The Prom Ballroom was located at 1190 University Ave. in St. Paul. When it was built it was next to the Lexington Ballpark.
It was built at a cost of $250,000 by developer Carl J. Fox, who also built the Surf Ballroom in Iowa and the Terp Ballroom in Austin, Minn. The architect for all three was Hanson & Waggoner in Mason City.
Minneapolis Star columnist Cedric Adams was “thoroughly amazed” at the new ballroom; among his praises was that the “color harmonies are perfect” and “the terraces, lobby and lounge are carpeted.” Other comments of the influential Mr. Adams are included below. (March 25, 1941)
There is much to tell about the Prom, which operated for 46 years. I’ll start with some photos and then go year by year with some of the acts that came through.
In April 1956 the Prom advertised that it had been fully redecorated throughout, with glamorous new lighting, smart new murals and appointments.
Ad from 1966: “Those who have not attended the Prom since college days, we now have complete cocktail lounges and comfortable seating!”
Only soft drinks were served at the Prom – ads specifically read “No Hard Liquor Allowed!” Cedric Adams tells us that the bar was 72 feet long and was made out of one solid piece of redwood.
There were seven rows of booths.
THE DANCE FLOOR AND BANDSTAND
Cedric Adams wrote that the dance floor had 12,000 square feet, and next to the Trianon in Chicago, it was the largest ballroom between Chicago and the West Coast. Up to 2,000 people could dance at one time. The dance floor was made of maple and laid “log cabin” style, which allowed dancers to always dance with the grain of the wood.
The bandstand could seat two bands at one time.
ACTS AT THE PROM
The grand opening of the Prom was on March 26, 1941. Contrary to Urban Legend, the Prom was not opened by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, but by the Paul Moorhead band from Omaha, and the Royce Stoenner band from Kansas City (who?).
This also calls into question the claim that 9,000 people showed up and 3,000 of them had to be turned away. Cedric Adams wrote that the building held 3,500.
March 27, 1941: Whoopie John hosted the Prom’s “First Old Time Dance.”
March 28, 1941: Ralph Slade and His Orchestra
March 29, 1941: Nat Towles, “Southland’s Greatest Colored Band”
March 30, 1941: Paul Moorhead
The Blue Barron Orchestra appeared on April 2, 1941, advertised as the Prom’s “First Name Band.”
April 11, 1941: Henry Busse the Trumpet King, composer of “Hot Lips”
April 15, 1941: Count Basie, “The Sepia Sensation of the Nation,” with vocalists Helen Humes and James Rushing
April 23, 1941: Cab Calloway and his Cotton Club Orchestra, featuring the Four Cab Jivers.
June 1, 1941: Tiny Little
Ted Fio Rito came to the Prom on June 4, 1941. His entourage included Candy Candido, “The Many-Voiced Man;” song stylist Alan Cole; Frank Flynn on drums and vocals; Bert Traxler on sax; and the Three Chicks. Fio Rito was a pianist and a songwriter.
The Prom promised audiences would “Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye” on August 13, 1941. Kaye had the “So You Want to Lead a Band” schtick, recruiting members of the audience to try their hands at the baton. His singers were Tommy Ryan, Charlie Ryan, and the Three Kadets.
A “Boogie for Britain” jam session and dance originally scheduled for the Lyceum Theater was transferred to the Prom on September 14, 1941, to hold more people. Proceeds of the event went to Bundles for Britain.
Johnny “Scat” Davis appeared at the Prom on October 1, 1941. Davis was a comedian, trumpeter, and scat singer. He had appeared in the films “Brother Rat,” “Hollywood Hotel,” and “Cowboy From Brooklyn.”
October 27, 1941: Artie Shaw and His Orchestra made a one-night stand, bringing “$1,000,000 in Talent.” His girl singer was Paula Kelly.
Henry Busse, orchestra leader and trumpet player of “Hot Lips” fame, entertained at the Prom on November 6, 1941.
Did you know the Prom had a bowling alley? Neither did I! A Duck Pin bowling alley to be exact, with 22 regulation duck pin lanes. G.D. Myers was the Manager of this endeavor. It may not have lasted long.
December 31, 1941: Jay McShann was the entertainer – he was more of a rhythm & blues musician.
Frank Sinatra appeared at the Prom Ballroom on March 25, 1942.
Richard Himber, whose orchestra was apparently famous enough to merit notice in the paper, appeared at the Prom on May 13, 1942.
Glenn Miller did make it to the Prom on June 1, 1942. Featured vocalists were Ray Eberle, Tex Beneke, and Marion Hutton. Cedric Adams’ column of May 16, 1942, in the Minneapolis Star Journal suggested that Miller had last been to Minneapolis four years before “as a sort of professorial gent” at the Nicollet [Hotel’s] Minnesota Terrace.” Where the myth that he opened the Prom came from is unknown but will probably never go away!
June 7, 1942: Will Bradley’s OrchestraJune 12, 1942: Don Strickland Orchestra
June 13, 1942: Bennett-Greten Orchestra
June 14, 1942: Tiny Little and his band
June 16, 1942: Louis Armstrong, “Sepia Hot Trumpet Player” and his Orchestra
June 18, 1942: Bennett-Greten Orchestra
June 28, 1942: Bobby Griggs Band
July 1, 1942: Doc Lawson
July 2, 1942: Ted Johnson
On July 3, 1942, Don Graetell led Cliff Keye’s band while Keyes served in the Navy.
July 4, 1942: Glad Olinger
July 5, 1942: Court Hussey’s debut at the Prom
July 8, 1942 appears to be the first of hundreds of appearances by Woody Herman and his orchestra.
July 9 – 12, 1942: Lee Williams’ debut
July 12, 1942: Ted Johnson mixed old-time and modern for the 28 and over crowd.
July 15, 1942: Don Strickland
July 16, 1942: Ted Johnson
July 17, 1942: Blue Barron Orchestra
July 18, 1942: Bobby Griggs
July 19, 1942: Court Hussey
August 2, 1942: Guy De Leo
August 5, 1942: Jimmy Dorsey
August 7 and 8, 1942: Tony Pastor
On September 11, 1942, the Prom staged a “blackout stomp,” whereby the lights were turned off on the jitterbuggers every 20 minutes. “There should be some pretty wild collisions from that,” reported Cedric Adams.
Cliff Kyes’ Orchestra entertained on October 3, 1942.
The music on October 4, 1942, was provided by the Lynn Kerns Rhythm Club.
November 13 to 15, 1942: Boyd Raeburn
November 18, 1942: Jimmy Lunceford
November 20, 1942: Al Menke
November 21, 1942: Lynn Kerns
November 22, 1942: Cliff Kyes
November 27, 1942: Larry Villendrer
November 28 and 29, 1942: Tiny Little
December 2, 1942: Stan Kenton
December 4 to 6, 1942: Al Jarrett “Your Singing Movie Star” and his Orchestra.
Charles Fox was identified as the owner of the Prom in December 1942.
This appears to be a pretty fallow year in terms of big name entertainment because of the War.
April 2 and 3, 1943: Hometown girl Patty Ross returned to Minneapolis while singing with the Clyde Lucas Orchestra. Lucas was from Minneapolis, Kansas.
On October 24, 1943, it was announced that Guy De Leo, who had been leading the orchestra at the Prom for several months, had joined the Marine Corps.
In June 1944, mean old manager Earl Harding banned jitterbugging at the Prom, claiming that only 8 Percent of his patrons indulged in the fancy dancing, and it interfered with or injured the other dancers. The aggravated hoppers took their case to the Mayor of St. Paul and demonstrated their moves, with the hopes of enlisting his help in lifting the ban. The Mayor appointed Milton Rosen, the commissioner of public works, to look into the mater. Well that makes perfect sense. Rosen’s verdict: “I saw some jitter-bugging last night, and frankly, I don’t think it is conducive to good health.” (Minneapolis Star Journal, June 27 and 29, 1944)
Tommy Dorsey, His Trombone, and His Orchestra (49 people) were busy in December 1944. On Saturday the 16th they played a dance at the Prom, and on Sunday the 17th they were at the Minneapolis Auditorium for a modern concert at 3pm and a dance at 8 pm. Apparently the “Sentimental Gentleman of Swing” was on trial for hitting a guy but evaded jail to make the $4,500 gigs. (Minneapolis Star Journal, December 8, 1944)
Frankie Carle came to town in late July 1945, introducing a new girl singer who turned out to be his daughter. She was married to his piano player. It was her first performance with the band.
September 5, 1945: Sonny Dunham and All His Stars
September 1945: Ted Weems
Harry Cool, a graduate of Minneapolis’ West High, brought his new band to the Prom on May 8, 1946. He had been a singer with many different bands before starting his own unit less than a year before this appearance.
May 17, 1946: Stan Kenton and his orchestra, Look magazine’s nomination for Dance Band of 1946. Kenton’s singers were June Christy and Gene Howard. He was heading west for movie work.
May 27, 1946: Spike Jones and His City Slickers made their first dance date in the ‘Cities. They had been here before as part of movie packages only.
On July 24, 1946, comedian Jerry Colonna headed a “Hollywood Jamboree” stage show. Performers included:
- Tony Romano, singing guitarist
- Fay McKenzie, stage and screen singer
- Bonnie Lou Williams, former singer for Tommy Dorsey
- Billy Butterfield’s Band
Oh oh. Guess the jitterbug ban was lifted, but someone always wrecks it for everyone and now Eleanor claimed she was permanently damaged by some hep cat and sued the Prom for $20,000. Damn.
On December 16, 1946, it was announced that Carl and Emma Fox and Maxine Warren sold the Prom, Terp, and Surf Ballrooms to the Chicago company that owned the Aragon and Trianon Ballrooms in that city. William Karzas was the managing director of Aragon and Trianon. (Minneapolis Star and Journal)
On January 30 and 31, 1947, the Prom presented Cecil Golly’s Orchestra, featuring Mildred Stanley and Jimmy Shepard.
March 5, 1947: Raymond Scott and Lee Williams alternated.
Duke Ellington played for 1,000 students and their dates at the U of M’s Senior Prom – at the Prom. April 10, 1947. 18 piece orchestra – a true Big Band!
Here’s an ad from June 14, 1947, featuring Harry Given, who appears to have been a local orchestra leader.
June 15 and 16, 1947, featured Prom regular Willie Hagen.
On June 18 to 21, 1947, the Prom presented Lee Williams and His Orchestra.
July 16, 1947: Charlie Spivak, trumpet player and bandleader
Tony Pastor was in town on July 30, 1947 – buy his records at the Gates Music Shop, 817 Hennepin.
October 18, 1947, brought Lee Williams and His Stepping-Tone Music. Sounds intriguing!
Lawrence Welk, a big favorite, appeared at the Prom on October 22, 1947.
The first annual Page One Ball, also known as the Newspaperman’s Ball, was held on November 17, 1947. Ted Weems was scheduled to appear, but later reports said that music was provided by Claude Thornhill’s band. Also performing was Dorothy Shay, the “Park Avenue Hillbilly,” famous for that classic ditty “Feudin’ and Fightin.'”
Claude Thornhill made a repeat appearance on November 19, 1947.
Harry Cool returned to the Prom for the week of January 9, 1948, and made a stop at an open house at Don Leary’s Record Store on January 10.
KSTP-TV was the first television station in Minnesota, and its first broadcast was of a dinner on April 26, 1948, from the Prom, with speakers from 7:30 to 8:00 pm, and a stage show from 8 to 9 pm. This program was telecast on KSTP, and TV dealers had sets in their showrooms for people to watch. Speakers included representatives of Northern States Power, the National Broadcasting Company, RCA, and Stanley E. Hubbard, president of KSTP-TV. Dr. J.O. Christianson of the University of Minnesota presided. (Minneapolis Star, April 23, 1948)
Some local musicians that took part in the first telecast were Johnny Bravus (sic), tenor; Jack Donovan, trombone; Dougie Peterson, bass; Sid Osterlund, drums; and Wally Morgan, piano. The effort was masterminded by John (?) Wolf, a local radio DJ. Kenneth Stuart says he wasn’t there but roomed with Jack Donovan who said it was a “trip.”
On June 8, 1948, the Prom hosted Alvino Rey, “America’s Number 1 Guitarist,” and his Orchestra.
June 22, 1948, brought Ray McKinley, a triple threat on drums, vocals, and bandleader. The girl singer was Marcy Lutes.
July 14, 1948: Woody Herman played the clarinet and saxophone. His band featured the Four Chips, and vocalist Jeri Ney.
September 1, 1948: Banjo player Art Mooney, famous for his rendition of “I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover.”
On December 18, 1948, the St. Paul Musicians Association and the Prom offered a free “Twin City Teenage Hi-Hop,” featuring the orchestras of:
- Red Knapton
- Ray Winkler
- Harry Given
The Prom was advertised as “Minnesota’s Wonder Ballroom” and promised “Dance & Romance.”
February 25, 1949: Ted Weems and His Orchestra
March 1, 1949: Vaughn Monroe
On April 28, 1949, the Prom hosted an unusual Western Night, featuring Country stars from KSTP radio:
- Billy Folger
- Fiddlin’ Russ
- Cactus Slim
- Andy Walsh
- Chuck Mulkern
- Kim Weston
- Kathy Kohles
On May 17, 1949, the Prom hosted Radio Fun Night, a benefit for B’nai B’rith. It featured the following local DJs:
- John Ford
- Jim Boyson
- Jack Thayer
- Dick Enroth
- Clellan Card
- Bill Wigginton
- Cal Karnstedt
- Don Hawkins
- Sev Widman
- Sherm Booen
- Marty O’Neill
- Norm Paige
- Slim Jim
- Bill Daley
Dick Jurgen’s band appeared at the Prom on August 10, 1949. The unit was named “Treasury Band of 1948” by the U.S. Treasury Department. What could that have been about?
On August 17, 1949, WTCN broadcast a 30 minute show from the Prom featuring Lawrence Welk’s Champagne music, coast to coast. The ad is unclear but seems to indicate that it was broadcast on both radio and TV. The show was sponsored by Miller High Life beer.
September 21, 1949: Woody Herman arrived with drummer Shelly Manne, “trombone notable” Bill Harris, and singer Mary Ann McCall. The Minneapolis Tribune reported that “Herman, it may be remembered, has espoused bop, at least in spirit, in his recent feud with Tommy Dorsey.” (September 18, 1949)
October 26, 1949: Elliot Lawrence and his Famous Band, featuring Rosalind Patton and Jack Hunter
Date unknown: Artie Shaw was in town in 1949, with vocalist Pat Lockwood.
The Blue Barron Orchestra performed on January 20, 1950. They had just had a hit record, “Cruisin’ Down the River.” They came back many times but that was their only/biggest record. Vocalists with the band were Bobby Beers and Betty Clark.
RACIAL DISCRIMINATION AT THE PROM
On February 4, 1950, two foreign students from the U of M were not allowed to enter the Prom when they went there with an American couple. One was from Surinam, formerly Dutch Guinea, and one from China. The University was up in arms about the incident, and Don Simon, president of the All-University Congress wrote a letter to James C. Alexander, general manager of the Prom, telling him that many students believed that the incident was a “discriminatory practice.”
Alexander apologized to the students and allowed them into the ballroom for free. Simon followed up with a letter telling Alexander that the students have come “to accept as equals people of all nations and races,” and asked for the Prom’s admission police toward university students. Alexander responded that any member of the University was “presumed to be of good moral character” and could enter the ballroom.
But when asked about groups outside of the University, Alexander said, “We have a definite standard. And we don’t want that standard compromised by prostitutes, alcoholics, or people who would be held in disrepute by the community.”
The St. Paul Council on Human Relations tried to arrange a meeting with Alexander over the incident with the foreign students. Executive Secretary Ruth Abernathy said, “We feel that now is the time to bet a statement of their complete policy,” but Alexander said that a meeting was not necessary because he had apologized to the students and he considered the incident closed. (Minneapolis Tribune, February 25, 1950)
March 3, 1950: Clyde McCoy and his Orchestra played their only Upper Midwest date in their move from the West Coast to the East. McCoy was known for the song “Sugar Blues.”
March 8, 1950: Ray Anthony and his Orchestra. Anthony had played trumpet in Glenn Miller’s band from 1940–1941, and appeared in the Glenn Miller movie Sun Valley Serenade before joining the U.S. Navy during World War II. After the war he formed his own group. The Ray Anthony Orchestra, which became popular in the early 1950s with its recordings of “The Bunny Hop,” ” The Hokey Pokey,” and the theme from Dragnet. Later on. Anthony was also famous for his 1955-1959 marriage to Mamie Van Doren. The Tribune said he could double as Cary Grant…
March 17, 1950: Henry Busse and his Orchestra. Henry Busse, Jr. and his mother had settled in Anoka after the parents’ divorce. Junior was not up to snuff playing the trumpet, but was attending the Beck School for Radio in Minneapolis, studying to be a disc jockey.
April 12, 1950: Russ Morgan and His Orchestra. The band had a big hit with “So Tired,” and didn’t often make one-night stands.
May 12, 1950: Guy Lombardo made his first Upper Midwest appearance in more than ten years. His vocalists included Carmen, Liebert, and the Lombardo Trio.
May 17, 1950: Jimmy Dorsey and his orchestra of 18. He extolled the Dixieland revival and had a band-within-a-band featuring Charlie Teagarden. Also featured were Ray Bauduc and Shorty Sherock.
May 21, 1950: Ferde Oldre was a veteran Minneapolis bandleader. He was booked for every other Sunday night. He played piano, violin, and banjo, and during intermission he lead community singing.
June 3, 1950: Bandleader Jan Garber made his first appearance in the area in more than a decade. He came with three vocalists.
July 14, 1950: Art Mooney made his second appearance in two years.
July 19, 1950: Charlie Spivak arrived with his 18-piece band. Spivak played the trumpet. Vocalists were Pat Collins and Tommy Lynn.
August 11, 1950: Tony Pastor and his 18-piece band had a “novelty style.”
August 18, 1950: Blue Barron’s Orchestra
The annual Musicians’ Ball was held at the Prom on September 27, 1950. The show featured 12 bands.
September 29, 1950: Tiny Hill and his “shuffle boat” Orchestra. Tiny weighed in at 386 pounds, and his theme song was “Angry.”
October 4, 1950: Harry James and his 20-piece Orchestra. Can you imagine seeing Harry James for a buck and a quarter?
October 11, 1950: Sammy Kaye and his 18-piece Orchestra featured six vocalists. Kaye had a “So You Want to Lead a Band” feature.
November 1, 1950: Hal McIntyre and His Orchestra played the Prom; his first date in the area in three years.
November 17, 1950: Ralph Flanagan and His Orchestra was number one on college campuses. His style was compared to that of Glenn Miller.
The Arizona Room in the basement of the Prom opened around this time. It was a smaller room, available for private parties.
January 12-14, 1951: Clyde Mc Coy.
Yogi Yorgesson came to the Prom on January 31, 1951. Yogi was of Norwegian descent, but played a Swede on his 40-some records, thick with dialect. Although he was from Tacoma, Washington, he was very popular here in Minnesota, ya know.
February 2, 1951: Stan Kenton
March 16 – 18, 1951: Tommy Dorsey and his 18-piece orchestra
April 13, 1951: Pianist Frankie Carle
April 18, 1951: The Sammy Kaye Orchestra featured five male and three female vocalists
April 24, 1951: Yogi Yorgesson made a repeat appearance. He’s funny but how can you dance to “I Yust Go Nuts at Christmas?”
Cedric Adams reported that Prom management instituted Thursday night “Mixer Dances” designed for singles to get acquainted. Sounds like the Friendship Club in Minneapolis. (Minneapolis Star, April 26, 1951) There was also something called “scampers” mentioned in an ad on June 7, 1951.
Gene Krupa and his 20 piece orchestra came for a four night stand, May 10 – 13, 1951. Also featured were three vocalists.
What’s this? I may have found the first time Jules Herman graced the bandstand at the Prom. Try June 7, 1951.
Held over, and then held over again, and so on, and so on. His became the house band at the Prom for decades. Herman was inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame in 2002. His entry reads:
Trumpeter and bandleader, Jules Herman, was born to musical parents. He earned college degrees in music and history at Moorhead State playing his horn. After teaching for a short time, Lawrence Welk hired Herman as first trumpet, which began his musical career, playing hotels and clubs nationally with Welk and various bands including Wayne King. In 1950 he organized his own band and after a year of club dates became the “house band” at the famous Prom Ballroom until it was sold and razed in 1986.
July 20, 1951: Les Brown
July 27 -29, 1951: Charlie Spivak, “the man who plays the sweetest trumpet in the world.
August 10, 1951: Ray Anthony
Will Jones reported that Les Paul and Mary Ford would be coming to the Prom, but they were red hot and working in New York for megabucks.
September 28 and 29, 1951: Harry James
October 5, 1951: Woody Herman. His smaller, recording unit was called “The Herd.”
November 9, 1951: Tony Pastor Orchestra, with vocalist Rosemary Clooney, his new discovery.
Jimmy Dorsey appeared at the Prom Ballroom, February 16, 1952
Frankie Carle appeared at the Prom Ballroom, March 21, 1952.
Spike Jones and His City Slickers – New Musical Depreciation Revue of 1952 appeared at the Prom Ballroom – April 5, 1952. The ad promised 44 performers!
Stan Kenton appeared at the Prom Ballroom, April 25, 1952
Vaughan Monroe, star of the Camel Caravan, with Orchestra, Vocalists, Entertainers – The Most Talked About Band in America – appeared at the Prom Ballroom, May 9, 1952
Blue Barron Orchestra appeared at the Prom Ballroom, May 16, 1952
Ray Anthony, the Young Man with the Horn appeared at the Prom Ballroom, May 23, 1952
Ralph Flanagan Orchestra appeared at the Prom Ballroom, June 6, 1952
Les Brown appeared at the Prom Ballroom, June 27, 1952
Don Cornell appeared at the Prom Ballroom, July 19, 1952
Woody Herman appeared at the Prom Ballroom, July 25, 1952
Ralph Marterie appeared at the Prom Ballroom, August 2, 1952
Clyde McCoy and his Sugar Blues Orchestra appeared at the Prom Ballroom, August 8 and 9, 1952
Fresh Approach of Billy May appeared at the Prom Ballroom, August 15, 1952
Neal Hefti, Frances Wayne, and the Cavaliers appeared at the Prom Ballroom, August 29-30, 1952
The very cool Ella Mae Morse appeared at the Prom Ballroom on October 4, 1952.
Tony Pastor, King of the Saxophone appeared at the Prom Ballroom, October 10, 1952
Pee Wee King, America’s Number 1 Western Dance Band, appeared at the Prom Ballroom on October 25, 1952.
Harry James appeared at the Prom Ballroom, October 31 and November 1, 1952
Clyde McCoy and his Sugar Blues Orchestra appeared at the Prom Ballroom, November 14, 1952
Billy May’s Orchestra appeared at the Prom Ballroom, November 28 and 29, 1952
Clyde McCoy and his Sugar Blues Orchestra appeared at the Prom Ballroom, December 27, 1952
Blue Barron, Music of Yesterday and Today appeared at the Prom Ballroom, appeared at the Prom Ballroom on January 16, 1953
Les Brown appeared at the Prom Ballroom on February 21, 1953.
Jan Garber appeared at the Prom Ballroom on April 10, 1953
Eileen Barton appeared at the Prom Ballroom on April 17, 1953. She was best known for the song “If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d a Baked a Cake.”
Ray Anthony appeared at the Prom Ballroom on April 20, 1953
Henry Busse and His Famous “Hot Lips” Orchestra appeared at the Prom Ballroom on May 18, 1953
Dick Jurgens appeared at the Prom Ballroom on June 5, 1953
Bobby Wayne with Tommy Reed and Orchestra appeared at the Prom Ballroom on June 12, 1953
Ralph Marterie and His Down Beat Orchestra – “The Man Born for the Horn” – appeared at the Prom Ballroom on June 26 and 27, 1953
Ralph Flanagan appeared at the Prom Ballroom on July 10 and 11, 1953.
Sauter-Finegan Orchestra – 25 musicians and singers – appeared at the Prom Ballroom on July 21, 1953
Frankie Carle – piano and orchestra – appeared at the Prom Ballroom on July 24, 1953 – piano and orchestra
Les Brown appeared at the Prom Ballroom on August 21 and 22, 1953
Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey appeared at the Prom Ballroom on October 2 and 3, 1953
Jimmy “Dancing Shoes” Palmer appeared at the Prom Ballroom on October 23, 1953
The Prom instituted a new policy on October 17, 1953: **Couples only admitted on Saturdays**
Pee Wee Hunt (Dixieland) appeared at the Prom Ballroom on October 30, 1953
Freddy Martin appeared at the Prom Ballroom on November 6, 1953
Woody Herman and His Third Herd appeared at the Prom Ballroom on November 20-21, 1953
Ray Anthony and His Chesterfield Orchestra appeared at the Prom Ballroom on November 27, 1953.
Country star Hank Thompson entertained at the Prom on December 3, 1953.
Stan Kenton gave a concert (January 8) and a dance (January 9, 1954) at the Prom Ballroom.
Percy Hughes and Oscar Frazier played at the “Tunic Twirl” for the U of M’s Greek Week. The dance was on February 22, 1954, at the Prom Ballroom, and admission was free if you wore a tunic. Toga!!
Harry James and Buddy Rich came to the Prom Ballroom on June 4, 1954.
Teen-Age dances began on June 23, 1954, and continued every Wednesday, according to an ad of that date.
June 25, 1954: Sam Donohue and the Billy May Orchestra
July 9, 1954: Woody Herman and the Third Herd
August 13: The Big Beat of Buddy Morrow
October 20, 1954, Teen-Age Dance.
On October 22, 1954, the special guest was Ray Anthony, “The Young Man With the Horn, and his Chesterfield Orchestra.
October 23, 1954: Lynn Kerns and the Rhythm Club. Might be kind of modern?
October 27, 1954, was a Teen-Age Dance + The Commanders. Were the Commanders the Smooth band or the Teen-Age Dance band?
October 29, 1954, brought Eddy Howard “and his celebrated orchestra” to the Prom.
February 2, 1955: Teen-Age Dance
February 3, 1955: Battle of Music: Ray Price vs. Fezz Fritsche
Tex Beneke appeared at the Prom Ballroom on March 23, 1955.
BILL HALEY AND HIS COMETS
Bill Haley and His Comets appeared at the Prom Ballroom on April 6 (teenage only) and April 9 (general public), 1955. This is an extraordinary booking, because it was before “Blackboard Jungle” had hit Minneapolis, and there probably weren’t many who knew who he was. In fact, it was “Shake, Rattle and Roll” that was included in the ad, not “Rock Around the Clock.”
Jules Herman shared the bill on April 6, and Henry Charles on April 9.
The Blue Barron Orchestra appeared on April 10, 1955.
1955 was the beginning of the era of the vocal groups, and just about all of them passed through the Prom at one time or another; many came several times. Included were:
- The Four Lads
- The Four Preps
- The Four Coins
- The Hilltoppers
- Four Freshmen
- Crew Cuts
The Four Lads appeared at the Prom Ballroom for a Teenage Dance on May 6, 1955.
Webb Pierce with his Wondering Boys and Red Sovine appeared at the Prom Ballroom on June 18, 1955.
Ray Anthony and His Chesterfield Orchestra appeared at the Prom Ballroom on July 29, 1955.
Tex Beneke and his Orchestra appeared on Friday, August 12, 1955.
Sunday, September 11, 1955: Lawrence Welk
September 14, 1955: Teen-Age Dance
October 19, 1955: Teen-Age Dance
October 21 and 22, 1955: Ralph Flanagan
October 26, 1955: Teen-Age Dance
October 28, 1955: Johnny Long and His Orchestra.
The Four Lads appeared at the Prom Ballroom on November 5, 1955.
Johnny Desmond appeared at the Prom Ballroom on November 11, 1955.
Pee Wee King appeared at the Prom Ballroom on November 24, 1955.
Eddy Howard appeared at the Prom Ballroom on November 25, 1955.
Les Elgart appeared at the Prom Ballroom on December 4, 1955. He also appeared at the Kato Ballroom on December 7.
In 1956 WDGY disk jockeys hosted Saturday dances for adults and teen dances on Fridays (sponsored by Coke).
The Four Freshmen performed on January 7, 1956, at the Prom Ballroom.
The Four Lads performed at the Prom Ballroom on February 11, 1956.
Stan Kenton performed at the Prom Ballroom on February 25, 1956
Buddy Morrow performed at the Prom Ballroom on April 7, 1956. He also performed at the Teen-Age Dance on April 4.
The Amazing Crew Cuts and the famed Music of Blue Barron performed at the Prom Ballroom on April 20, 1956
The Diamonds performed at the Prom Ballroom on May 19, 1956
The ad is confusing, but it looks like the Billy May Band and Sam Donohue were coming for the Teen-Age Dance on May 23, 1956. Yes, there it is. Only teens age 13 to 17 years old were admitted.
Wednesday, May 27, 1956, was a Pepsi Jr. Dance
Thursday, May 28, 1956, featured the Polka Dots. Or people wore polka dots. Or something.
The Billy May Orchestra and Sam Donohue also played for a Gala Memorial Day Eve Dance on May 29, 1956.
Frankie Carle performed at the Prom Ballroom on June 2, 1956
The Four Coins performed at the Prom Ballroom on June 8, 1956
The Hilltoppers performed at the Prom Ballroom on June 15, 1956. Their biggest hit was “Marianne,” which reached Number 3 on the charts in 1957.
Jack Thayer’s Teen-Time Dances started on June 20, 1956, when he was with WDGY. That may have been for the season – he could have been doing them as early as 1952 when he was at WLOL. (When he stopped in 1957, it was noted that he had done them for five years.) The dances were on Wednesday nights. His sponsor was Coca-Cola or Pepsi. When Thayer became General Manager of WDGY in June 1957, Bill Bennett took over the M.C. duties.
Below is the ad for the Jack Thayer Dance for June 27, 1956.
Stan Kenton and 22 piece orchestra, July 6 and 7, 1956
Glenn Miller Orchestra under the direction of Ray McKinley, with original arrangements, played the Prom Ballroom on July 28, 1956.
Cathy Carr, August 14 and 19, 1956
Buddy Morrow played the Prom Ballroom on August 24, 1956
So much going on!
On Friday, August 31, 1956, Jack Thayer hosted a Teentime dance, sponsored by Coca-Cola.
On Saturday September 1, 1956, the vocal group the Diamonds, who would go on to record “Little Darlin'” in 1957,” appeared
Ray Anthony appeared on Friday, September 7, 1956.
On Friday, October 19, 1956, Jack Thayer held his Teentime Dance, sponsored by Coca-Cola.
On October 20, 1956, Bill Bennett, a WDGY DJ, hosted a new “Fun-For-All Gala Saturday night Dance Frolic.
On Saturday, November 3, 1956, Bill Bennett, hosted his “Saturday Night Fun For All WDGY Dance Frolic.”
On Saturday, November 10, 1956, the Gala WDGY “Saturday Nite Dance Frolic” featured:
- Bill Bennett’s “So You Want to Lead a Band”
- Showtime – Featuring New Local Stars!
- Singing Star Sanford Clark
November 21 and 23, 1956, were set aside for “teentime” dances.
On Friday, November 24, 1956, Don Cornell provided the music for a WDGY Dance Frolic Night. DJ Bill Bennett was on hand, as well as Jules Herman.
Trumpet player Ralph Marterie performed at the Prom Ballroom on January 5, 1957.
Guy Mitchell appeared at the Prom Ballroom on January 15, 1957.
On January 19, 1957, RCA-Victor sent a trainload of its top talent to the Cities as part of its national tour on behalf of the March of Dimes. Once they arrived, they split up to make appearances at many venues around town, including
- All of the TV and radio stations
- A party for record dealers
- The Sister Kenney Institute; the patients were doing so well that only nine were at the hospital that weekend.
- Dayton’s Tea Room; Mary Mc Elmurry remembers, “My mom took me to see Julius La Rosa on the 12th floor. She made me turn my Elvis purse around so no one could see it. Sure wish I still had that purse. It could be worth some bucks!”
- The Prom Ballroom at 9 pm.
Mickey and Sylvia seem to be the only rock ‘n’ roll singers on the list, but there were some some near misses, including Eddie Fisher, Lou Monte, and the Browns.
A rock ‘n’ roll dance party at the Prom in early January 1957 featured Augie Garcia, Bill Samuels, Teddy Guzman, and vocal groups the Septones and the Chickens, reported Will Jones in the Trib. Leigh Kamman was the emcee.
The Diamonds performed at the Prom Ballroom on Friday, January 25, 1957.
Stoop Chamberlain provided the music for the Teen-Time Dance at the Prom Ballroom on Saturday, February 9, 1957. Need to find out more about Stoop!
The Four Freshmen performed at a Teen-Time Dance at the Prom Ballroom on Friday, February 15, 1957.
The Statesmen entertained at the Teen-Time Dance at the Prom Ballroom on Sunday, February 10, 1957.
The Crew Cuts came to the Prom Ballroom on Saturday, March 2, 1957.
The Four Lads entertained at the Prom Ballroom on Thursday, March 21, 1957.
The Diamonds made a return engagement at the Prom Ballroom on Tuesday, May 7, 1957.
June 29, 1957: WDGY Dance Frolic with Al Noyce’s Band – Bill Bennett as MC.
Buddy Morrow returned to the Prom Ballroom on Friday, July 5, 1957.
The Four Lads performed at the Prom Ballroom on Tuesday, July 9, 1957.
In an aircheck on www.radiotapes.com, WDGY DJ Bill Bennett said that 1,500 teens attended the Teen Time Dance at the Prom Ballroom the previous Wednesday, and he thanked Gene Vincent. Correspondent Peter Jamieson tells us that the date of the dance was July 31, 1957.
On August 11, 1957, Will Jones remarked on Vincent’s success “in a series of personal appearances in this territory.” Bjorn Skarning was the promoter and hoped to have him back in the fall. Vincent was performing in Mankato at the time.
Stan Kenton and his 20 piece band performed at the Prom Ballroom on Friday, July 26, 1957.
Bill Haley and His Comets performed at the Prom Ballroom at a special Teentime hop on Friday, September 6, 1957. They billed themselves as the “Originators of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Bill Bennett was the m.c.
Nick Nobel and Ralph Marterie came to the Prom Ballroom on Wednesday, October 2, 1957.
The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra came to the Prom Ballroom on Saturday, October 5, 1957.
Les Elgart, his trumpet and orchestra, provided the music at the Prom Ballroom on Tuesday, October 22, 1957.
True to form, Gene Vincent returned to the Prom Ballroom on Friday, October 25, 1957.
Jerry Lee Lewis shook up the Prom on Wednesday, November 20, 1957 at a Twighlight Teen Hop.
The Crickets came to the Prom Ballroom on Wednesday, November 27, 1957.
The Four Freshmen returned to the Prom Ballroom on Saturday, November 30, 1957.
Buddy Knox appeared at the Prom Ballroom on Wednesday, December 4, 1957.
The Everly Brothers entertained at the Prom Ballroom on February 12, 1958.
The Four Coins sang at the Prom Ballroom on February 21, 1958.
On Friday, February 28, 1958, the Teen Hop featured Ronnie Sels. This may have been Ronnie Self, a rockabilly singer known for the song “Bop-a-Lena.” WDGY’s Bill Bennett was the MC.
The Four Freshman sang at the Prom Ballroom on Saturday, March 1, 1958.
The Royal Teens entertained at the Prom Ballroom on Wednesday, March 19, 1958. This may have been at a Teenage Hop.
The Four Preps made a return appearance on Saturday, April 5, 1958. Note that the ad cites their big hit as “Twenty Four Miles,” when it was actually “Twenty Six Miles.”
Bill Bennett of WDGY mc’ed the Twighlight Teen Hop on April 11, 1958.
Harry James and His Music Makers – was this the real Harry James at the Prom Ballroom on April 29?
Guy Lombardo came to the Prom Ballroom on May 13, 1958.
The Four Freshmen brought their harmonies to the Prom Ballroom on Tuesday, May 27, 1958.
May 30, 1958, was the date of another Teen Hop.
Buddy Morrow made a return engagement to the Prom Ballroom on June 3, 1958.
The Champs did a stint at the Prom Ballroom on June 5, 1958.
The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with Warren Covington came to the Prom Ballroom on June 28, 1958.
The Diamonds came to entertain at the Prom Ballroom on July 4, 1958.
The Glenn Miller Orchestra entertained at the Prom Ballroom on July 25, 1958.
A Twighlight Teen Hop was held on Wednesday, July 30, 1958.
The Chordettes entertained on Saturday, August 2, 1958.
On Wednesday, August 13, 1958, the Big Beats played at the Twighlight Teen Hop.
On Friday, August 15, 1958, a package show came to the Prom Ballroom, starring:
- Danny and the Juniors
- Gerry Granahan (“No Chemise, Please”)
- Jody Reynolds
- The Poni-Tails
- The Buddy Morrow Orchestra
The Four Freshmen returned to the Prom Ballroom on August 22, 1958.
On August 20, 1958, the band at the Prom Ballroom was the Big Beats.
Guy Lombardo returned to the Prom Ballroom on September 19, 1958.
What a bill! Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps PLUS Dale Hawkins came to the Prom Ballroom on October 1, 1958! Man!
The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with Warren Covington came to the Prom Ballroom on October 4, 1958.
Ted Heath and His Orchestra, Direct from England, presented a concert at the Prom Ballroom on October 18, 1958.
A peek at Octoberfest in 1958 at the Prom:
Buddy Knox and Jimmy Bowen entertained the teens at the Prom Ballroom on December 2, 1958.
Conway Twitty got attention when he appeared at the Prom Ballroom on December 23, 1958.
On Wednesday, January 28, 1959, the ill-fated “Winter Dance Party” came to the Prom Ballroom in St. Paul. Read the story on its own page.
A group called Mark IV appeared at the Prom Ballroom on February 25, 1959. They were known for a hugely misogynist song called “I Got a Wife.” Ha Ha.
Bobby Darin and the Bell Notes paid a visit to the Prom Ballroom on March 11, 1959.
The Big Beats entertained at the Prom Ballroom on March 18, 1959.
The Billy May Orchestra, directed by Frankie Lester, provided the music at the Prom Ballroom on April 4, 1959.
SPRING DANCE PARTY
Bill Diehl brought the Spring Dance Party to the Prom Ballroom on Monday, April 6, 1959. What a lineup! Actually, by 1959, rock ‘n’ roll was becoming more of a bunch of novelty songs, but Link Wray made up for the rest.
- The Kalin Twins
- The Bell Notes
- Link Wray and the Ray Men
- Bill Parsons
- Jesse Lee Turner
- All American Boys Band
Bill Haley and His Comets played the Teen Hop on Wednesday, April 22, 1959. WDGY’s Bill Diehl was the MC.
The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with Warren Covington came to the Prom Ballroom on July 10, 1959.
July 13, 1959, brought another package tour to the Prom Ballroom. The ad had a lot of typos and omissions, but I’ll try to list the acts correctly:
- The Addrisi Brothers
- Carl Mann
- The Tassels
- Dicky Doo and the Don’ts
- Jo Ann Campbell
Jimmy Bowen was the Rock ‘n’ roll star on July 18, 1959. His only hit was “I’m Stickin’ With You.”
Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians made an appearance at the Prom Ballroom on July 21, 1959.
The Big Beats represented the rock ‘n’ roll portion of the program at the Prom Ballroom on July 25, 1959.
Glenn Miller Orchestra under the direction of Ray McKinley, with original arrangements, played the Prom Ballroom on August 14, 1959.
The Flames, identified as Rock ‘n’ Roll, appeared at the Prom Ballroom on December 26, 1959.
The Champs came back to the Prom Ballroom on January 20, 1960.
On February 24, 1960, the featured artist at the Prom’s Teen Hop was “Mr. Boomerang, Johnny O’Keefe, “Australia’s No. 1 Vocalist.” Although he didn’t catch on here, Wikipedia says
Often referred to by his initials “J.O.K.” or by his nickname “The Wild One,” O’Keefe was the first Australian rock ‘n’ roll performer to tour the United States, and the first Australian artist to make the local Top 40 charts and he had 29 Top 40 hits in Australia between 1958 and 1973.
The March 4, 1960, Teen Hop at the Prom featured the Glenrays.
There must have been two Musicians’ Balls in May 1960. The first one was on Monday, May 16, and featured so-called “Smooth” bands:
- Jules Herman
- Rod Aaberg
- Franke Chermak
- Dick Kast
- The Cherdsmen
- Whoopee John
- Marve Masterman
- Joe Tourville
- Wally Olson
- Red Dougherty
- Chris Kalogersen
- Tony Gruchot’s Brass Band
A Special Teen Hop was held at the Prom Ballroom on Wednesday, May 18, 1960. Bill Diehl was the MC, and the show and featured 12 national artists. (Not all of these guys left a permanent mark on the music scene…) 9 were listed in the ad: (Minneapolis Tribune, Sunday, May 15, 1960)
- Rod Lauren
- Carl Dobkins, Jr.
- Gary Stites
- Dick Caruso
- Johnny Restivo
- Danny Valentino
- Nick DeMatteo
- Harold Dorman
- Johnny and the Hurricanes
May 26, 1960: Cousin Fuzzy and His Country Cousins
May 28, 1960: The Glenrays.
June 4, 1960: The Fendermen
Tuesday, June 27, 1960: Ralph Marterie Big Band
On Saturday, August 27, 1960, the Glen Rays provided the Rock ‘n’ Roll music, with WDGY’s Bill Diehl as MC.
On Tuesday night, August 30, 1960, the 4 Freshmen returned to the Prom, backed by Jules Herman’s Orchestra. Members of the group were Bob Flanigan, Ross Barbour, Ken Albers, and Don Balbour. Each sang and played instruments. (Minneapolis Tribune, August 28, 1960)
On Friday, September 16, 1960, (presumably – the ad is confusing) there was another big Rock ‘n’ Roll show at the Prom Ballroom, featuring:
- Jan and Dean
- The Tree Swingers
- The Ivy Three
- Paul Champlaine
On Saturday, September 24, 1960, the national group the Flairs provided the Rock ‘n’ Roll entertainment. Bill Diehl of WDGY was the MC. The Flairs, like many groups, had a complicated history, but were generally known for originating the song “Foot Stompin’, which was later became a local favorite by the Underbeats.
On November 23, 1960, the Teen Hop at the Prom featured:
- Gene Vincent
- Wanda Jackson
- Buddy White
The Prom’s Teen Hop on December 28, 1960, featured Gene Vincent and the Fendermen.
On January 11, 1961, the Prom’s Teen Hop featured Donny Brooks and the Tornadoes.
On February 1, 1961, Conway Twitty and the Corvets appeared at the Teen Hop at the Prom.
Eddie Randall was the “swing” part of the ticket at the Prom on March 11, 1961.
Eddie Randall’s music was described as rock ‘n’ roll for his appearance at the Prom on April 8, 1961. Bill Diehl acted as MC.
On April 15, 1961, WDGY DJ Bill Diehl MC’d a dance at the Prom starring the Corvettes.
Bill Diehl MC’d a dance at the Prom featuring Rock ‘n’ Roller Eddie Randall on May 13, 1961.
Louis Armstrong performed at the Prom on April 19, 1961.
The Highlights were the rock ‘n’ roll band at the Teen Hop at the Prom, MC’d by Bill Diehl on May 27, 1961.
The Velveteers provided the music at the Prom on June 10, 1961, with Bill Diehl as MC.
The Prom promised a special all-star Teen Hop on June 14, 1961, but didn’t name any of the stars in the small ad.
The Prom’s June 21, 1961 Teen Hop featured both Dion and the Fendermen.
Veteran rocker Mike Waggoner presided over the Teen Hop at the Prom on July 12, 1961.
Mike Waggoner also provided music for the Prom on July 15, 1961. Bill Diehl was the MC.
RECORD STARS DANCE PARTY
An array of stars visited the Prom on October 11, 1961. Acts included:
- Ral Donner
- Ray Stevens
- Tony Orlando
- Bobby Vee
- Janie Grant
The Prom promised a Special Teen Hop on October 25, 1961, but didn’t name any of the stars in the small ad.
Mike Waggoner’s music was described as “Swing” in an ad for their show on November 4, 1961, MC’d by Bill Diehl.
The music of the Corvettes was characterized as “swing” in the ad for their November 11, 1961, appearance at the conservative Prom Ballroom.
Dion was back at the Prom on November 29, 1961, performing with the local band the Little Green Men.
January 3, 1962, was the date of the next Teen Hop at the Prom, with entertainment by Roscoe’s Green Men, and the Velveteers.
Myron Lee and the Caddies put on a wild show at the Prom on January 7, 1962.
Jerry Lee Lewis hit the Prom stage on January 23, 1962.
The Four Seasons, just about to make it big, hit the Prom on January 30, 1962.
Roscoe’s Green Men were back at the Prom on January 31, 1962 for a Teen Hop.
WDGY’s DJ Bill Diehl appeared at the Prom with Mike Waggoner and the Bops on February 24, 1962.
The Corvets performed at the Prom on March 10, 1962.
Johnny Cash performed at the Prom Ballroom on March 23, 1962. With him were Luther Perkins on guitar and Marshall Grant on stand-up bass.
The Young Peoples’ Dance Club sponsored a Twist Contest, with Mike Waggoner and the Bops providing the music. Prom, March 28, 1962.
Jimmy Dean, backed by the local group the Galaxies, came to the Prom on April 4, 1962, promoting his new record, “Dear Ivan.”
Mike Waggoner and the Bops presided at the Prom on April 14, 1962.
On June 20, 1962, the ad in the Minneapolis Herald read “Young Peoples’ Club Summer Twist Party,” featuring Jay and the Americans.
Skitch Henderson, Musical Director of NBC, appeared at the Prom on June 28, 1962, for a program to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Great Northern Railway. At left below with Skitch is John M. Budd, President of the Great Northern.
The Corvets were back at the Prom on June 30, 1962.
July 4, 1962, entertainment at the Prom featured the Diablos.
On July 6, 1962, the Dukes of Dixieland (not exactly rock) countered the smooth at the Prom.
GALAXY OF STARS
On August 8, 1962, KDWB sponsored a Hop featuring:
- Bobby Vinton
- Gene Pitney
- Gary Criss
- The Bachelors
A KDWB Hop featured DJ Hal Murray and singer Johnny Tillotson on August 29, 1962, at the Prom.
A KDWB Hop on September 12, 1962, featured Johnny and the Galaxies.
The rock act for September 15, 1962, was listed (in small letters) as “Dal Winslow, New Sensation.” This was the nascent Trashmen, but the Prom management was hesitant to book a band with such a far-out name, so member Winslow was put up front as a teen crooner, and later orchestra leader.
Mike Waggoner and the Bops provided the rock music on October 13, 1962, at the Prom.
Conway Twitty paid a visit to the Prom on October 24, 1962.
Mike Waggoner played a show at the Prom on October 25, 1962.
The Velveteers take over the rock ‘n’ roll duties at the Prom on October 28, 1962.
On November 21, 1962, Joey Dee and the Starlighters came to the Prom – at the height of their fame as revivers of the Twist.
Maynard Ferguson performed at the Prom on December 12, 1962.
Bobby Vinton paid a call to the Prom on December 13, 1962.
The Corvets returned to the Prom on December 15, 1962.
In 1963 the Prom was usually sticking to its formula of having one rock band and one “smooth” band each night. A frequent local rock band was the Corvets; another was the Galaxies and Tim. During the summer there was usually a name band on Wednesday nights, for only 90 Cents admission. Normally I don’t do band pictures, but this one came up on Facebook; the Corvets, in a ’63 Corvette at Polar Chevrolet in White Bear Lake. The band was anchored by Eddie and Norm Barkdoll, also from White Bear Lake.
A January 2, 1963 “Vacation Hop” at the Prom featured Bobby Vinton.
Mike Waggoner and the Bops – the “Busiest Band in Town” – played the Prom on January 12, 1963.
The Trashmen, billed as a New Sensation, was the band for Swingin’ Saturday at the Prom, January 19, 1963.
Jerry Lee Lewis tore up the Prom on January 23, 1963.
The Corvets performed on January 26, 1963, at the Prom.
The Four Seasons and our own Trashmen combined forces on January 30, 1963, at the Prom.
In February 1963 the Prom was advertising Bossa Nova classes: “You might meet the most important person in your life!”
February 9, 1963, introduced the Startones to the Prom.
Dion, plus the Corvets, graced the Prom’s stage on February 13, 1963.
Johnny Cash came to the Prom on March 29, 1963.
April 10, 1963, was the date of the Spring Vacation Show and Dance, starring Conway Twitty, Brian Hyland, and Mike Waggoner. Acting as M.C. was WDGY’s Red Jones.
The Galaxies and Tim, billed as the “Great New Galaxies,” entertained at the Prom on May 4, 1963.
Joey Dee and the Starlighters, with Danny and the Diamonds, came to the Prom on May 8, 1963.
May 9, 1963, featured the Blue Banners at the Prom.
Mike Waggoner and the Bops carried the hall on May 11, 1963.
The Trashmen played the Prom on May 18, 1963.
KSTP presented Stan Kenton at the Prom on May 29, 1963.
Spring Shower of Stars, May 31, 1963:
- Paul and Paula
- Steve Alaimo
- Lou Christie
- Johnny Cymbal
- Ronnie Cochrane
- Charlie Russo
- Extra Added Attraction: Dick and DeeDee
Here’s an interesting tidbit – a letter of support for the band written by Dick Clay, the manager of the Prom. In it, Clay says that the Trashmen had been playing at the ballroom once a month for over a year.
Mike Waggoner and the Bops, “The Northwest’s Busiest Rock Band,” played the Prom on June 8, 1963.
The rock band on June 15, 1963 was the Startones.
The Dovells (“You Can’t Sit Down”) and Eddie Randall made an appearance at the Prom on June 26, 1963.
The Cascades, July 3, 1963
Bill Miller (perhaps at DJ?) and the Accents showed up for the Coca Cola Teen Fling on July 10, 1963.
Les Elgart, July 12, 1963: “KSTP Invites You”
The “Roaring” Trashmen and the Bob White Orchestra, July 20, 1963
The Beach Boys hit the Prom Ballroom on August 2, 1963.
Little Peggy March (with the Warner Brothers Band), August 7, 1963
Johnny Cash, August 21, 1963
Lou Christie, Brian Highland, Ronnie Cochrane, and the Casuals all descended on the Prom on August 30, 1963 (all for $1.49!)
Lonnie Mack (“Memphis” and “Wham”) performed at the Prom on September 14, 1963.
September 28, 1963, saw a return of the Corvets at the Prom.
Mike Waggoner and the Bops made a regular visit to the Prom on October 12, 1963.
On October 29, 1963, the rock band at the Prom was the fabulous Embers.
On October 26, 1963, the Prom promised new sounds from the New Corvets.
November 9, 1963, featured Mike Waggoner and the Corvets in a two-band “Whing-Ding.”
Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs (“Sugar Shack”) made their way to the Prom on November 12, 1963.
November 16, 1963, was the premiere of Patty Lynn and the Shamrocks at the Prom.
The Corvets returned to the Prom on November 23, 1963.
On November 27, 1963, WDGY sponsored a “Rock vs. Rock” event with the Galaxies & Tim vs. Patty Lynn and the Shamrocks.
December 11, 1963, was the Marines’ Toy Dance, with the Uniques, the Blackouts, and the Continentals. Admission was a toy worth $1.00.
The Kingsmen were advertised for December 28, 1963, at the Prom. The Galaxies were in the Arizona Room.
The Galaxies and Tim entertained on New Year’s Eve in the Arizona Room of the Prom, December 31, 1963.
January 4, 1964, featured rock regulars the Galaxies & Tim.
January 11, 1964, featured Twin Cities rock stalwarts Mike Waggoner and the Bops.
On February 1, 1964, Dick Arthur was advertised as a fine new six-man “rocker.”
On February 8, 1964, the Prom presented the Caravelles, who had the hit song, “You Don’t Have to be a Baby to Cry.” Really, it was a hit. They were a British duo. The other rock act that night was the Counts Four.
The fabulous Embers, a band from St. Cloud, provided the rock on February 15, 1964.
On March 7, 1964, the Kingsmen were advertised ahead of time, but the Galaxies with Tim McManus was advertised on the day.
On March 21, 1964, the rock act was Lee James.
Two singing duos, Nino Tempo and April Stevens (“Deep Purple”) and Dale and Grace (“I’m Leavin’ it all up to You”) appeared on March 25, 1964. Also appearing were Jack McManus and the Belmonts.
On April 4, 1964, the Fendermen appeared at the Prom.
On April 11, 1964, the rock ‘n’ roll band was the local Ravons.
Bobby Vinton appeared at the Prom Ballroom on April 15, 1964. Also on the bill was local group Tim and the Galaxies.
On May 9, 1964, it was the “Wild and Wonderful” Trashmen!
May 16, 1964, greeted Patty Lynn and the Shamrocks.
June 20, 1964, brought the reliable Corvets. Not Corvettes – that was a car.
July 25, 1964, brought back the Counts Four for your rock dancing pleasure.
THE EVERLY BROTHERS
On July 29, 1964, the Everly Brothers appeared at the Prom, opened by the Castaways. Jim Donna described the night in his book, Liar, Liar: The Story of Minnesota’s Castaways in the 1960s.
We were set up on the stage side by side with The Everly Brothers. The Castaways opened the show at 8:00 p.m. to a packed dance floor. Some of our best songs were by The Everly Brothers, and we always played them at our teen dances. So, we thought why not play them tonight? We proceeded to play some of The Everly Brothers’ most popular songs during our opening set, with Roy and Bob harmonizing nicely on the vocals. After we finished our set, we realized that we shouldn’t have done that! We were just kids, with most of the band members still in high school, and we didn’t know any better. I believe that Denny Craswell, our drummer, was just 16 years old at the time.
Backstage after the show, Don and Phil Everly told us that they really enjoyed hearing us playing their songs, and everything was OK. That was really reassuring to hear. Don and Phil were some of nicest musicians I have ever worked with. This was one of my all-time favorite gigs during my time with The Castaways. The Prom Ballroom paid us $125.40, union scale. Dick Clay, the manager, had a big smile on his face as he handed us our check.
On August 1, 1964, the rock act was the Galaxies.
Mike Waggoner and the Bops returned on August 15, 1964.
Count Basie appeared at the Prom Ballroom on August 19, 1964.
August 22, 1964, saw the exciting Jades at the Prom.
The famous Accents, one of the most popular local bands, performed at the Prom on August 29, 1964.
Something called “The” Band was the rock half of the bill on September 5, 1964.
Lonnie Mack appeared at the Prom on September 12, 1964.
Mike Waggoner and the Bops came back on September 19, 1964.
On October 10, 1964, the Fendermen came to the Prom, billed as the Cadillac of the fabulous rock bands!
Harry James, Buddy Rich, and Ruth Price were at the Prom on October 16, 1964.
Gregory Dee and the Avanties provided the Rock on October 27, 1964.
Roger Miller performed at the Prom on October 21, 1964.
The Trashmen prevailed on October 24, 1964, at the Prom.
On October 30, 1964, the ad read “New Policy!” The group Richie and the Jades were labeled “Sophisticated Rock.”
Mike Waggoner and the Bops played the Halloween dance on October 31, 1964.
On November 7, 1964, the Accents again took the Prom stage.
On November 26, 1964, WTCN-TV’s “Polka Jamboree” show, starring Tony Jambor and Stuart A. Lindman, was filmed at the Prom. “See yourself dancing on TV next Sunday!”
Del Shannon appeared at the Prom Ballroom on November 28, 1964. Also appearing were rock ‘n’ roll mainstays, Mike Waggoner and the Bops.
Roland Anderson and his sister Marilyn, who Roland describes as a “Del Shannon nut,” were there. Roland has graciously shared his diary entry for that evening with us:
Tonight will be one of the greatest memory nights of all time. At 9:40 Marilyn and I got up to the front of the stage and when Mike Waggoner introduced him and Del Shannon came out on the stage we were only about 6 feet away. He sang Runaround Sue, Hats Off to Larry, Crying, Little Town Flirt, Keep Searchin’ (his new one), Handyman, Runaway and then Keep Searchin’ again. Seeing Del seemed like it would have felt to see President Kennedy. It just didn’t seem real. While Del was resting back stage I bought pop for everyone.
Before Del came out again, Marilyn and I got right in front of the microphone at 11:00. While there, Del Shannon walked by right in back of us and I told Marilyn to et his autograph. First he just happened to walk by and then he happened to stop so Marilyn could get his autograph. She had brought a blown-up picture of Del playing a guitar and when she asked him to sign it, he said that picture was taken in England. Marilyn told him she had all of his records and he put his arm on her and said “good girl” and asked her how she liked Keep Searchin’. I’d pay $20 bucks to have a picture of that moment. Everyone else was so unconcerned. No one else was around when she was getting the autograph.
When Del was singing again, he sang Twist & Shout, Hats Off to Larry, Runaway, Handyman, Keep Searchin’ twice more and Do You Wanna Dance? He said that everyone should buy his new record so he could pay his income tax. All this time we were practically breathing on his shoes. When we left at 11:45 we saw Del in a hall with an old grey jacket on signing an autograph. When home we had cocoa.
Conway Twitty entertained on December 26, 1964.
The December 30, 1964 Holiday Hop at the Prom featured:
- Chad and Jeremy
- Bobby Goldsboro
- Ronnie Cochrane (“Guitar Man”)
- Ronnie Dio and the Prophets Band
Jim Froehlich gives us this great information on that last, seemingly obscure, band:
Ronnie & the Prophets evolved in the late ’60s to a harder rock sound, becoming first “The Electric Elves,” then “The Elves,” and eventually in 1972, just “Elf.” [They opened for Deep Purple’s Burn Tour on December 9,1974, at the Met Center.] Elf was eventually absorbed into Ritchie Blackmore’s post-Purple project Rainbow in 1975. Dio went on to front Black Sabbath and then embarked on a memorable solo career. From doo-wop to “Holy Diver” in less than 20 years…
R.I.P. Ronnie James Dio.
In the mid ’60s the Prom featured rock bands on Fridays and both rock and big bands on Saturdays (“rock vs. smooth”).
Bob Reed’s journal shows the Trashmen performing at the Prom Ballroom on February 27, 1965.
Count Basie, March 24, 1965
Something called the Whisky a’ Go Go Show was at the Prom on June 18, 1965.
The Everly Brothers were at the Prom on July 21, 1965.
Dee Dee Sharpe and Dick & Dee Dee, August 11, 1965. Dee Dee Lee/Sperling was born in Minneapolis. They were backed by the Daze and Knights, a group that was “half colored, half white.” Roland Anderson shares his journal account:
Twelve fans pack Prom Center!
Shari and I left for the Prom Center tonight at 7:20. When there, just before 8:00 I thought it would be packed but only about ten others were showed up! When inside we reserved a real good booth. The band playing was called the Daze & Knights. When Dee Dee Sharp was out, her best song was “Mashed Potatoes.: Dick & Dee Dee were real good. They sang “The Mountain’s High,” “Thou Shall Not Steal” and when they sang “Turn Around” we danced. [This would have been the first time we ever danced in public.] We left at 11:15 so we didn’t get to see Dick & Dee Dee’s second appearance.
The Strangeloves and the McCoys, August 25, 1965. At the time the Prom was featuring rock bands on Fridays, and both a rock band and a big band on Saturdays.
The Sir Douglas Quintet, September 10, 1965.
The Trashmen played the Prom Ballroom on September 24, 1965.
Billy Joe Royal, October 8, 1965. Attendance was low because there were a lot of homecomings that weekend. Backing him were local act the Marvelous Marauders.
The Flippers were on a roll, performing at the Prom on December 30, 1966. The Marauders were also on the bill, says Marauder Jerry Cadwell.
The Turtles played the Prom on May 3 and August 16, 1967.
Tommy James and the Shondells played the Prom Ballroom in June 1967.
The Casinos, a 9 man vocal group from Cincinnati, appeared at the Prom in June 1967.
The Turtles returned to the Prom on August 16, 1967.
The Everly Brothers played the Prom on October 6, 1967. Also Chicago’s The Mob, and the Cities’ System.
John Fred and His Playboy Band appeared at the Prom on March 27, 1968.
Woody Herman, February 5, 1969
In 1971 the Old Guard was grousing about the changing tastes in music. The St. Paul Musician, house organ for the St. Paul Musician’s Union, tried to make sense of it:
Some of our members who keep telling me that rock music is on the way out must be less than naive if the record crowds of over 25,000 customers who shelled out about $7.00 each to attend the recent rock concerts at Midway Stadium is any indicator. Hot or rainy weather, discomforts, and still they pack them in. On the other hand bands like Woody Herman or Count Basey [sic!] who are tops in the field of jazz, play The Prom in concerts can’t seem to draw more than 800 people at box office prices substantially less than at midway Center. It all adds up that the kids still want their favorite rock bands.
Stan Kenton’s 19-piece big band appeared at the Prom on April 18,1973, and Star reviewer Tom Murtha just loved it!
The Prom was still featuring big bands, with Buddy Rich (“Mr. Nice”) on May 9, 1973.
Harry James, or at least his band, appeared at the Prom on June 7, 1973.
Maynard Ferguson graced the stage at the Prom on October 10, 1973.
THE END OF THE PROM
The eminent demise of the Prom was reported in the Strib on June 17, 1986.
Tom Given said that he and his father, Harry S. Given, Jr. were negotiating to sell the building to a new owner that would probably tear it down. The family planned to move their thriving catering operation to a new location, preferably in the Midway area.
Harry Given said that the dance hall business began to decline in the early 1950s, “when a trend toward earlier marriages cut short the courtship process and television gave the younger married couples a cheaper entertainment alternative,” reported the Strib. Given recalled, “It used to be a guy could spend a buck-ten and hold his girl in hiss arms for three hours.”
By the mid 1960s, public dancing was confined to Sunday night. The decline was offset by a booming catering business that generated about $3 million in 1985. As long as most of the catering business was on-site, it made sense to carry the costs of the ballroom. But when 80 percent was off-site, it didn’t make economic sense, and the family put the ballroom up for sale in 1983.
The last night at the Prom was April 17, 1987. Entertainment was provided by Cab Calloway himself, accompanied by Ted Unseth’s American Classic Jazz Orchestra. Also appearing were Shirley Witherspoon and Prudence Johnson. The show was emceed by Leigh Kamman.
On April 29, 1987, an auction was held, with everything in the building up for sale.
Prom Ballroom napkin holders rescued from the wrecking ball; photo courtesy Barbara Kartarik Nelson.
One booth went to the Minnesota Historical Society’s permanent collection. Others went to a burger joint called Shantytown in Bloomington. Sorry my pictures aren’t so good:
Gary US Bonds
Billy Crash Craddock
The Four Seasons
Jay and the Americans
Santo and Johnny
Skip and Flip