Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom - Act IV: Fred Schaake, Jr.

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1899 - 1999

Creating an Atmosphere

The 1999 season at the Casino Ballroom will stretch from May 15 to mid-October. During that time, about 48 to 50 acts will play the 1,800 seat venue. Some of the acts will be booked weeks, even months in advance. Some acts will cancel out the last minute and a replacement will have to be found right away. Sometimes the butterflies in the stomach don't subside until the band's bus has arrived in the parking lot, and then sometimes not until the band is actually up on stage and starting to play.

It's a nerve-wracking business, and the one who is overseeing the music end of it all, and so much else, is Fred Schaake, Jr., the general manager of the Casino.

Despite the jangly nerves along the way, Schaake is in love with the business, with the Casino, and he wants to see a roster of up to 50 acts play the Casino in future seasons. His praises are sung by others in the industry, as well.

"The Casino has a great reputation for making it work for the acts," says Bob Duteau, the director of the Agency Division for Don Law Productions. "Fred as the general manager is a total professional."

Fred Schaake, Jr.

Fred Schaake, Jr., general manager
of the Hampton Beach Casino.

[Photograph by Ralph Morang.]

So, just how does an act get to the Casino?

"The first thing we do is put together a wish list," he says, which is comprised of acts that he, Cindy Burke, and others in the office would like to see. And then they will check that against what the business refers to as "available sheets" which lists all the acts that are out on the road during the current season.

At the same time, "we'll be checking out the radio, Billboard Magazine, see a band that we like and then do a little checking on the amount of ticket sales a specific band has done in the past."

If ticket sales are healthy enough, if the band is out on the road and playing nearby dates - "if the date routes well" is how Schaake puts it - getting that act to play the Casino gets a little closer to reality.

But then there is a little matter of money. Acts can command anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 and "negotiations can take up to two months," he notes.

He does not have the horror stories that one often hears about people in the music business. In fact, Schaake said he has found most of the acts both cooperative and professional.

Most of the stories about bands that have been rumored over the years often have to do with what is called "a rider" to the initial contract, Schaake points out.

The most notorious rider in rock history might be the one that the band Van Halen supposedly put into their contract asking for bowls of M&Ms with all the brown ones removed. Schaake has never received anything like that, but he did get one from a band requiring a size six pair of...well, suffice to say that particular item wasn't supplied.

"It's quirky," he says. "But you have to understand. Life on the road is hard. These bands are living on a bus. These things make the day go better."

It's just that kind of approach which has earned the Hampton Beach Casino a reputation for really meaning it when it says it is in the "people business."

"It's just a nice atmosphere here," says Schaake.

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