November 30, 1929 – April 18, 2012
Long before Dick Clark was known for Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, or the host of the game show $10,000 Pyramid, he was a young twenty-three year old who moved from New York to Philadelphia, and took a job at ABC affiliate radio station WFIL as a Disc Jockey. In a string of “right place, right time” opportunities, Clark found himself co-hosting and then in 1956 full-time hosting the Philadelphia based television program Bandstand, a television show that featured teens dancing to Top 40 music. Bandstand (and Clark) were hugely influential in breaking new artists and music to it’s viewing audience (both James Brown and Buddy Holly made their national debuts on Bandstand in Philadelphia). Bandstand was instrumental in establishing Clark as the face of Top 40, coining him “America’s oldest teenager”. The program continued to be taped (filmed) in Philadelphia even after it was picked up nationally by ABC in 1957 and changing it’s name from Bandstand to American Bandstand, and on it’s national premier in August of 1957, Clark interviewed the King himself – Elvis Presley. Clark would go on to produce the show.
In February of 1964, ABC moved the American Bandstand studios from Philadelphia to Los Angeles, California.
Coincidentally, Don Cornelius, best known as the host of Soul Train and perhaps the only rival to Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, passed earlier this year. The passing of Clark and Cornelius (within months of one another) marks the end of an era for American television’s love affair with popular music, and a type of program often imitated but never duplicated since both shows ceased to air.