It stands vacant now, empty and abandoned - at least that’s the way it was the last time I saw it about 8 years ago. It’s probably gone completely by now, razed to make way for lakefront condos or suchlike. It’s been that way since ‘86- a victim of MTV and hip-hop DJ’s, I suppose. I’m talking about the Cobblestone Ballroom in Lakeside, Iowa, an old-time dance hall that started out as a haven for big bands in northwest Iowa in the 30's, 40's and 50's. In 1958, they started to have teen dances on Sunday nights. You might wonder why they would have late-night dances on a school night, but apparently the reasoning was that, since you couldn’t sell liquor in an establishment on Sunday in Iowa in those days, they could still make some money charging kids $1.25 or $1.50 head to see a teen band and sell pop for a quarter or $.50 a cup. So that’s where I, a teenager in the mid-sixties, went to see regional and national bands like Myron Lee & the Caddies, Johnny & the Hurricanes, Bobby Vee, Jerry Lee Lewis, Conway Twitty, the Rhythm Aces, the Charades, the Fabulous Flippers, Spider and the Crabs, Dee Jay & the Runaways, The Senders, Red Dogs, Baby and the Rumbles among countless others. One of our favorites was Joker’s Wild from Minneapolis, an early power trio led by lanky Lonnie Knight. You can check out what he’s doing now at www.lonnieknight.com. I remember being awed by these three hippies from Minneapolis with shoulder-length hair, fringes and beads, which was almost too much for us farm boys to handle. Oftentimes I, not having the required cover charge, had to panhandle in the lobby to get enough funds to get in. Once you paid the price of admission, you got your hand stamped with a logo that could only be seen under their ultraviolet light. Once inside, you saw a beer-stained hardwood floor with a raised band stand on one end and booths lining each side. Now, since I was in bands all through high school, the goal for our band and my friends in rival bands was to actually get a gig appearing at a Sunday night dance. My brother, who played lead guitar in a band called “Cardiac Arrest,” achieved nirvana before me by getting booked to appear on that ancient stage. Our brush with fame occurred sometime in the Winter of 1966, when our band, called “D. J. Child’s Society Band”, got an call from anxious owner William “Shorty” Lawrence asking us to fill in for the band booked to perform, stuck in a snowdrift somewhere. So we struggled through a blinding blizzard, set up, and tuned up. We then proceeded to play a few tunes for the wait staff and bartenders, because no one showed up in the afore-mentioned blinding blizzard.
So we got our gig, but it was a hollow victory.
You can read the Cobblestone Ballroom story at http://www.iowaballroom.com/p/past/cobblestone/cobblestone.html and, as always, keep on rockin!