Sunday, February 1, 2015

You Should Have Seen Them Dance (Dance Party Aftermath)

The bands were superb, but it was the dancers who made last night's 56th Anniversary of the historic Duluth Armory Winter Dance Party so special. As Todd Eckart, who opened, and The Travelons filled Sacred Heart Cathedral with the sounds of Buddy Holly and the Crickets and other late 1950's music, it was immediately apparent who had come with their dancing shoes on. Not only dancing shoes, but dancing attire, many competing for the Best 50's Costume Contest. The pair voted best dancers were not so attired, but simply displayed their moves with a striking energy while wearing their hearts on their sleeves.

These folks not there in 1959.
As anticipated, there were a number of people present last night who were present in 1959 with the original Winter Dance Party rolled into town. One of these was Jerry Schell who was a freshman that year. He and a friend arrived with cans of Hamm's Beer in their pockets. They got there early and saw Bobby Price. Unfortunately, after about an hour, and before Buddy Holly ever took the stage, they were caught and evicted.

Schell said the biggest dance party he ever went to was the following year when Roy Orbison played. There was a gal there who was jumping up and down in front of him at that one, and needless to say she must have caught his eye because eventually he married her. They have been married almost fifty years.

Gary Lopac, Lonnie Knight, Gene LaFond
I learned that local musician Jim Hall once opened for Lonnie Knight & the Jokers Wild in the late 60s. Lonnie was here last night with the Travelons, and has a heart for the Armory Arts cause.

Duluth News Tribune editor and columnist Jim Heffernan was on hand for a portion of the evening. Heff said he was 19 when the event came down. He said that the Winter Dance Party of 1959 provided a lot of material to draw on for his columns over the years, especially after Dylan mentioned its influence in a Grammy acceptance speech.

At a certain point in the evening Billy Hallquist was acknowledged and thanked for his contributions to the music scene of Minnesota, especially the annual Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan concerts, and the raising of awareness for the Armory renovation vision. (Or better, the Armory resurrection.)

The band was great, the music was fun, from That'll Be The Day and Peggy Sue to Oh Donna and La Bamba... and everything in between. I have a sneaking suspicion this is an event we'll like see again next year. Just thinkin'.

For a brief moment in time it was old fashioned rock 'n roll heaven.


French Family Blog said...

Set aside Saturday, January 30, 2016 for the 2016 - 57th Anniversary Duluth WINter Dance Party. The response form the crowd last night was a resounding - "let's do it again next year"!

We will!

Nelson French, Vice President
Armory ARts & Music Center Board

Lonnie said...

I'll be there.

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