Dancing the Night Away: Melody Mill photo
February’s featured artifact commemorates a group of friends’ night out at a popular local venue.
For 30 years, Melody Mill was the place to be on Friday and Saturday nights. Whether for a fun evening with friends or a romantic date with someone special, young people flocked there to hear music and dance the night away.
Melody Mill, a dance hall with a beautiful, polished maple dance floor and a 32-foot stage, opened in 1934 after moving from its original location in Union Park to its best-known location at the intersection of Highway 52 and Highway 3 about a mile north of Dubuque.
Known for its great music and plenty of dancing, some of the country’s best acts played at “the Mill” - Jerry Lee Lewis, Frankie Avalon, the Beach Boys, the Everly Brothers, along with orchestras and Lawrence Welk. Johnny Cash and Conway Twitty performed there, along with a 12-year-old Brenda Lee. In 1958, you could see Louis Armstrong for just a $2 ticket. Buddy Holly was scheduled to play at Melody Mill just one week before his plane crashed near Clear Lake.
Melody Mill was a main source of entertainment for young people. Some nights featured barn dances, some highlighted big band music, and on teen night on Sundays, they played rock ‘n’ roll. They also featured local bands, including the Shades, sometimes opening for the headliners.
Many couples met at Melody Mill, and many love stories began there. For years, Tuesday nights featured “wedding dances” celebrating couples who first met at Melody Mill.
In 1964, the building was auctioned off and torn down. Forty-five years later, in 2009, Melody Mill entered the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Arnold’s Park, near Okoboji.