Saturday, July 9, 2011

Dick Clark Takes Over American Bandstand: July 9, 1956

On October 13, 1952, WFIL-TV began a local show called Bandstand. Originally hosted by Bob Horn, it kept Philadelphia teenagers up-to-date on the latest dance steps. Horn was fired following a drunk driving arrest. On July 9, 1956, Dick Clark took over as host. By the spring of 1957, he pitched it to ABC and the show went national as American Bandstand on August 5, 1957. Clark held the job for the next thirty years, becoming a major media mogul and earning the nickname “America’s Oldest Teenager”.

Clark got his start in broadcasting right out of high school. After graduation in 1947, he worked at Rome, New York’s WRUN-AM, a station owned by his uncle and managed by his father. Clark quickly moved into a role as the vacationing weatherman and an announcer for station breaks. By 1952, he was a disc jockey at Philadelphia radio station WFIL. He also became a regular substitute host for Bandstand on the station’s affiliate television network.

The show went through a variety of time slots and air times. After a few years airing as a weekday afternoon program, it was reconfigured in 1963 as a once-a-week Saturday show. A year later, it relocated from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. ABC was home to the show until 1987. A two-year stint in first-run syndication followed before the show went to the USA cable network. It only lasted there six months and then closed its doors in 1989.

Featured artists were expected to lip-sync their current hits while the commercially released version of the song played. Clark regularly asked teen audience members their opinions of the songs, giving rise to the well known phrase “It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.”

Clark is rated as one of the top 1000 music makers of all time by Dave’s Music Database.

Les Elgart’s version of “Bandstand Boogie”, used as the theme in the show’s early national days

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