Dick Clark, R.I.P.
Not the guy we thought we’d be writing a story like this about today, but: Dick Clark, the DJ who helped rock and roll go nationwide back in the 1950s, has died. He was 82 years old.
A few generations now know Clark only as the weird guy who shows up alongside Ryan Seacrest on those New Year’s Eve TV parties. But Clark, starting in 1957 and his TV show “American Bandstand,” put rock and roll in front of a mass audience in a way that radio could never hope to.
Based out of Philadelphia, “American Bandstand” was the meeting place for teens who wanted to see, hear and dance to the latest rock and roll idols. In the early 1960s Clark relentlessly hyped teen crooners like Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Connie Francis, Bobby Rydell and many others.
Clark also got caught up in the payola scandal of the day, and ABC-TV gave him an ultimatum to either give up “American Bandstand” or sell off his shares in music publishing and record labels. Clark kept the TV show and got rid of everything else – and came out of the payola scandal squeaky clean.
But Clark should also be known for keeping rock and roll for “the kids.” “Bandstand” amassed a whopping 40 million viewers a week in 1958, and Clark became so influential that one play of a new record on the show could instantly send an act into superstardom.
He would host “American Bandstand” until 1989, just a few months before ABC cancelled it. The show had become irrelevant with the dawn of MTV , but by this time Dick Clark had his own broadcasting empire. He continued to host his New Year’s Eve specials from 1972 until 2004, when he had a stroke. In recent years he gamely shared time with Seacrest as the ball dropped in Times Square, but 2011’s show would be his last.
YouTube: “American Bandstand” featuring Jerry Lee Lewis, 1958
YouTube: Iron Butterfly on “American Bandstand,” 1968
YouTube: ABBA on “American Bandstand,” 1975
YouTube: The Beach Boys on “American Bandstand,” 1964