G is for Gene Pitney and the Caravan of Stars. Seventh of 26 posts in the April 2021 Blogging From #AtoZChallenge. Theme: “Endwell: My Early Teen Years”— adding my story to the family history mix. Please join me on the journey.
Each summer during my early teens, Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars would stop in the Binghamton, N.Y., area as part of a huge nationwide concert tour of the performers we watched daily on American Bandstand.
That’s how I saw the Supremes, Garry Lewis, the Crystals, the Hullabaloos, Major Lance and others — and that’s how I ended up kissing Gene Pitney when he came to town in 1964!
The Fountain Pavilion
That summer I was 14, and the concert was scheduled for May 5 at the Fountain Pavilion, an indoor venue with a huge, open dance floor. The hall was once the George F. Pavilion, where I had learned to roller skate in Girl Scouts the year before.
According to the blog A Rock n’ Roll Historian, “Clark would routinely use high school gyms, National Guard Armories, and State Fairs as venues and not always in large population centers as his bus of stars bounded across the country.”
Here is the lineup of Dick Clark’s 1964 tour, headlined by singer Gene Pitney, 24.
Talent: Gene Pitney, Dixie Cups, Dean & Jean, Mike Clifford, Rip Chords, Coasters, Brenda Holloway, Crystals, Brian Hyland, Kasuals, Major Lance, George McCannon, Reflections, Round Robin, Shirelles, Supremes.
A lively concert
A Press & Sun Bulletin report of the concert (below) describes several girls swooning, fainting and having to be carried out of the steamy concert hall. Oddly, I don’t remember any of that.
What I do recall is a packed pavilion with young teens dancing away to the pounding music and having a fantastic time — myself included!
I remember going with some of my Junior High girlfriends, and I recall seeing other Endwell teens there, too.
Finally, near the end of the concert, we made our way out a side door by the stage to get to the parking lot where our parents would pick us up.
I end up backstage
And that’s when the miracle happened! Outside in the cool night air I first noticed the bus, then saw some of the performers milling around — and then I realized that Gene Pitney was just standing there, with no one near him.
I had my autograph book with me in the vague hope of getting it signed. Now was my chance! So I walked over, handed Gene Pitney the little book with its pastel pages open and asked for his autograph.
He smiled and obliged — and when he handed the book back I leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. That was it, no screaming, no fainting, no ambulance to the hospital — even though it was the first time I had kissed a guy!
After that, I moved on to the bus — where Major Lance (father of Atlanta’s Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms) was just as nice about signing his autograph when I passed the book up to his window.
Wow, I had gotten backstage — what a story this would make at school!
My five minutes of fame
The next day at the Junior High I had my five minutes of fame as the Endwell girl who had kissed Gene Pitney. Everyone wanted to know every detail.
How had I done it? How had I gotten backstage when thousands of others had not? Where was the autograph book? Could they see his signature? So I told the story over and over to anyone who hadn’t heard it.
But what I didn’t tell was how surprised I was that his cheek was so soft.
Before Gene Pitney, I had only kissed my dad and my grandfathers on the cheek. But after Gene Pitney — well, a whole new world opened up.
Up next, H is for Halloween Hijinks: Teen Version. Please leave a comment, then join me as Endwell: My Early Teen Years unfolds one letter at a time!
© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.