Everly Brothers historical display at Winter Dance Party

A piece of Shenandoah history is ready to complement another place and date in Iowa and music history.

Saturday, Feb. 2 marks the 60th anniversary of the Winter Dance Party at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. That 1959 lineup included concerts by Buddy Holly, J.P. Richardson, known as the Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens and Dion. That would be the last for Holly, Valens and Richardson as they all died in a plane crash after leaving the show.

Shenandoah’s musical history with the Everly Brothers will be on display at the Surf Ballroom during the Winter Dance Party scheduled Jan. 30 through Feb. 2. The party commemorates the lives and legacies of the three who died.

The Everly Brothers, who went on to stardom after living a portion of their childhood in Shenandoah, toured with Holly in 1957 and 1958. A committee of people promoting the Everly Brothers history in Shenandoah and Iowa are planning a “pop up” museum of the Everly Brothers at the dance party.

“A pop-up museum is supposed to be low on content and high on fun and interaction with a general streamlined take on history, so we have fewer photos, but they are larger,” said Sherry Davis, one of the organizers for the Everly Brothers display. “The banners announce an era and invite those who see it to learn more about the history through books, videos and other resources.”

According to Everly Brothers history, the two played the Surf Ballroom in July 1963 and June 1965.

Those at the Winter Dance Party will learn the highlights of the Everly Brothers time in Shenandoah. Banners will show when, and where, the two lived in Shenandoah from 1945 to 1953. Other banners will briefly tell the story of their homecoming concert in 1986 in Shenandoah and how their childhood home was acquired and converted into a historical display.

The Everly Brothers banners can be used at other historical places and events to showcase the Shenandoah history.

“Museums can get extra attention having traveling exhibits,” Davis said. “We can customize pop-up museum for booths at events.”

According to the Surf Ballroom website, “The original Surf Ballroom was located across the street from its current location on the shores of Clear Lake. It officially opened for business on April 17, 1934 with a $1.00 dance on a 90x120 foot hardwood dance floor.

Tragedy struck the Surf in the early morning hours of April 20, 1947 when fire destroyed the building. Plans for its replacement were quickly underway and a new Surf Ballroom was rebuilt across the street from the original location in what was the original venue’s parking lot. The current Surf Ballroom reopened on July 1, 1948. The building project cost approximately $350,000.

The Surf got its name (and motif) from the desire of the original owners to create a ballroom that resembled an ocean beach club. The murals on the back walls were hand-painted to depict pounding surf, swaying palm trees, sailboats and lighthouses. The furnishings were bamboo and rattan and the ambience that of a south sea island. The stage is surrounded by palm trees and the clouds projected overhead make it seem as if you were dancing outside under the stars.

The ballroom was scheduled to be open Wednesday through Sunday each week, with “Old style music and dancing” featured on Friday nights. The remaining nights would be dedicated to “Modern music and dancing.” In the 1930’s and 1940’s, in order for a big band to make its reputation nationally, it had to play the Surf. The likes of Count


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Basie, Duke Ellington and The Dorsey’s all made regular stops at the Surf. Back then, ballrooms were host to the primary form of entertainment -- dancing.

The 1950’s saw the dawning of rock and roll, and then manager Carroll Anderson was quick to book the hottest names in the business. Artists like The Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Ricky Nelson, Little Richard, Jan and Dean and Conway Twitty all took the stage here. The Surf Ballroom was one of the first ballrooms in the state to feature rock ‘n roll, and the big name rock acts featured here made it a “must-play” venue on the performance circuit.

This was the case on Feb. 2, 1959, when Anderson brought in the famed Winter Dance Party featuring Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper, and Dion. It was this fateful show that made the most lasting mark on the Surf Ballroom.” For more information, call (641) 357-6151 or online at surfballroom.com

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