When Riot Police Entered Camden Ballroom On Horseback

By Zoe Craig Last edited 54 months ago
When Riot Police Entered Camden Ballroom On Horseback
The Electric Ballroom today; the venue was once The Buffalo.

The legendary Electric Ballroom didn't always operate under that name.

In the 1930s, the space was called The Buffalo, and was a rather rough and ready place, frequented by Camden's Irish population, who like a drink and a fight.

The weekly brawls got completely out of hand, and the police actually shut the venue for a while.

It was saved by a 20 year old from Kerry called Bill Fuller. The fights continued, but reports suggest that Fuller, an amateur boxer himself, was easily able to contain the violence.

Expanding The Buffalo

In 1941, Camden Town station was hit by a bomb; the blast also blew away the back of The Buffalo.

The infamous venue was able to expand; the ballroom could at this stage hold around 2,000 people. The Buffalo became famous for hosting live music, as well as the fighting.

In 1963, crowds gathered to hear one of the most famous musicians in the world at that time, Jim Reeves.

Jim Reeves.

But things didn't go according to plan.

Jim had already endured an arduous tour of the US and Ireland, playing two or three gigs a day at the behest of his rather opportunist promoter Philip Solomon.

Throughout the Emerald Isle, he'd been greeted by shoddy venues with poor pianos; singing night after night along to tinny instruments that just weren't in tune. Tired, and travel weary, it was really starting to get to him.

Jim Reeves in Camden

When Jim Reeves finally got to Camden in June 1963, he had one request: a well-tuned piano. The exhausted American balladeer arrived and found the piano wasn't to his taste.

Jim Reeves: plagued by poor quality pianos.

It wasn't the first time: Reeves had cut short a concert in Lifford, Co Donegal, earlier in 1963, because of a poor quality piano (said to be 'full of cobwebs'.)

But this time, Reeves refused to go on.

Predicting a Riot

The staff had a pretty good idea what'd happen when they told the packed house the star they'd come to see wasn't going to play.

So they sneaked out the back, and hid all the cash from the ticket sales in a manhole in the lane behind the building and ran away.

The crowd started to realise something was up; when they were told their hero wouldn't be appearing that night, they went crazy, demanding their money back, and generally smashing the place to pieces.

Mounted police had to ride into the venue to control the angry crowds.

Jim Reeves died the following summer (July 1964) in a plane crash.

The Buffalo went on to become the Electric Ballroom, and host many more memorable gigs, from the likes of Joy Division, Madness, Public Enemy, The Smiths, The Pogues, Iggy Pop and U2.

Last Updated 05 April 2017