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The Rendezvous Ballroom was built in 1928 on the Balboa peninsula, in California,between Washington and Palm Avenues (along what is now Ocean Front Blvd.). The Rendezvous Ballroom was a huge, two-story building with a mezzanine and balcony. It had over 160 feet of beach frontage and was nearly 100 feet deep. The dance floor was big enough to accommodate about 3000 people. All of the big dance bands played there during the 30s and 40s: Artie Shaw, Ozzie Nelson, Benny Goodman, Guy Lombardo, Bob Crosby, Tommy Dorsey, Stan Kenton, and many, many more.

 

 

Dick Dale and the Del Tones at the Rendezvous Ballroom in 1961 (Photo: Michael Ochs Archive)


(Photo: Michael Ochs Archive)

It was Dick Dale and his band the Del-Tones that gave the ballroom a new lease on life. Dale was a self-taught guitarist (who learned several other instruments as well) who performed all over Southern California after graduation from high school in 1954. By 1959, he had settled into regular weekend appearances at the Rinky Dink Ice Cream Parlor (at the corner of E. Balboa Blvd. and Main St.). After adding a couple of musicians to fill out the sound, his audience quickly grew beyond the capacity of the ice cream parlor. He was asked to take his music elsewhere.

Dale asked the owners of the Rendezvous if he could use the building for dances. There was opposition but the owners finally relented after it was agreed to split the door proceeds. After some difficulty, the City of Newport Beach finally granted him the necessary permits but only under a set of strict rules (there was to be no alcohol sold or consumed on the premises and a dress code would be enforced). Dale's first appearance at the Rendezvous (July 1, 1961) was a bit disappointing; only 17 of his friends, many of them surfers, came to hear him play.

  Within four months, though, he was playing to sellout crowds. Every night he played there, the crowds came, several thousand strong. Paul Johnson, guitarist for The Belairs ("Mr. Moto"), has said, "I remember making the trek to the Rendezvous in the summer of '61 to see what all the fuss was about over Dick Dale. It was a powerful experience; his music was incredibly dynamic, louder and more sophisticated than The Belairs, and the energy between The Del-Tones and all of those surfers stomping on the hardwood floor in their sandals was extremely intense. The tone of Dale's guitar was bigger than any I had ever heard, and his blazing technique was something to behold"(The Belairs played at the Rendezvous in 1962). Dale's Rendezvous shows became known as "stomps." Since the majority of his audiences were from the surf and beach culture, it wasn't surprising that a dance called "The Surfer Stomp"originated there. Surf music was born. It has become intimately and inseparably connected with Dick Dale and the Rendezvous Ballroom. High tides would sometimes bring the surf close enough to the building to dampen the shoes of patrons standing in line...it was the perfect ambience.

 


(Photo: Michael Ochs Archive)


(Photo: Michael Ochs Archive)

  Dick Dale & The Del-Tones played their last show at the ballroom on December 23, 1961. They made numerous appearances in early 1962 before settling in as the house band at the Harmony Park Ballroom in Anaheim. The Rendezvous continued to provide dances and nearly every surf band in Southern California, inspired by the creativity and popularity of Dale, played there at least once during the next couple of years. In 1966, for the second and last time, the Rendezvous burned to the ground. Interestingly, a band called the Cindermen played the ballroom the night before the fire. The structure was not rebuilt and, instead, condos went up on the site. In 1986, the Orange County Historical Commission honored the original site with a bronze plaque at the corner of Washington and Ocean Front, reminding us that "the music and dancing have ended, but the memories linger on."

On Sunday March 26, 2000, the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum put on its second annual Rendezvous Ballroom Reunion at the Galaxy Concert Theater. The concept of the event was "reuniting bands and friends through music". The event featured Dick Dale "King of The Surf Guitar" plus The Chantays, The Lively Ones, The Belairs, The Nocturnes, Jon and the Nightriders, The Eliminators and The Space Cossacks.




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