Interview by Kathleen O’Connor

Ronnie Dove

Kathleen: Ronnie, it was so good to hear you sing this October 28 evening, 2023, here at Mike Pryor’s Mountain Shadows venue. It’s so nice to see you back performing again. Please tell me how did you get started singing?

Ronnie: I was raised on a dairy farm [in Herndon, Virginia], where I milked 30 cows by hand. I was always singing.

Kathleen: Did you sing to the cows?

Ronnie: Yes—and to the cats!

Kathleen: Where else did you sing then?

Ronnie: First, I sang in the Herndon High School Glee Club in Herndon, Virginia. Then, in 1959, I formed my own band, the Bell Tones, and we recorded “Lover Boy” on our own label. Later, I sang at the Spa Night Club in Baltimore. Then, in 1964, I went to New York City to record “Say You” with Diamond Records. In 1966, I recorded “Cry” a popular song [from 1951] by Johnny Ray. In 1968, I recorded “Mountains of Love” [Harold Dorman, 1960] [on the flip side of “Never Gonna Cry”].

Kathleen: I see that you appreciated other stars like Johnny Ray. Who was your favorite singer to emulate?

Ronnie: Elvis Presley. In 1964, when I was recording “Right or Wrong” [Wanda Jackson, 1960] at the RCA Records studio in Nashville, Tennessee, Elvis Presley was in the control room during playbacks. I had hit a high note at the end of the song, and Elvis advised me to keep it.

Kathleen: Did you travel to perform?

Ronnie: Yes. Tom Jones and I toured together for 90 days in 1965, from California to Florida with the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars. The caravan included Tom Jones, me, Gordon Waller, Brian Hyland, and Billy Jo Royal. I also appeared on the Dick Clark Show.

Kathleen: Did you travel with any other tours?

Ronnie: Yes, I traveled with the Shindig Tour in 1965, the Action Tour, and the Dick Clark Tour. The tours in Canada were most successful, especially those in Toronto. I played at Graceland 34 times. I had 26 hit songs!

Kathleen: Mike tells me that you are coming back to sing. Why did you stop performing, and why are you coming back now?

Ronnie: I took a break in 1988 to take care of my mom. The doctors had given her about three to six months to live, and I wanted to be with her. She lived for three more years, and I did everything for her. After her death in 1991, I slowly got back into singing. It was difficult at first after being away for three years, but eventually, I got some good venues with the help and encouragement of some of my friends in the music business.

Kathleen: So, here you are, and we all enjoyed your performance so much! You’re coming back, hopefully, in March to sing for us some more at Mike Pryor’s birthday party show, right?

Ronnie: Yes, I hope to (God willing).

Mike Pryor

Kathleen: Good evening, Mike. Thank you so much for introducing me to Ronnie and letting me hear him sing. How did you two first meet?

Mike: My aunt and mom were fans, and I heard him on their albums and my grandparents’. I also saw him on the Ed Sullivan Show and the Dick Clark Show. I used to be into the Sprint car races end-of-year banquet, and two friends asked me to go. But, I couldn’t go to the banquet because I was still in high school and only 17 years old. Then a race car driver asked me to pick up his check and trophy for him and gave me two tickets, saying that I would be a guest at the event where a well-known entertainer would sing. I didn’t know what time the event started, so on the way, I pulled out the tickets and saw that the singer was Ronnie Dove! The banquet opened and Ronnie came on stage. I had brought my girlfriend, and although Ronnie didn’t know it, I was planning to break up with her later that evening—then he sang “Almost Tomorrow,” and I was so surprised. I was so attentive during the show that Ronnie picked me out and asked me to come back to his dressing room.

Kathleen: It was so coincidental that he chose that song. When did you see Ronnie again?

Mike: The next year, he came back again to the Sprint car race banquet, and I went to see him again. Then, Ronnie moved to Carroll Valley. He helped to design the nightclub at Charnita [Charles & Anita]. After that, I was there every week, and I started to go to shows all the time. And the more I went, the better friends we became. Charlie had private parties, and Ronnie would invite me to come.

Kathleen: So how did you get into the show business yourself?

Mike: Two years after my [high school] graduation, I started to help others to promote carnivals and fairs. I have promoted 216 concerts together with others, and 118 of my own personal promotions. In 1983, I decided to go on my own and do my own promotions of shows. Ronnie was one of the first entertainers to perform in my own shows. I promoted shows in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia. I was his friend and promoter. In 1982, I also became the road manager of The Shirelles. Then, in 1983, I started my own shows as a sole promoter. Ronnie left for a while for Nashville, and then later came back to us in Pasadena, Maryland.

Kathleen: It looks like you and Ronnie both have come a long way since your high school interests in country music. And you’re still producing shows, and Ronnie is still singing. I understand that you will be having a birthday party show in March and that Ronnie will be there to help you celebrate.

Mike: Yes, my birthday is March 13, but we’ll be celebrating it a couple of days later on Saturday, March 16. Yes, Ronnie has promised to be there (God willing). (Check the Banner Community Calendar on page 62 for the show information.)

Kathleen: Thank you, Mike and Ronnie. It was a pleasure chatting with you both— and a special treat to hear you sing, Ronnie. God bless you both. I’ll see you there.

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