There are a total of eight swing dance clubs located in and around the St. Louis area (including M.U.S.I.C. in Collinsville, Illinois) that are members of the Midwest Swing Dance Federation, and all of these clubs are descended from the St. Louis Imperial Dance Club that was founded in 1973. The largest of these sister clubs, the West County Swing Dance Club, has the distinction of being one of the largest swing clubs in the United States with an active membership that totals more than a thousand dancers.
Imperial Swing got its name from the Club Imperial located at Goodfellow Boulevard and West Florissant Avenue. The building, originally called Imperial Hall, was built in 1928 as a dance hall, bowling alley and restaurant/bar complex. In the 1930s and 1940s, it was the dance spot of Northwest St. Louis, just as Arcadia (later called Tune Town), the Admiral Showboat in Midtown, and the Casa Loma on the Southside, were the most popular dance halls in their respective areas. In 1952, George Edick Enterprises purchased Imperial Hall and George Edick renamed it the Club Imperial. During the early part of that decade, he operated the club as a ballroom with the theme of “a nice place for nice people.” He played “big band” music and catered primarily to private parties. He was able to regularly book guest appearances with popular performers like Stan Kenton and Louis Prima because Robert Hyland, of CBS and KMOX radio, broadcast his weekly “Coast To Coast with Bob Hyland” program from the Imperial Ballroom.
During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Edick realized that the country’s taste in music had shifted to “Rock ‘n Roll” and he used his advertising-public relations firm, to aggressively promote the Club Imperial on KWK, KXOK, WIL and WGNU. The Joe Bozzi Quintet, Jimmie (Night Train) Forrest, Chuck Berry, Dolly Parton, the Monkeys, Glen Campbell, Ike and Tina Turner and a small vocal group now called the “Fifth Dimension” are among the many artists who began their careers at his club. He promoted a “Jitterbug” contest where a couple from the Club Imperial (Teddy Cole and Kathy Burke) won the National Jitterbug Championship. During the “Rock ‘n Roll” craze, Edick held Tuesday “Teen Night” dances, and it was during these weekly dances that a jitterbug variation that became known as the “Imperial Style” of St. Louis swing was born. As the 60s progressed, music trends were changing again. The ‘roll’ started dropping out of “Rock ‘n Roll,” the ‘rock’ got harder, and the teenagers increasingly attended loud, psychedelic music concerts. Because the freak-out beats of their acid rock music was almost impossible to dance to, Edick gradually discontinued all public dances at his club.
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