The 1964 Caravan Of Stars

Roanoke's First BIG Show

by Jack Shields

The year was 1964. President Lyndon Johnson declared "war on poverty", three civil rights workers were murdered in Mississippi, the U.S. launched attacks on some place called North Vietnam in response to an alleged attack on a U.S. destroyer off the Vietnamese coast, and the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in New York City opened to traffic.

The 1964 Caravan of Stars Program Cover.

On television, the country enjoyed the antics of The Munsters, Gilligan on his island, Flipper, and took a Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. The Man From U.N.C.L.E kept the world safe and Daniel Boone blazed his trails.

WROV Personalities were the emcees: Dick Brown, Glenn C. Lewis, Dave Rinehart and Jack Shields.

1964 also saw two music events that were unparalleled in their respective impacts. In February the Beatles made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. As an interesting side note, according to some reports, not a single juvenile crime was reported in New York City that night. Later on that year, WROV presented the largest entertainment event held to date in Roanoke. The Dick Clark Caravan of Stars rollicked into town.

The Dixie CupsChapel Of Love.

Dick Clark had recently moved his American Bandstand from Philadelphia to California and had assembled a 22-city tour during the summer of 1964. Traveling on buses, (not the plush motor homes entertainers of today use, but just simply buses) this group of performers crisscrossed the country playing arenas, concert halls, and outdoor stadiums.

Gene Pitney had just released It Hurts To Be In Love.

The "playbill" read like a Billboard Top Ten list. The Supremes, Major Lance, The Shirelles, The Dixie Cups, The Reflections, Mike Clifford, Round Robin, Dean & Jean, The Rip Chords, and the headliner, Gene Pitney, all were on the WROV playlist.

The Shirelles sang their 1962 chart-topper Soldier Boy.

Ever the promoter, Burt Levine, OK'd a contest dubbed "Dinner With The Stars." Fifteen lucky winners would be treated to dinner at a local hotel with the performers prior to the concert. These were simpler days in the entertainment industry and the presentation to the tour managers was basic. "You've got to have dinner somewhere, so how about eating with us?" was the approach that worked. A hotel in Roanoke, The Downtowner, hosted the affair and catered the meal.

The Rip Chords performed Hey Little Cobra.

Compared to 2005 standards, the show production was elementary. There was one band that played for all performers. There were no smoke bombs, no fireballs, no laser lights, and no flying monkeys. There was only a group of talented young people who could stand up and sing. Victory Stadium released its football image that night and became a magical place where "musical paradise" was created. WROV air personalities, Glenn C. Lewis, Dave Rinehart, Dick Brown, and Jack Shields rotated as on-stage emcees introducing the acts and entertaining the crowd during transition times.

The Supremes had just released their first of five consecutive #1 hits, Where Did Our Love Go.

The success of this show led WROV to go on to promote other summer productions such as the Herman's Hermits saga in 1965 (presented elsewhere on this website). However, the 1964 edition of the Caravan of Stars remains the benchmark for WROV's reputation as the premier entertainment facilitator of the era.

The 1964 Dick Clark Caravan of Stars — Original Lineup
Gene Pitney
The Dixie Cups
The Rip Chords
Major Lance
The Shirelles
Mike Clifford
The Supremes
Round Robin
The Crystals
The Reflections
Dean & Jean