Long-gone dance hall at Cottonwoods hosted Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, maybe even Elvis

Dancers at Cottonwoods Ballroom

By Finn J.D. John

Halfway between Albany and Lebanon on Highway 20, not far from the bottomlands of the South Santiam River, there’s a little store called the Cottonwoods Market.

If you should find yourself driving by with a few minutes to spare, you may be tempted to stop for a snack. If you do, pause for a moment on the porch of that market and look across the street at the dusty, overgrown vacant lot on the other side.

That’s the former site of the Cottonwoods Ballroom.

A legendary dance hall

The Cottonwoods Ballroom was probably the most important entertainment venue between Portland and Eugene, a kind of first-among-equals of the dance hall-community centers that once peppered the Willamette Valley.

The list of acts that have performed there reads like an excerpt from some kind of multi-ethnic Who’s Who of 20th-century musicians: Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, the Nat King Cole Trio, Duke Ellington, Sons of the Pioneers, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Lefty Frizzell, Hank Snow, Tex Ritter, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash.

 

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McKenzie River Reflections is the weekly newspaper serving Oregon's McKenzie River Valley. Available by mail for $23/yr in Lane County, $29/yr outside Lane. Digital subscriptions are $23/yr. Subscribe at: http://mckenzieriverreflectionsnewspaper.com/catalog/subscriptions-0. Purchase copies online at: http://mckenzieriverreflectionsnewspaper.com/catalog/back-issues-0. Read about area communities including Cedar Flat, Walterville, Camp Creek, Leaburg, Vida, Nimrod, Finn Rock, Blue River, Rainbow and McKenzie Bridge.