The Big Band Era in North Adams

John J. Fachini was the master of many Big Band shows during the age of the Depression. He promoted dances in the upstairs ballroom of the Wellington Hotel under the name of Johnny’s Dance Palace. On one such night 2,000 people showed up to see Rudy Vallee.

In 1932 Mr. Fachini purchased the Meadowbrook Ballroom for $7,500. Each year after that the summers were filled with the sounds of music from such bands as Duke Ellington, Vincent Lopez, Bob Crosby (Bing’s brother), Guy Lombardo, Glenn Miller, Gene Krupa and Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. There were also local bands including Pete D’Amico, Don Weston and Pete Demeo.

The Meadowbrook Ballroom was located where Charles H. McCann Technical High School is today. In the early days one could reach the ballroom by trolley on the “East Side Line” which ran down Church Street. Cars would run until midnight, every half hour.

John Fachini also brought in Cab Calloway to play at the Dance Palace along with an all-girl orchestra called The Bricktops. They were all redheads. Special dances were organized such as the “dawn dances” on July 4th and Labor Day that lasted until the sun came up. Williams college students would come to celebrate after the Williams-Amherst football games. When it was cold they’d wear their raccoon coats.

“Mr. Fachini charged his customers what he thought they could afford. Despite the fact that the premium bands required top dollar, he only charged 75¢. For the local bands the price of admission was 50¢. 

“John ran formal balls for local clubs and organizations like the Elks, the Italian Boy’s Club and the Fall Foliage Festival dances. There were also “nostalgia dances” at North Adams State College. Every once in a while, Mr. Fachini would bring in a non-musical star like Gilda Gray. She was a “shimmy dancer” who like to shake her “chemise”.

When he wasn’t booking and promoting bands, Mr. Fachini worked for 26 years at the Berkshire Gas & Electric company. He retired in 1962 and passed away at the age of 87 in January of 1985.

Adapted from a story for the North Adams Historical Society.