PJ Ringens' Bicycle Dive                         Vaudeville at the Crystal Theatre

                                                    An unidentified band in the dance hall                                                 Fireworks at CB were frequent

Crystal Beach Live: Buffalo & Toronto Entertainers & More (Crystal Beach Live) is the second volume of the History of Crystal Beach series. It is a chronicle of the live entertainment – musical and thrill show – that entertained and thrilled park visitors during its 100 seasons.

The first half of the volume focuses on the non-musical entertainment – the aerialists, stunt pilots, acrobats, daredevils, athletes, celebrities, fashion shows, beauty pageants, animal acts, and many other "shows" – that awed Crystal Beach audiences from as early as 1891 through the mid 1950s. It is a forgotten aspect of Crystal Park history but was an integral part of the amusement offerings that made Crystal Beach the summer entertainment capital of Western New York and Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula.

Included are the details of the "Canadian-American Dance Marathon" that was the only such event held at Crystal Beach and the only known marathon staged in part on land and water and in two countries and witnessed by thousands.

The Crystal Beach appearance by some of the stunt artists was their last.

Musical entertainment is the focus of the second half of the volume. Unlike the nostalgic accounts of Crystal Beach that only scratch the surface of the musical entertainment at the park with a brief mention of a few of the famous big bands, Crystal Beach Live delves into an entire century of music that attracted untold millions to the resort. The artists that performed at Crystal Beach represent the popular sounds of their eras that range from the brass bands of the late 1890s to new wave rock of the 1980s. Musical entertainers span the genres of:

  • Brass Bands (1890s-1910s)    
  • Jazz (1920s-1930s)   
  • Big Bands and Rock-n-Roll (1940s-1950s)    
  • Polka Bands (1950s-1960s)
  • Rock Groups and the return of the Big Bands during the 1980s.

Unlike other amusement resorts of the 20th Century, Crystal Beach captured the sounds of local and regional bands from Western New York and Southern Ontario. The home bases for these bands included Buffalo, and Toronto and cities in between. Many of these bands and orchestras were the house bands at Crystal Beach that provided music daily and clocked more hours of playtime in one season than a century of all of the one-night-stand headliners combined. Compiled for the first time ever are the histories of these local and regional bands that makes Crystal Beach Live a chronicle of a mere fraction of  the vast musical heritage of Western New York, the Niagara Peninsula, and the Toronto area, that has mostly gone undocumented.

Coverage of the local bands includes the Harold Austin and his Orchestra of Buffalo. Until the publication of this volume, there was very little recorded history of this long-time Buffalo bandleader and his band. Crystal Beach Live

Benny Louis and his Orchestra was another in-demand orchestra from Toronto. His life and career were limited to brief, semi-accurate one-page synopses in Canadian Music historical publications. For the first time, there is an authorized biography of Benny Louis, his life and his Orchestra presented in Crystal Beach Live thanks to the assistance of Benny’s family.

Crystal Beach Live profiles 35 local and regional bands. It includes mini bios of an additional 50 “national/international” bands that performed at Crystal Beach ranging from the obscure and forgotten to those of international renown.

Crystal Beach Live not only underscores the prominence Crystal Beach once held as a summer entertainment capital on the Niagara Frontier it also spotlights its significance in the entertainment industry  as a “must stop" by touring bands, orchestras, and “thrill-show” style entertainers. It is also a glimpse into the rich entertainment heritage of Western New York and Southern Ontario.

This second volume of Crystal Beach history features:

  • Over 400 photographs and images  from museum archives and private collections.
  • Over 30 thrill show and non-musical acts, ten originating from Buffalo and Toronto.
  • Twenty Buffalo area bands and orchestras.
  • Biographies of over 20 bands and orchestras from Toronto and the surrounding region.
  • Coverage of three Miss New York State pageants held at Crystal Beach.
  • Artie Shaw’s infamous 1939 appearance.
  • Mini profiles of once famous national and international bands and orchestras that played at Crystal Beach and have slipped into obscurity.

232  8.5"x 11" pages, soft cover, professionally printed on premium, heavy bond, gloss paper.

ISBN: 978-0-9796632-1-5
Library of Congress Control Number: 2009908526