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avalon ballroom big band photos
big band photos
The Golden Era of music and romance lives on the in the famous Catalina Island Casino, as seen in photos.


Catalina Island Casino Ballroom Big Band Photos

There's no place quite as romantic as Catalina Island, The aqua colored ocean, colorful hillside houses and hotels and an amazing architectural wonder, the Casino, brings to life another era. Unveiled and opened on May 29, 1929, a who's who of big bands brought notables by boat to play for the dance crowd from Los Angeles. Catalina Island was THE place to go for entertainment, and today great jazz bands are featured in concert on the island, though not on the scale once enjoyed.


In the photos on display in the Ballroom, which is available for tours (highly recommended), are some names you may never have heard of.  Matty Malneck, Anita O'Day, Jan Garber, Stan Kenton and Jimmy Grier are several.  If non of thse ring a bell or are music to your ears, what about Herbie Kay, Henry Busse, Kay Kyser, Buddy Rogers, Ted Weems, Caesar Petrillo, Hal Grayson, Little Jack Little, Tony Pastor, Mark Carter, Eddie Grady Ray Novall, Rus Morgan, Layton Noble or Milt Herth?


The swing era was in full bloom when the now standing casino was built to replace a smaller Sugarloaf Casino.  Thanks to the chewing gum king, William Wrigley, and a partner, David Renton, the vision came about and was realized in grand scale, as you'll discover when touring the historic building. Beautifully restored, the guide points to some very cool murals and decorations that are authentic and original.


What's really fun is to start your journey over at the Queen Mary in Long Beach. You can dine on the Sunday brunch, take a tour or have a cocktail on board that historic ship, and soak up its ambience. Also filled with original murals, and having featured its fair share of big bands, as well, you can leave the Queen and hop aboard the Catalina Express for the hour journey to Catalina to see the Casino. The two entities haven not packaged a tour as far as we know, but that really is the way to go. 


Back at the casino, Columbia Broadcasting Company began broadcasting the live music from the ballroom of the Casino in 1934. Lasing into the 1950's listeners throughout the U.S. turned on their radios and tuned into the program, filled with wonderful music that brought joy into people's homes. Each week the intro of the radio program repeated the famous line, “From the beautiful Casino Ballroom, overlooking Avalon Bay at Catalina Island, we bring you the music of Bob Crosby" (or whatever name of a band was featured that week.)   (before television came into every living room) heard The names of the bands changed regularly, but the magical sounds of the era’s most notable Big Bands introduced the nation to the Casino Ballroom and Catalina Island.


Reservations: (800) 626-1496. How do you find the Casino? When you arrive by boat, you can't miss it. Honest!




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