Concert program, 'Headliners Present Shower of Stars, Chuck Berry Australian Tour', paper, made for Headliners by Bridge Printery Pty Ltd, Sydney, New South Wales, used by Norma Keech, Australia, 1959
This program documents the concert tour of Australia by the American singer Chuck Berry in January and February 1959. The 'Shower of Stars' tour also featured George Hamilton IV, Bobby Darin, Jo-Ann Campbell, plus the local support acts Johnny O'Keefe & the Dee Jays, compere Ray McGeary and an acrobatic duo called The Flying Warrens (Alf and Eddy). The Sydney venue was the Stadium at Rushcutters Bay.
Early in 1958 the leading promoter Lee Gordon ceased presenting concerts for about twelve months. He left Australia and his whereabouts became a mystery. A rival Sydney promoter, Headliners, stepped in to fill the gap. Run by Bill Watson, along with fellow directors Dick Conklin and Bud Ackerman, Headliners emulated Gordon's methods by organising tours with multiple international and local artists, staging the concerts at the Sydney Stadium and equivalent venues in other states.
Headliners toured Billy Eckstine in October 1958, followed by Johnny Mathis in November and continued in 1959 with tours by the Mouseketeers and Jimmie Rodgers. As Harry M. Miller later wrote, 'Australia had become thick with imitation Lee Gordons, all of them ready to snatch at his crown the moment it looked like falling' (Harry M Miller, 'My Story', Macmillan, 1983, p68). Bill Watson even set up Headliners' offices in the Weaver Building, below Lee Gordon's headquarters at 151 Bayswater Rd, Rushcutters Bay. Headliners was established with big ambitions. A page in the Johnny Mathis concert program introducing the Headliners organisation states 'Its object is to bring the Australian public's chosen favourites to this country and stage a better type of show. To do this the company has organised branches in California, Nevada and Honolulu.'
Securing Chuck Berry was a coup for Headliners. He was a towering figure in early rock 'n' roll. The winner of the Cashbox award for the best male rhythm and blues singer for 1957 and 1958, he was in his prime as a prolific songwriter and a dynamic performer. By the time he visited Australia his hits already included 'Maybellene', 'Roll Over Beethoven', 'School Day', 'Rock and Roll Music', 'Sweet Little Sixteen', 'Johnny B. Goode' and 'Carol'.
During his Australian tour Berry, Bobby Darin and George Hamilton were backed by Johnny O'Keefe's band the Dee Jays. A brief 'rehearsal' with Berry took place at a nightclub near Sydney's Centennial Park. Guitarist Lou Casch recalled Berry's minimal instructions: 'Guys, all you have to do is watch my right foot. When I do this, cut. See you in Mel-born' (Lou Casch, conversation with Peter Cox, 1993).
Raised in the Bronx, Bobby Darin was just 22 years old and on the verge of stardom. He had written and recorded his first hit 'Splish Splash' and his latest single was 'Queen of the Hop'. In the months that followed this tour Darin scored three consecutive hits with 'Dream Lover', 'Mack the Knife' and 'La Mer (Beyond the Sea)'. Jo-Ann Campbell was a 21 year-old blonde from Florida, who sang 'Come On Baby' and had won the praise of Frank Sinatra. George Hamilton IV, from North Carolina, had risen to a modest level of fame with US television appearances. His hits included 'I Know Where I'm Going' and 'Why Don't They Understand'.
Lee Gordon reappeared in Australia early in 1959 and resumed operations. It is thought that Headliners ceased promoting tours after 1959.
Printed for Headliners by Bridge Printery Pty Ltd, 117 Reservoir Rd, Sydney, New Sotuh Wales in 1959.