Jim Owens, a young television producer at WCIV,
Channel 4 in Charleston, South Carolina created a local music variety
series called The Village Square in 1964.
The show premiered, with guest bands and performers.
Jeanne Lavoie, 15 years old, sang with her brothers band, The Paragons
and was hired by Jim Owens to be the Co-host with Doug Randall from WTMA
Later in the first season, the Lancers became the house band with
Thompson, Mike Thompson, Frank Taylor, Ricky Baltzegar (Little Ricky),
Wally Till and Don Cantrell.
Wayne West, had recently left the Lancers to play with the Dardanelles.
With the show's success, Jim decided to change the name of the band to
Leroy (vocals and guitar) and
Jeanne (vocals) remained as the show was syndicated around the United
Little Ricky left, Mike Thompson started school at the College of
Charleston and was replaced by Preston Mullinax (from The Riviera’s)
soon to be replaced by Fred Hoffmann on
drums. Frank Taylor got married and was replaced by
Bill (Jonesy) Jones on Bass.
Wesley Braxton (sax) and Cleve Wiggins (lead Guitar) were with the group
for a short time.
Steve Wiggins (keyboards) joined and
(guitar) left the Dardanelles
and came back to the group.
Finally, Dana Douglas joined the group as
The Villagers and the Village Dancers played live concerts, resorts and
colleges on the entire east coast and throughout the mid-south.
They played at the Myrtle Beach Pavilion for the first time in May of
Their first record, "You Don't Know What You've Got Until You Lose It"
was was recorded in May 1966 and was number one in Myrtle Beach during the summer of 1966.
The production of the Village Square was moved to Florence, South
Carolina in the fall of '65. Bill Miller was the host.
Jim Owens left WCIV television in May of '66.
He then talked Mr. Husted, the manager of the Myrtle Beach Pavilion,
into hiring the band for the summer of '66 and consecutive summers.
This inspired Jim Owens to write and produce the stage play, "The Summer
of '66" which ran for two seasons at the Crook and Chase Theater in
Myrtle Beach starting on May 2, 1999.
Also in 1966, Jim and the group moved to Charlotte, North Carolina where
they filmed the show for two seasons, and
later to Atlanta, Georgia in 1967 to film the shows.
"At this time The Village Square was being
seen in over 50 television markets throughout the country."
Cities like Atlanta, New York, Charlotte, Nashville, Indianapolis, Cincinnati,
San Francisco, Nashville, Columbia, Charleston, Jacksonville, Raleigh,
Louisville, Montgomery, etc.
Some of the guest stars that appeared on
the series over the years were Dionne Warwick, Ronnie Millsap, Jackie
DeShannon, Roger Miller, Billy Joe Royal, Tommy Roe, The Box Tops, The
Tams, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Lemon Pipers, Joe South, Spider
New Beats, Marion Love, The Wayfarers, The Gentle Touch, The
Eighteenth Edition, and many others.
The original Village Dancers were Linda Oltmann,
Ruthee Thompson, Celie Metz, Jean Hightower, and Janice Watkins. Shortly afterward
they were joined by Vickie Chesser in the
spring of 1965 .
Linda, Ruthee and Vickie were featured extensively in the "The Summer of
'66" along with Jeanne and all the group by talented actors and singers who
resembled the original "Villagers".
The movie version of
"The Summer of '66" is now being scripted and will
begin production in the near future featuring the life and times of The
Villagers in the 60's.