Wild Times At The Roof Garden

The list of performers at the Roof Garden from the 1950s to 1987 reads like a who’s who of rock and roll.

I kept my article on Tom Tourville’s fantastic presentation about the Roof Garden short, but I could have listed literally dozens of groups that performed at the venue in little Arnolds Park, Iowa, many of whom are still famous today.

Even though I grew up on a steady diet of "oldies," though, I had to admit I’d never heard of a lot of the groups before. Then I looked them up, and immediately recognized the songs.

Here’s a partial list of the rock bands that played at the Roof Garden.

Group name links to Wikipedia; song name links to the song on YouTube. I found some with the bands playing, but others are photo slideshows and in one case, a cartoon of Betty Boop.

Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps, famous for "Be-Bop-a-Lula."

The Everly Brothers (actually came to the Roof Garden every year for 7 straight years), famous for "Bye, Bye, Love," "Cathy’s Clown," and "All I Have to Do Is Dream," among others.

Jerry Lee Lewis, famous for "Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On," "Great Balls of Fire," and marrying his 13-year-old cousin.

The Champs, famous for "Tequila."

Johnny Cash, famous for… well, "Ring of Fire" and about everything else he ever did.

Bobby Vee, famous for "Take Good Care of My Baby," "Rubber Ball," and "The Night Has a Thousand Eyes." And lots more.

The Fabulous Flippers, who apparently were more of a regional group, but they were popular enough that Roof Garden Ballroom operator Darlowe Olesen said they were like "a reason to print money." Here’s "Tell the Truth."

The Outsiders, famous for "Time Won’t Let Me."

Cannibal and the Headhunters, one of the first Mexican-American groups to have a hit, famous for "Land of 1000 Dances."

Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, famous for "Wooly Bully" and "L’il Red Riding Hood," though apparently the group changed quite a bit between those two songs.

Shangri-Las, famous for "Leader of the Pack."

The Yardbirds, with Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, although Clapton wasn’t in it at that point, famous for "For Your Love."