Memories of the Casino Ballroom

Jiving & Twisting the Night Away

By Rodney Bishop

During the late 1950’s & early 1960’s the Casino Ballroom came alive to the sounds of Rock and Roll. With Mods, Rockers and Individuals with Italian style suits, tab shirts and extended point winkle picker shoes, the Rockers drape coats, drainpipe trousers and “brothel creeper shoes” and girls with their full skirts held out with layers of net. The girls would give the boys a thrill with a glimpse of stocking top and suspender.

Photo:Casino Ballroom Summer 1959, from left to right Colin Carter, Dave (Gilly) Rodman, Les Woods, Tony Arthurs and Chas Hall

Casino Ballroom Summer 1959, from left to right Colin Carter, Dave (Gilly) Rodman, Les Woods, Tony Arthurs and Chas Hall

Chas Hall

On Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons the place would be full of jivers and twisters. Fridays & Sundays were records, with Saturdays being the most popular, having local bands -The Red Diamonds with Chas Hall(piano), Tony Arthurs (vocal), Colin Carter (rhythm guitar), David (Gilly) Rodman (lead guitar) and Les Woods on drums. The Whirlwinds with Fred Ford on keyboard, Bert Pulham & Peter Gosling guitars, Dave Scates on drums and Ron the singer. They later became the Force Five with– Bert Pulham, Dave Scates, Peter Gosling, Dave Osborne and Ron the singer. There were other visiting bands and on one occasion I even remember Gene Vincent making a guest appearance.

One of my favourite numbers - Drumbeat - was a drum solo played by Les, drummer with the Red Diamonds.

The dances were run by Keith Randal and keeping order in case a fight broke out were, Wallace Faber and for some time my friend big Geoff Lawrence. Trouble was always on the cards if a certain person turned up!

Our crowd consisted of Alan Whitley, rubber legs Benny Rushforth and his dancing partner Janet Watts, Johnny Ellis, Mick Brown, Mick Dowden, Peggy Longhurst, Aileen Ouchterlonie, myself Rod Bishop and others whose names escape me….can you help?

The Casino drew people from far and wide with between 200-300 on Saturday nights. The ballroom had a sprung floor and when dancing was in full swing, if you stood underneath in the slot machine area and looked up you could see the ceiling going up and down.

For many years the Casino Ballroom was also a great place to be on New Years Eve at the Police Ball and in later times the New Years Eve dances run by Nellie Geak & co.

Unfortunately, with the opening of Kings Club and The Lacarno in Basildon , with resident band The Dave Clarke Five, the crowds drifted away, resulting in Rock and Roll events at The Casino coming to an end.

This page was added by Rodney Bishop on 24/12/2010.
Comments about this page

I believe our band, 'The Red Diamonds' were the first rock 'n' roll group on the Island. Our main base and favourite venue was the Casino, with its sprung dance floor and a balcony with estuary views. The bar only served soft drinks, so drunkeness was rarely a problem.

I was introduced to my wife, Jacky Doubleday by our rythm guitar player Colin. We gigged mainly in South East Essex and London. I was called up for National Service (one of the last) in 1960, but the band carried on for some months after. I remember guests like fim actor, Harry Fowler. Adam Faiths cousin paid us a visit several times and would do a vocal spot with the band.

As for me . . . well I still play boogie-woogie piano.

By Chas Hall
On 07/01/2011

I rember the times there, there was a few of us Dickie Taylor, Trev Britnel, Dave Smith, Dave Elphick good times

By mick benterman
On 28/02/2011

Message to Chas Hall. Chas, I'm researching a book about bands from Canvey and Southend. I'd love to mention the Red Diamonds (actually I already have, but I need more info). Would it be OK to contact you about it? Thanks

By Steve Crancher
On 24/05/2011

My best Casino Memories When my father returned home following W.W.2 he started working at the local gas co. He also loved playing the piano and was an excellent pianist. Before too long, probably in the late 1940's, he had met some other musicians and they formed a 6/7 piece Dance Band.

Soon they were practicing together and called themselves "The Nightspots". It wasn't long before they were playing at local hotels but mostly at the Casino Ballroom. During this period they played for two Ballroom Dance instructors (Perrins) who held dance classes on some weeknights and many Canvey Islanders learned how to Ballroom dance at these classes.

Of course, very proper timing i.e. Waltz, Foxtrot and Quickstep had to be kept by the band. This would lead up to the terrific dances held on weekends at the Casino. The crowds were big and enjoyed, not only ballroom dancing, but the band could also play Dixieland Jazz, jitterbug and jive numbers.

A great time would be had by all and it would get so warm in the ballroom that the large windows had to be opened facing the Thames.

One Saturday night the drummer didn't show up and I can still remember my Dad calling me up to the stage and saying "Just keep the beat, you can do it" My friends at the back of the hall couldn't believe their eyes.!! Anyway, I managed and gave a big sigh of relief when the drummer did show up.!!

Interestingly, The Nightspots were playing at the Admiral Jellicho on the evening of Jan.31st. 1953, it was a very cold and windy walk home.

By Gerald Hudson
On 18/01/2012

Hi My Dad is Tony Arthurs pictured above. I was wondering if anyone has any other photos of the band? I would love to show him and Colin Carter ( still good friends to this day)

thanks

By Anna Arthurs
On 30/11/2016

To Chas Hall, pianist with the 'Red Diamonds'. It was great to see tonight; still rockin' and rolling on the piano! Tim

By Tim Huskisson
On 06/12/2016

Hi - Tim. It was great to meet up again. Well, I'm rockin in Spain right now. I can still get away with; 'Great Balls of Fire' and 'A Whole Lot of Shakin'. Back to the UK soon.

Chas Hall

By Chas Hall
On 14/04/2017

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