Dunstable California Ballroom favourite dies aged 85

Russ was one of the opening acts for the nightclub in 1960

Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 3:55 pm
Updated Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 3:56 pm
Russ Sainty
Russ Sainty

Russ Sainty, the King of the Cali, has died aged 85.

Russ and his band, the Nu-Notes, crooner Ronnie Carroll and the Ray Miller Orchestra were the opening night acts for Dunstable's California Ballroom on March 12, 1960, the venue that was the brainchild of local builder Edwin Green.

Russ went on to make a record 338 performances at the Cali and had a career of more than 60 years, taking in radio and TV, musicals, cabaret and, in his later years, cruises and holiday camps.

Russ pictured with Sir Cliff Richard at a plaque celebrating the 2i's Coffee Bar.

He was one of the founding fathers of British rock'n'roll and was officially named as such, along with Sir Cliff Richard, The Shadows, Wee Willie Harris, Neil Christian, Clem Cattini and Vince Eager among others, who started out at the 2i's Coffee Bar. The coffee bar, in Old Compton Street, Soho, lasted from 1956 until 1970 and was the jumping-off point for so many aspiring rockers. The 50th anniversary was commemorated by Westminster Council with a plaque in 2006.

His life in music was chronicled in a 2008 autobiography, King Of The 'Cali', in which he recalled the night in March 1963 when the Rolling Stones were booked to support Russ and the Nu-Notes. They turned up late and finally went on in their scruffy street clothes before turning in a barn-storming performance.

Russ said at the time: "What on earth is happening to the pop business, I was thinking, then my feelings were compounded after Eddy Green came over to me and said, 'Whatever it is they have got, you need to get some of it!'." Russ never did have Top 20 success but had many minor hits, including Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On and Race With The Devil.

He was born in Leyton in East London and lived in Hayling Island with his wife of 56 years, Ann.