50 years for The Boston Gliderdrome: From Roller Rink to Music Venue to Bingo Hall

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In Lincolnshire, England, in a place they call Boston there exists a legendary building. This building started its life as a simple roller rink and evolved into an incredible hotspot. Now this grand venue recently celebrated its 50th anniversary as the new version that the people of Boston grew to love. Looking back on its history, one can put into perspective the wondrous evolution of this famous multipurpose hall. Some of music’s biggest names graced the renowned “Starlight Rooms,” and when there no live music is rocking the walls, the voice of the bingo caller echoes down the halls. The Gliderdrome has a lively and exciting history.

The original Gliderdrome was opened in 1939. It’s original purpose and function was as a roller-skating rink. They began holding dancing nights on Wednesday nights. That was alright, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that the Gliderdrome began to dip its toes into the music scene. It started out hosting for the big band scene featuring such artists as Joe Loss and Ted Heath. The Gliderdrome began to move with the times, and the times were bringing in the new era of rock’ n’ roll. They continued booking the biggest names of the time. Amongst these big names of the early rock’ n’ roll era were Billy Fury, Johnny Burnette, Joe Brown, Marty Wilde, and John Leyton.

Then came the tragedy of 1959. A fire turned the Gliderdrome to ash and rubble. But not even a raging fire could stop the Gliderdrome; as a matter of fact that fire actually marked the rebirth of the Gliderdrome and the beginning of its new and glorious era. The place was refurbished and expanded upon with the construction of the Starlight Rooms, which open in November of 1964, exactly 50 years ago. The Starlight Rooms featured a hip, new revolving stage. Its guests were Juke Box Jury as the presenter and DJ David Jacobs along with Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, whom unfortunately did not even show up on time to play their own gig (epic fail). But the list of artists did not stop there for that night. On the agenda were also Heinz and the Wild Boys and a London band named The Federals. Even the Boston Mayor Councillor at the time Burt Eyre performed topping off the evening with a drum roll.

Additions and renovations were inserted later on, such as a coffee bar on the balcony, a 50ft by 70ft sprung dance floor overcast by 24,000 miniature fairy lights in the ceiling. The next ten years were absolutely glorious and grandiose. The Gliderdrome was the destination for the chart’s biggest names of the time. Everyone wanted to play there; Jimi Hendrix, Ottis Redding, T.Rex, Elton John, and Steve Wonder were among the biggest artists to play the grand stage. Only a few big names slipped through the Gliderdrome’s fingers, one of these being the famous Fab Four, The Beatles. Due a scheduling re-arrangement that turned into a cancellation, the Gliderdrome missed out on having the biggest band Boston had ever seen.

Many of the bands loved coming back. The Walker Brothers played three or four times. Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich came many times, and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer played twice. Other regulars were The Equals, Alvin Stardust, originally Shane Fenton and the Fentones, Amen Corner, Smokey Robinson, Ike and Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, and Ottis Redding.

The golden years of music for the Gliderdrome ended on May 25th, 1973, a few days after Elton John’s last show there. The official reason was that audiences were ‘unwilling to accept reasonable disciplinary rules and ordinary standards of behavior.’ This gave way to a new scene, the bingo scene. Since that time the Gliderdrome has regular bingo nights and actually re-opened the dance nights and has the occasional tribute band. If you are ever in England and have the chance to travel away from the typical sightseeing spots, we urge you to go and witness the legendary piece of history for yourselves, and play a few rounds of bingo while you are at it!