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R.I.P. Dick Clark
by Kevin S. Butler

Dick Clark

April 17, 2012 TV and rock and roll music history has suffered another loss. Radio/ TV broadcaster/producer and rock music showman Dick Clark, the second host of ABC's "American Bandstand" died at St. Josephs Hospital in Burbank, Cal. He was 82 years old.

Born in Mount Vernon, New York on November 30, 1929. Mr. Clark had been a fan of radio since he was a young boy. Both he and his brother Bradley would listen to music shows late into the night hosted by such popular dj's as Art Ford and Martin Block. Clark was also a fan of radio personalities like Gary Moore, Steve Allen, Dave Garroway and Arthur Godfrey. Following the death of his brother in a WWII plane flight Dick Clark's interest went beyond being an ordinary listener. He would emulate the methods that the mc's would use to talk directly to their fans and Clark took drama lessons in high school.

One evening, his parents took their son to a broadcast of "The Jimmy Durante/ Gary Moore Radio Show" in NYC. Impressed by what he saw and heard Clark told his parents that when he graduated from high school he wanted to attended a college that had a course in radio broadcasting. Unfortunately there were very few that such had courses as a part of their curriculum. Clark's uncle Bradley got his nephew a job at station WRUN in Syracuse, New York as an office boy doing mail room work and making copies on the mimeograph machine. He finally got his chance at broadcasting when the station's FM announcer took his vacation so Dick Clark did weather reports and station breaks.

He finally found a college that had a radio course- Syracuse University-where he majored in advertising and business education. When the head of the radio department turned down Mr. Clark's request to attended his class. He joined the school's student run radio station WAER where Clark developed his technique.

He would later go out to find broadcasting jobs at professional stations, for a time he worked at WOLF Radio and later he made his TV debut at WKTV in 1951 where he met future "GE Collage Bowl" game show mc Bob Earle who showed Clark a means of pre-taping his news broadcasts on a reel to reel tape recorder and listening to the transcripts while he presented the news on the air.

Clark replaced Earle as the station's newscaster, he co-anchored the early evening reports with a broadcaster named Stu Lucas. Clark would leave WKTV and move from Syracuse,New York to WFIL Radio in Philadelphia, Pa. where he worked on numerous radio and TV programs. In the fall of 1952 the station execs at WFIL TV needed a new series to replace the reruns of old English movies one of the execs came up with the idea of having a mc host reruns of old jazz music films (then known as "Soundies") for the weekday afternoon schedule. Most of the execs balked at this concept but since there was no other content to air during the daytime the series, then known as "Bandstand" made it's debut. A local broadcaster and musical talent Bob Horn was hired to mc the show. Horn felt that it needed something extra. When well known jazz bands and vocalists visited the Philadelphia area he invited them to appear on the show where they would perform their latest hits and be interviewed by Mr. Horn. The show would also feature a studio audience of local high school kids.

The program became a success and Bob Horn would host the TV version of "Bandstand" from 1952 until he left the series in 1956. Dick Clark who mc'd the WFIL radio version of "Bandstand" was hired to replace Mr. Horn as the host in 1956.

By this time the music had changed to rock and roll and Clark began inviting rock music performers to perform on the program and chat with Clark and the kids in the studio audience. Many up and coming rock music stars like Jan and Dean, Frankie Avalon, Connie Francis and Bobby Darren appeared on the show.

Some of the members of the studio audience were invited to dance on the show and they became just as famous as the rock music stars that appeared on the show.

The series title was changed to "American Bandstand" and on August 5, 1957 "American Bandstand" made it's debut on the ABC TV Network with Billy Williams and "The Chordettes" as the show's very first guests. Despite some complaints from the union NABET the series became a hit and it would remain a staple on ABC TV seen weekday afternoons and later on Saturday afternoons for the next 30 years.

Clark would also host concerts featuring the rock performers that appeared on the show and he would also host and/or produce other TV series "The Dick Clark Saturday Night Beachnut Show" (a rock concert performed live from NYC's Little Theater now known as The New Helen Hayes Theater), "The Object Is", "The $10,000 Pyramid", "Dick Clark's World Of Talent", "The Krypton Factor", "Greed", "Dick Clark Presents The Rock & Roll Years", "Dick Clark's Live Wednesday" and many TV specials and awards shows.

Clark would also act in two movies "Because They're Young" (where he played a school teacher and the guardian of a little boy who prevents one of his students, Michael Callahan, from joining a street gang) and "The Young Doctors" (which also starred Fredric March, Ben Gazarra and Eddie Albert). He appeared on an episode of "Perry Mason" (where Clark played a killer) and made cameo appearances on "Batman" and the TV movie bio "A Dream Is A Wish That Your Heart Makes" (based upon the memoirs of Annette Funicello).

He also found the time to write his autobiography "Rock,Roll And Remember" and he was profiled in many books that looked back at American Bandstand's history.

In 1959 he was mixed up in the Payola Scandals that rocked the entertainment world, although he was found not guilty of accepting any bribes to play rock tunes for money. He was forced to give up his music publishing and recording companies however. In 1964, he moved "American Bandstand" to Southern California where the show would continue to air on ABC TV until the series was cancelled in 1987. Clark tried to revive the show first in national syndication in 1987 and then later on the USA Cable TV network with a new host David Hirsch in 1989. Despite all of his efforts "American Bandstand" was unable to make a comeback and the series ended it's run following the cancellation on USA in 1989.

Clark had received many awards in his lifetime and was inducted into "the TV Hall Of Fame and the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. His last regular TV series was "The Other Half" a talk show that he co-hosted with Danny Bonaduce and Mario Lopez.

He also hosted the Rockin' New Year's Eve TV specials on ABC TV live from NYC's Times Square for years until 2004 when he suffered a disabling stroke. Despite his stroke, his impaired his speech, he continued to travel from California to NYC to co-host the specials with broadcaster Ryan Seacrest. Dick Clark made his last TV appearance on "Rockin' New Year's Eve" New Years Eve 2011/2012.

 

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