Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom

Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom

Common sense suggests that the pinnacle of venues in which to experience a musical event would certainly be located in an urban environment and not a sleepy, seasonal community the New Hampshire coast. But the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom remains an exception to the norm. For over a century, it’s brought the A-list aristocracy of all musical idioms to the Granite State, to the enjoyment of millions from New England and beyond.

The venue officially opened in 1899, intended to attract tourism and business to the seacoast. The ballroom itself opened in 1927, boasting the largest dance floor in New England, and over the past nine-plus decades it’s hosted acts from New York City, Motown and the Midwest to the California coast, Great Britain and elsewhere, presenting a musical menu featuring every known variety of jazz, folk, R&B and rock.


The ballroom’s opening coincided with the advent of the Big Band Era, and everyone from Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Bing Crosby and Count Basie headlined. For the first couple of decades, the bands and orchestras continued to perform as the venue’s ownership changed hands. As the ‘50s turned into the ‘60s, rock ‘n’ roll began rearing its head along the coast of the mighty Atlantic and virtually every leading act touring through New England appeared, including The Supremes, The Four Tops, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Beach Boys, The Kingston Trio, The Who, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.

It all came to an abrupt end on July 8, 1971, however, when 4,000 ticketless fans showed up for a Jethro Tull concert and stormed the gates when they were told that the show was sold out. The ensuing chaos overwhelmed the building and rock ‘n’ roll was dead in Hampton for the time being. The next day, the screaming banner headline in The Union Leader – which, curiously, did not mention Jethro Tull by name – said it all: “BAN ‘ROCK’ AT BEACH,’” it read, according to Darren Garnick in a June 2015 story for New Hampshire magazine. The town called in the State Police, the Rockingham County Sheriff’s crowd control unit and additional officers from Exeter and Seabrook. Casino owner John Dineen passively accepted the ban on future rock concerts, saying, “I have had it with this type of entertainment. I feel that the beach as a whole is certainly deserving of a better image.”


The mid-‘70s brought new ownership, a redesign, a new name and a new strategy; Club Casino was born. Working at catching rising and falling stars, the idea was to build back the Casino’s reputation within the industry, eventually leading them in obtaining bigger stars at their peak. Household names such as Roy Orbison, Wayne Newton, Tom Jones, Ray Charles and George Carlin were sprinkled amongst the insurgent U2, Huey Lewis and Tina Turner before they rocketed to stardom.

As the ‘80s morphed into the ‘90s and beyond, the Casino Ballroom was reborn, bringing back an old moniker but having new owners and additional changes to the facility, forming an altogether new framework of operations and commitment. National touring acts frequented the Casino once again, with names like Meatloaf, Robert Cray, Sammy Hagar, Hall & Oates, Santana, The Righteous Brothers, Kenny Loggins, Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy and far too many more to list. Now in its third century of operation, the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom continues to be one of the best known and most beloved venues for artists and fans alike.

(Lew DiTommaso)

Published On: April 21, 2013