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The Venues
fable room

Having a place to play is the most important thing for music. Modesto has had a wide range of music venues over the years and Music history was made at many of them 
Music has been a big part of Modesto history. Legendary country radio DJ and singer Chester Smith was the voice of the Central Valley. Buck Owens and Merle Haggard began their musical careers in the Central Valley and at one time called Modesto their home. The music of the Maddox Brothers and Rose created the rockabilly style of music and paved the way for bands to follow and later the birth of Rock and Roll. 
There were dancehalls in the 1950s and 1960s that were magnets for rockabilly and hillbilly music, which were the genesis of rock 'n’ roll. The Riverbank Club House drew national performers like Hank Williams and Jerry Lee Lewis and was always jumpin’ as a dance hall, attracting people from all over the Central Valley and beyond. The Oakdale VFW Hall a.k.a the Cloverland Ballroom, was also a good dance and music spot, and featured local country band Glenn Stepp and the Western Swingters, who also got a lot of local radio play. During the late ‘40s into the ‘60s, the Rendezvous on 9th Street corner played hillbilly music and the evenings were quite lively. The Red Barn was on 9th near the Grange building with a bar and a stage and featured the “Okie” singers. An evening would include the Bamboo Room, followed by the Tack Room and then Jack’s Club for Dancing.
The California Ballroom (432 6th St), Merry Garden Skate Rink (6th and I), the Uptown Arena (10th and G), and tstrandhe Fable Room in the basement of the Hotel Covell were the most popular dancehall nightclubs during the American Graffiti years, featuring bands like Kent Whitt and the Downbeats, and Roddy Jackson and the Bluenotes. Also appearing on these stages was Ceres’ Jim Burgett, who had a string of hit records in the early ‘60s and still performs today. Others appearing on the Modesto stages were James Brown, Bobby Blue Bland, Ike & Tina Turner and the Ikettes, Dick & DeeDee, the Surfaris, Bobby Freeman, Duane Eddy, and many other legends of the day.
Playland on Kansas Avenue, behind the Borden Dairy (now Foster Farms) where Highway 99 is now, had a dancehall that was a local favorite until the owner, Mr. Al Basmajian was murdered by a jealous husband in 1958. During the ‘60s, the Playhouse in Downtown was a major club spot and regularly featured the Julian Brothers and Earl Knight (Kissling). Michael Allsup, later of Three Dog Night, would perform with Earl at El Patio, a dinner club on McHenry near Orangeburg.purple trun
Later in the ‘60s, the Purple Turnip was located near 950 10th Street and was the place where many of the local ‘60s bands played. The Strand Theatre was used for concerts and hosted many legendary performers like Van Morrison &Them, and Arthur Lee and Love, The Grass Roots, and The Golliwogs (who later became Creedence Clearwater Revival) among others in 1967. Other shows at The Strand included an R&B show headlining Peaches & Herb and a show that headlined the Sir Douglas Quintet (with Freddy Fender in the band). The Modesto Skate Rink at 250 Tully Road, (burned down in the 80s) hosted concerts over the years including the Doors, Grateful Dead, Sammy Hagar, Pablo Cruise and many more. The Turlock War Memorial was a regular place where you could easily book, make flyers and get some KFIV promo.
During the 1980s, the Sports Page was the biggest nightclub and remains in business today. It is now called Crocodile’s, where classic rock is played every weekend. Other venues included Charlie Tuna’s, The Vintage, The Tree Frog Tavern, and Gilligan’s. The Fable Room was renamed Dazzles Underground.
Today, the Historic Cruise Route of 10th and 11th Streets is the center of the nightlife scene and a big part of Modesto’s Downtown renaissance. The Fat Cat Music House & Lounge was the first club in the new era of music and led to the new excitement in the Downtown area. The Palladium Nightclub is located where the Purple Turnip once stood.  Hero’s Brewhouse at 9th and L regularly hosts live music and was the scene of the return to Modesto by the legendary Don Maddox of the Maddox Brothers and Rose after he received his Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2013 Modesto Area Music Awards. 
Live music is still a very important part of the Modesto entertainment scene, featuring a variety of nightclub, restaurant and theatre venues that cater to the “All Ages” crowd and the over 21s. The Modesto Area Music Association (MAMA) recognizes the best music venues and restaurants/cafes that present live music (modestoareamusic.com).
For more information, see also the www.modestocruiseroute.com 

"Researched and developed  by Chris Murphy, ModestoView and Sierra Pacific"

More Modesto Music History Coming Soon

We need your help! If you have any video, pictures, posters, flyers or any memorabilia from these times, please contact us ASAP. This is a community effort and we need to capture, remember and celebrate our music history. 

Send info to:  info@modestoview.com 

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riverbank club

kent whitt

The legendary Playland  on Kansas,
photo by Steve Pedego

kent whitt 2

raquet club
Raquet Club Modesto