ASHLAND May is a super popular prom time, but on May 9, 1965, students at Paul Blazer High School were in for a much bigger treat. Like Russell High School, PBHS was just in its third school year on a new campus when Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars rolled into Ashland and some very big stars were ready to dazzle. Clark didn’t always come, but the iconic “American Bandstand” host known as “America’s oldest teenager” came along for the ride.
“They (performers) were jumping in the (school’s) pool to get cool. They said, ‘this is the world’s largest oven,’ ’cause the gymnasium wasn’t air-conditioned and there was no windows,” said Greg Willis, from PBHS Class of ’65.
“Incidentally, Herman’s Hermits had been on the cover of Time magazine the previous week,” Willis said, adding, “Rick Pope, which was known as Tricky Ricky Cool, did some of the emceeing.”
Pope was in the last graduating class of Ashland High School in 1962, and was a member of Ashland’s 1961 state champion basketball team.
“I became Rick Shaw there (Lexington),” he said. “They didn’t think Tricky Ricky Cool would be a good name there. I started working with Cawood (Ledford) and Ralph (Hacker) on the UK Radio Network while I was a disc jockey there (WVLK).
“I introduced myself as Tricky Ricky Cool and he (Clark) said, ‘doesn’t anybody at your radio station use their real name?’ What a wonderful night! I know that Billy Stewart kind of stole the whole show. He was just awesome. When he started doing his song everybody just lit up. It was one of the biggest events I thought in the history of Ashland.”
Rodney Nickell, WCMI general manager, requested use of Blazer’s gymnasium for afternoon and evening performances of DCCS for May 9, 1965, and said they were to be part of WCMI’s 30th Anniversary Celebration. WCMI was formed by the Ashland Daily Independent (now The Daily Independent) when it was common for newspapers to open radio stations.
DCCS began in 1959 and Clark booked his first three British acts for the tour in 1965, the year after The Beatles led the British Invasion into America. One of them, Herman’s Hermits, didn’t disappoint the Ashland crowd. They were joined by Bobby Vee, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Freddie “Boom Boom” Cannon, Brenda Holloway, Round Robin, Reparata & The Delrons, The Detergents, Billy Stewart, Hondells, and Ikettes (part of Ike and Tina Turner Revue.) Those acts collectively for their careers had 58 Billboard Top 40 hits.
PBHS was an enviable school to be in when Herman’s Hermits performed their hit in its second of three weeks at No. 1, “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter.”
While in Ashland, “Introducing Herman’s Hermits” was No. 2 on Billboard’s album chart, only topped by The Beatles “Beatles ‘65.” The Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride” checked in at No. 3 on the singles chart that week behind comedy icon Jerry Lewis’s son, Gary Lewis and the Playboys at No. 2 with “Count Me In.”
Ashland’s own Garry Lewis graduated from PBHS in 1965 but missed the show.
“She ran into him and knocked him down. She didn’t realize who it was when she did it,” Lewis said of his sister Judy Lewis Pullem and Herman (aka Peter Noone) from Herman’s Hermits.
“I guess they were walking from their bus to the gym and she wasn’t watching and just ran into him and knocked him down,” Lewis said of his then eighth grade sister that passed away this year.
Lewis’s classmate Linda Gannon Buchanon also missed the show. “My mother would never let me go to something like that,” Buchanon joked. She wasn’t the only person to tell The Daily Independent that. Rock ‘n’ roll was only about 10 years old and it had its detractors and the two shows were on a Sunday.
Other Blazer graduates have fond memories.
“I do remember Little Anthony and the Imperials. I wish I remembered more about the evening. I just remember going and having a great time. It was a really big deal in Ashland, kind of like when (President) Nixon came, (to a rally at PBHS in 1972),” Peggy Hatfield Thirion said from her Florida home.
“I remember Bobby Vee, I met him, and I remember Little Anthony and the Imperials, they were back there playing baseball. They had a stick and a paper cup, they were rolled up into a ball that they kept kind of playing baseball with,” said Tom Burnette of what happened in the locker room.
“I met him, I remember I thought he really looked young, Herman did,” Burnette said of the 17-year-old that had a common teenage problem. “I remember he had acne real bad.” Burnette had a tour program autographed by most of the performers.
“Flea” (Burnette) had access to the locker room because he was manager of the basketball team, Carson Elswick said.
“There was Dick Clark Caravan of Stars and there was Harold Scott. He was a booker and he brought bands in. There was Moonlight Gardens that had the Kingsmen,” Elswick reminisced.
An ad in The ADI that summer touted, hear The Kingsmen perform “Louie Louie” and their other hits at Moonlight Gardens.
The 1965 concert wasn’t the last time popular stars performed at PBHS.
“There’s one I remember with some really big names, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Byrds, Bo Diddley. I think they were there in ’66, ’67,” Ashland City Attorney Jim Moore said of Clark’s touring show “Where the Action Is.”
Clark produced a daily TV show of the same name that Paul Revere and the Raiders were the house band for.
“The Byrds were a big deal forever,” Moore said of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members. Moore chuckled as he reminisced about Paul Revere and the Raiders jumping off the diving board into Blazer’s pool.
Like Pullem, Moore was only a wee eighth-grader when he attended the DCCS show in 1965. At least one attendee was younger because Dicky Martin was just in the fifth grade. Martin’s father WCMI legend Dick Martin was in management at WCMI then.
“Oh hell yeah. I was close, close to my teenage years,” Martin said about if he attended the DCCS. “I remember going out to the high school.
“And I remember more down there at Fairchild Buick Cadillac at the big place,” Martin referred to the Moonlight Gardens location at the southwest corner of 15th Street and Carter Avenue that eventually was the site of Fairchild Buick Cadillac.
“I had a great time,” Ashland Tourism director Sue Gilmore Dowdy said with happy laughter, saying her favorite parts of the show were Clark and Herman’s Hermits. “I watched American Bandstand everyday after school, so that was a big thrill.”
Diane Penix Wagner said she doesn’t remember if she attended DCCS show in Ashland or Huntington.
Of course Wagner’s allowed that because it was 55 years ago.
“I can tell you what I wore. I can tell you that (laughter),” Wagner said, adding “I dated somebody then that I really liked. It was just great fun, you know, seeing all the people that were most popular at that time.”
Wagner said she has a DCCS program and that Dowdy got one of the performers to sign it many years later in Huntington.
“I was working at Duds ‘n Suds laundromat. I wanted to go to that show and I didn’t get to cause I had to work,” Charlie Dunlap said. Dunlap was 16 and may have enjoyed hearing The Detergents perform “Leader of the Laundromat,” a parody of The Shangri-La’s No. 1 hit “Leader of the Pack.”
A few months later Dunlap became a WIRO DJ and was in broadcasting for 53 years.
“Ron Nickle was the son-in-law of Garvis Kinkaid who owned WCMI. Dick Clark came to the house there (Nickle’s house), and I don’t think all the entertainers did.” Dunlap said he learned that from a friend from Nickle’s neighborhood. Kincaid bought WCMI in 1948, and Dunlap said Kincaid owned Lexington businesses WVLK, WKYT and Kentucky Finance.
Jack O’Shea was a WKEE DJ that also had his own teen oriented TV show “Saturday Scene,” and “Talent Hunt,” which was won by Chuck Woolery’s band once. Both shows were on WHTN (WOWK since 1975). O’Shea emceed multiple DCCS shows and said there were separate buses for black and white acts at a show he emceed in Indiana in 1964. He said Clark was worried because the bus with black artists was running behind. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law and Shaw said there was only one bus at DCCS Ashland show.
Music wasn’t just on the radio and TV in 1965 as it loomed large on the big screen also with Elvis Presley’s “Girl Happy,” The Beatles’ “Help” and the year’s biggest blockbuster “The Sound of Music.”
DCCS had two units and the day Unit 2 was in Ashland, Unit 1 performed in Houston. DCCS other area appearances in 1965 and 1966 included a performance at Paintsville including the Yardbirds with future Led Zeppelin icon Jimmy Page, Portsmouth, Morehead, Charleston and Huntington. According to tour information, the historic last DCCS show was on Nov. 27, 1966 at Veterans Memorial Fieldhouse in Huntington. The historic venue closed and was demolished in 2012.