previous posh occasions to dress up resplendently in white tie and tails, with his wife accompanying him in a flowing evening gown.

It was not long before laid-back groups like the Rolling Stones lowered the dress code very considerably.

The Mayor, a close relation of Richard Palmer (aka Duke D’Mond) of Barron Knights fame, is seen in front of the Cali’s resident musicians, the Ray Miller Orchestra.

Also performing that night were Russ Sainty and the Nu Notes, who went on to become regulars at the Cali.

Russ, in his book King of the Cali, recalls his group being booked for the opening night for £25, twice their normal fee.

They were staggered by the size of the dance floor and unfazed by the fact that they had no dressing room – they changed clothes in the kitchen!

Perhaps there was better accommodation for the night’s star singer, crooner Ronnie Carroll.

Russ’s book recalls the great success of that opening night, when the No Notes number which went down best with the audience was an Elvis Presley song called Wear My Ring Around Your Neck.

The group had a drink afterwards with Mr Green, whose face was glowing with delight and relief.

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