Born Richard Augustus Wagstaff Clark, 30 November 1929, Mount Vernon, New York
Affectionately known as "America’s oldest teenager”, Dick Clark became a showbusiness giant as host of American Bandstand, the longest-running variety show in television history. His show brought rock and roll music and dancing into millions of American homes and gave many acts the opportunity to reach a national audience via television.
Clark began his career in broadcasting in 1947 in the mailroom of radio station WRUN (owned by his uncle) in Utica, New York. Further radio jobs followed, until he took his first television job, as a newscaster at WKTV, in 1951. He returned to radio upon moving to Philadelphia’s WFIL in 1952, working as a disc jockey. WFIL was associated with a TV station which carried Bandstand, an afternoon teen dance show. Clark often substituted for Bob Horn, the show’s regular host. When Horn was jailed for drunken driving in 1956, Clark took over as permanent host, boosting Bandstand into Philadelphia’s best-known afternoon show. Its format was simple : play current hit records and invite local teenagers to come in and dance to them.
In August 1957 the ABC network picked up the program for national broadcast, changing the name to American Bandstand. With Clark as businessman, personality, music lover and host, American Bandstand catapulted to popularity, attracting more than 20 million viewers. Clark’s clean-cut, non-threatening image made him acceptable to parents. From 1957 until 1963 the afternoon show was broadcast five times a week, Monday to Friday. In February 1958 ABC added the show to its Saturday night line-up as the Dick Clark Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show, which ran for two and a half years. Record promotors coveted airplay on Bandstand, as its power to ‘break’ records was unparalleled. Many artists, particularly such Philadelphia-based artists as Frankie Avalon, Fabian, Bobby Rydell and Chubby Checker, largely owed their success to Bandstand exposure. Live performances were rare ; 99 times out of 100 the artists would ‘lip-sync’ their latest hits.
Clark’s power within the music industry grew steadily, by investing in several publishing companies and record labels, like Cameo, Swan and Jamie. By the end of 1959, the federal government began to scrutinize Clark for a possible conflict between his broadcasting and his publishing and recording interests. At that time, payola, the practice of music industry companies paying disc jockeys to play new records, was widespread throughout radio broadcasting. Clark became the prime target (along with Alan Freed) of the Con- gressional investigation into this illegal activity. Pressured by ABC to make a choice between broadcast and music industry interests, Clark opted for the former, divesting himself of some $ 8 million in music-business related investments. In April 1960 he had to testify before the Congressional Committee on Payola Practices, but (unlike Alan Freed) he was cleared of any illegal behavior. Flanked by ABC’s best legal talent and a statistician, Clark dazzled committee members with non-sequitors and masterful deflection. Oren Harris, the Committee chairman, called him ”a fine young man”.
Clark had formed a production company early in his career and in 1960 he began producing films (“Because They’re Young” being the first), later also other music television programs and TV game shows. In 1964 American Bandstand moved from Philadelphia to Los Angeles and was scaled down to a weekly show. Clark’s later creations include the "American Music Awards”, "New Year’s Rockin’ Eve" and the radio shows "The Dick Clark National Music Survey” and "Dick Clark’s Rock, Roll & Remember”. American Bandstand was eventually terminated in 1987 (after 30 years!), but Clark continued to present television and radio shows and remained an influential figure in the entertainment industry. He always was a keenly perceptive trend-spotter with a sure feeling for the sort of mainstream entertainment the American public preferred.
In 1993 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and he was also an inductee at several other Hall of Fame locations.
In December of 2004 Clark suffered a stroke that prevented him from appearing on that year’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, but he returned to participate in the show during subsequent years. On April 18, 2012, Dick Clark died of a heart attack at a hospital in Santa Monica, California, at the age of 82.
As a rock & roll figure, Clark played a major role in pushing the music toward respectability. On the other hand, Dick Clark - never a tremendous rock & roll fan himself - also helped tame the wildness of early rock & roll by favouring more straight pop and teen-idol fare, sending the music into a doldrums only salvaged by the British Invasion.
More info : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dick_Clark
Book : John A. Jackson, American Bandstand : Dick Clark and the making of a rock ’n’ roll empire. New York : Oxford University Press, 1997. 336 pages.
Acknowledgements : John A. Jackson, Jim Dawson, Steve Huey, Wikipedia.
American Bandstand performances on YouTube :
Dik, February 2017
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