Wednesday, March 31, 2010

1960s Teen Scene in Las Vegas

Sixties Teen-Age Entertainment in Vegas
What Kids Did for Fun in Sin City
Hippies in Las Vegas?!

As hard as it may be for some people to imagine, Las Vegas - like most cities in the USA had a teenage entertainment scene and drew many of the biggest rock bands of the time to three venues mentioned below (the Las Vegas Convention Center's Rotunda, the Teen Beat Club and the Ice Palace).

Twin Lakes Lodge

The first teen-type festival took place at the outdoor pool area of the Twin Lakes Lodge (Bonanza and Rancho). It took place in the Summer of 1962 and was titled the 'Twin Lakes Twist' and was headlined by Bobby Darin signing his top hits: 'Splish Splash', 'Dream Lover' and 'Mack the Knife'.
The next night's performer was Wayne Newton, performing for the first time, solo, without his brother as his regular singing-duet partner. An outdoor concert was held every weekend thru the Summer of '62 and launched a short-lived teen-age hangout in Las Vegas.

Video of Bobby Darin singing his hit record - 'Dream Lover'

Convention Center Rotunda

The Beach Boys were among the first of the big name, new early 60s rock 'n' roll shows to perform at the Las Vegas Convention Center's Rotunda Room. Their show took place on June 29, 1964 and was presented by two of the biggest names in rock show productions of the time - Las Vegas' own Keith Austin and Steve Miller.

In 1962, Steve and Keith opened the first 'teenage nightclub' in America (near the intersection of Paradise and Harmon) called the 'Teen-Beat Club' and operated the nightclub while also hosting a local radio show, a TV dance show, plus doing their concert promoting .

Beach Boys performing 'Surfin' USA' in 1964.

The death of JFK changed a lot of things for America's youth and they were quite ready for something completely new and upbeat - like Beatlemania.

Actual color photo of the Beatles on-stage in Las Vegas 1964.

Less than two months after the Beach Boy's concert, the Sahara Hotel and Stan Irwin hosted the most famous music act in the world. The Beatles would perform their first West Coast tour going to 26 cities in 31 days - doing their first show at the San Francisco Cow Palace on August 19, 1964. Their second show would be played in Las Vegas the following day of August 20th. They then headed to Seattle for the 21st, Vancouver for the 22nd, the Hollywood Bowl on the 23rd and continued to play other American cities until September 21st.

The Beatles were paid $25,000 for their two 2 shows - one at 4 pm and the other at 9 pm. On the bill with the Beatles were Jackie De Shannon, the Righteous Brothers, and the Bill Black Combo (Elvis' former bass player). 8,408 people attended the first show in an arena built to only hold 7,500.

Other English groups that followed the Beatles at the Convention Center were the Dave Clark Five in November and the Kinks in early 1965.

Teen Beat Club
Now - Club Paradise

In 1962 two Las Vegas rock show promoters Steve Miller and Keith Austin (both just 19) opened the first teenage-nightclub in the USA at 4416 Paradise Road in Las Vegas, called the Teen Beat Club.
Take a good look at the building. You may be vaugely familiar with it. It is now Club Paradise, the strip-club located just across the street from the Hard Rock Hotel.

The Teen Beat Club (seen here in 1965 near UNLV) now functions as Club Paradise. The vacant lot in the background is now occupied by the Hofbrau House, with the Double Down Saloon nearby.

Years before strippers appeared on the stage at left, the Teen Beat Club had the mid-Sixties surf band (the Teen Beats) perform regularly as the club's house band.

During the mid-Sixties Keith and Steve brought in popular LA bands such as the Lords, the Gold Tones, Starfires, the Lively Ones, the Routers, Sentinals, Marketts, Challengers, Chevells, Templars and the Bitter Sweets.

The early and mid-Sixties uniform styled bands would soon be a thing of the past as the Beatle's Revolver and Sgt. Pepper albums led most teens of the time into the more individualistic 1967 Summer of Love spirit.

From 1962 thru 1966, Keith and Steve hosted their live, weekly 'Teen Beat Television Dance Party' on Las Vegas' Channel 8.

During that time their 'American Bandstand' type dance show presented popular music artists such as Little Richard, Dick and Dee Dee, Frankie Avalon, Bobby Vinton, Bobby Vee, Trini Lopez, Wayne Newton, the Beach Boys, and Paul Revere and the Raiders.

As the mid-Sixties gave way to the pre-psychedelic San Francisco bands - the Teen Beat partners began to present groups at the Teen Beat Club with 1966 styled names like: the Weeds, Rats, Pierced Arrows, Zipper, Present Tense, Scatter Blues, Nobody's Children, Misty Souls, and the Peanut Butter Conspriacy.

But, as the more progressive age of the psychedlic sounds of the post-1966 Beatles arrived, things quickly began to change on the Las Vegas music scene. Steve and Keith decided to put on a few shows at a larger, more ballroom-like venue called the Ice Palace. They closed their Teen beat Club in 1968.

The Ice Palace

The year 1967 brought a big change to American Rock 'n' Roll as well as the performing styles of most music groups who appealed to the new (so called, youth-movement) hippies. Dancing the Twist, the Hully Gully, the Jerk or the Fly no longer seemed appropriate to the post-1966 crowd of young people facing an Army draft to Viet Nam and who were now experimenting with psychedelic chemicals.

The care-free era of the early and mid-Sixties was quickly becoming a thing of the past. Dance shows and small dance clubs had become silly and passe. With the rise of San Francisco's psychedlic ballrooms, towns and cities across the United States began reviving the use of 1930s ballrooms and larger facilities like skating rinks to house the growing crowds of kids who now just wanted to sit on the floor and listen to big name bands, while basically just tripping to the light shows and music.

In Las Vegas, this shift to a larger rock-show facility found a home in a place called Commercial Center. In 1955 a huge combination grocery - department store, called Vegas Village (seen at right in photo) paved the way for the early 1960s Commercial Center to open nearby on Sahara Avenue.

In the mid-Sixties Commercial Center exanded their shopping center and added a large ice skating and hockey rink (where the red dot is seen at the left of the photo).

When Jim Morrison and the Doors played at the Convention Center the need for a comfortable, local facility became obvious and Steve and Keith and others began using the Ice Palace as an evening venue for the psychedelic groups that were now starting to tour the cities of the western states.

The Doors performed at the Las Vegas Convention Center on August 25th, 1967 bringing a whole new, more intense and introspective style of listening to what the music might mean. Music groups, in 1967, we're no longer singing lover's laments like 'Help Me Rhonda' or happy songs like 'Little GTO'. The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and the Doors changed American youth completely.

Two posters announced the Las Vegas arrival of Jim Morrison and the Doors. A concert production company with the name 'Scenic Sounds' opened the floodgates to further, more intimate concerts being held at Ice Palace (located at the southwest corner of Commercial Center, at Karen and State Street).

Just a few of the highly popular bands to play the Ice Palace are listed below:

* Feb 18 1968 - Buffalo Springfield (with Neil Young & Stephen Stills)

* March 29, 1968 - Grateful Dead and Carlos Santana

* Spring 1968 - Blue Cheer

* May 18, 1968 - Cream (with Eric Clapton)

* April 11, 1969 - Led Zepplin

* October, 1969 - Creedence Clearwater Revival

* Dec 31, 1969 Vanilla Fudge

In the Summer of 1970 a large outdoor festival, headlined by Janis Joplin, was planned to be held at Cashman Field. Plans fell thru due to city hall interferrence and bad planning all around.

With the break-up of the Beatles, the end of the Moon Mission closing in, Woodstock over and Altamont left in shambles - the spirit of the late Sixties was nearly gone and the Ice Palace was no longer drawing the excited crowds it once did.

A few weeks after Joplin's planned performance at the Vegas 1970 Festival she was found dead. A month later the late Sixties icon, Jimi Hendrix was also found dead. A year later Jim Morrison died in Paris. Hunter Thompson aptly brought Fear and Loathing to Las Vegas in 1971. The San Francisco "wave" drifted back and left its "high water mark" .

After 50 years the Ice Place still exists as a hockey rink at the south-west corner of Commercial Center - right next to the Tranny Bar called the Las Vegas Lounge, and near the Green Door Swingers Club, the Hawk Gym, the Fantasy Social Club, and several other assorted, odd-ball sex shops.

Still. The high-water mark exists somewhere here in modern day Las Vegas. And a big, new wave seems to have silently arrived lately. The Beatles are back on the marquee. The Mirage announces LOVE in huge signs. The Palms holds Summer of Love events. City Center is one of the most psychedelic places ever created. Builders are thinking a bit greener. A recent recession has made most people less materialistic. People's egos are getting less inflated and they're acting nicer. A war might be ending soon. The Internet is creating a futuristic cultural and social revolution that advances monthly. The times are changing fast again. Maybe the circle is coming back around. For all we know.

1. 'Break on Through', 2. Break on Through Remix' 3. 'Roadhouse Blues', 4. Mojo Rising singing 'Peace Frog' at the Beauty Bar in Las Vegas - followed by 5. 'The Wasp', 6. 'The End' at Hollywood Bowl, 7. 'L.A. Woman', 8. 'Samba Pa Ti' a 1971 performance by Santana, 9. 'Ripple' by the Grateful Dead, 10. 'California' by Led Zepplin and a final Las Vegas performance by Jerry Garcia playing 11. 'Peggy-O' in 1994.