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JAN 24-KENOSHA WISCONSIN

EAGLES BALLROOM

*Tony Szikil's photos from this night in Kenosha are still made available for sale. Watch this page for how to order coming soon!*


After a successful show in Milwaukee Friday night, the Winter Dance Party traveled 34 miles Saturday moring to Kenosha (Wisconsin). Kenosha , like Milwaukee, was another city on Lake Michigan and had a population of about 54,000 in 1959. The venue the dance party was to play-the Eagles Ballroom-was located in the area near the lake and was a beautiful oval ballroom with a grand ceiling and fancy columns and mirrors surrounding the dance floor. Jim Lounsberry was a local Chicago TV personality at that time and had his own dance program-Bandstand Matinee-on WGN-TV. By the late '50's Jim was doing teen hops in the Chicago area on a regular basis and wanted to buy the Jan. 24th WDP date for Chicago at the time of the tour. However, GAC (General Artisit Corporation) had already sold the Chicago date for to the Aragon Ballrooom for Feb. 8, so Lounsberry took the show to nearby Kenosha, promoting it heavily. He hired D.J. Ed Auxner of station WLIP to come out and emcee the show, while Lounsberry's wife, Debbie, (an anspiring rock 'n' roller) would also make an appearance with the WDP troupe that night. Her newest was titled, "If You Can't Rock Me".

After arriving in town, two members of the tour, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper appeared on Jim's 3:30-5:00 pm TV show, lip synching their current hits. (Donna for Valens; Chantilly Lace for Richardson) After the show, the singers joined the others in preparing for the big night ahead while Lounsberry hurried off to a teen hop. He later left in the middle of the hop and chartered a Beechcraft Bonanza to take him Kenosha where the show was alrady half way over. Hundreds of teens had lined up at 7:30 for the 8:00 pm show outside the Eagles Ballroom and paid $1.50 admission for the chance to rock 'n roll. The line went from the 2nd story ballroom all the way down the street, and once inside, the throng of kids pressed right up to the front of the stage. Soon the show began and one by one the WDP members once again offered up their hits to the excited crowd. One fan, Joe Santiloni thinks Ritchie Valens was the biggest hit of the night. "The girls absolutely went nuts! You could hardly hear him.." he told interviwer Larry Lehmer in 1997. This seems to be a totally accurate observation too as photographs taken that night show Ritchie singing and energetically playing his guitar to the attention of his admiring audience.

The rock and roll show wasn't the only big event going on that night in the ballroom though. Photographer Tony Szikil was downstairs shooting a wedding and afterward (about 10:30 pm) decided to go up and see what was happening at the dance. He started to shoot pictures as he approached the stage and got even more when Lounsberry spotted him and brought him backstage to meet the performers and enjoy the rest of the show. The 30 some pictures that he took that night (and many made from the wings) are some of the best pictures to surface from the tour. He vividly captures the fans, some actually sitting ON the stage watching 17-year-old Ritchie Valens as he rocked the crowd. Ritchie was a big hit that night and you can see Jim Lounsberry and Waylon Jennings smiling in one of the photos as they enjoy Ritchie's high energy rock and roll performance.

All too soon the night was over and it was time for the bunch to hop back on the bus for a long 381 mile ride to the next stop in Mankato Minnesota. Tired, some of the guys would sleep where they sat, others would try to climb into the luggage racks overhead to unwind. There were no warm beds for this ride and Ritchie Valens, on his first big tour, would start to get a glimpse of the not-so-glamorous life on the road. When the cheers died down and the fans went home, you still had to get back on the bus. Buddy Holly was a veteran of such things, and Dion had been around enough to learn the ropes. The other guys would soon learn the hard way. But this night they settled in and tried to sleep listening to the hum of the bus driving them along towards their next date......

 


Next date-Mankato, Minn   

*Tony Szikil's photos from this night in Kenosha are still made available for sale. Watch this page for how to order coming soon!*

*The facts from the above were taking from several sources. Much of it was gleaned from Larry Lehmer's terrific 1997 book, THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED. This book is a MUST READ for fans and you can order it from Amazon.

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