Dance of the Decades

The Story of Belleville's Big Band Orchestra on its 90th Anniversary

Almost twenty years after they played their first notes as a band, musicians in The Commodores Orchestra opened Club Commodore, their newly-winterized big band nightclub on the fairgrounds in Belleville, Ontario, a city of roughly 17,000 souls. The musicians had created their own cooperative, and had each invested the modern equivalent of $25,000 into what was by today’s standards a million-dollar operation. Incredibly, they had done the hard physical labour themselves. Club Commodore opened on On May 23rd 1947.

Club Commodore’s capacity was 400 for dances and private parties. It had its own manager. At its height, the band played four and five times a week for 1500 dancers, and occasionally, in its absence, presented the finest big big bands in Canada.

At the same time, just a few blocks away in downtown Belleville, some of the biggest names in the business…Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, and Glenn Miller’s postwar band, to name a few…created even more big band buzz. The paths of The Commodores and some of these big-name bands would cross on more than a few occasions.

How did this collection of small-city accountants, mechanics, insurance men, clerks and carpenters do it? The nine-decade story of The Commodores Orchestra, told by Andy Sparling after two decades of collecting information and photographs, is as intriguing and unique as it is improbable, no matter where you live. 

And not likely to ever happen again.


The Commodores Orchestra – Dance of the Decades

By Band Leader Andy Sparling

Price: $25 CAN plus $5 shipping; total $30 CAN.

To order, click here: THE COMMODORES ORCHESTRA


This is a joint project between the Hastings County Historical Society and The Commodores Orchestra