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Dick Clark: Decades Of American Bandstand's (And The World's) Oldest Teenager

Music | January 22, 2018

Dick Clark and Connie Francis on 'American Bandstand.' Airdate January 28, 1958. (Photo by Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)

Dick Clark hosted the country's premiere pop showcase, American Bandstand, from 1956 to 1989 -- that's 33 years. A lot happened in those three-plus decades, with teen music going from sock-hop staples to psychedelic grooves to punk and new-wave angst to... well, whatever was happening in the late '80s. Someday we'll have a word for Milli Vanilli and Rick Astley. American Bandstand was an institution, and Clark's ever-presence as host earned him the title of "World's Oldest Teenager." Yes, the man was blessed with some sort of anti-aging super-gene, but additionally, he was just always hip to the current grooves. You never got that "here's whatever these fool kids like" vibe that an Ed Sullivan gave off. Music changed, and Clark rolled with it -- all while seeming to stay the same age.

Dick Clark hosts an episode of the popular music and dance show 'American Bandstand,' Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1958. (Photo by Robert Kelley/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

Young people everywhere thought they had died and gone to heaven when Dick Clark introduced the American Bandstand television music show. Early on, the popular show was filmed in a cramped studio in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The show featured the hottest music and dances. Dick Clark was the “host with the most” and never disappointed his audiences. Although Clark had guest hosts and “stand-ins” at times, he was the only official host of the show.

American Bandstand had a cast of regulars that became almost as popular as the music. People felt like they personally knew the cast of dancers. We celebrated their successes and cried over their relationship breakups. What a thrill it would have been to dance on the iconic show. Every teenager in America aspired to make it to the show as a cast member.

Of course, to even be considered for a spot on American Bandstand, a person had to know all of the popular dance steps. Because of this, kids everywhere started practicing their moves in front of their bedroom mirrors. It was similar to being under a spell and parents everywhere were pulling their hair out thinking their little darlings were going crazy!

To sweeten the pot even further, if that was possible, Clark provided an opportunity for people to share their thoughts on the latest in music. He enlisted a segment called, “Rate-a-Record”.  In this segment of the show, two audience members gave their opinions of songs, on a scale of 35 to 98. After the data was collected, Clark averaged the numbers. Audience participation was key and the people ate it up.

A song usually got a better rating if it had a beat that was easy to dance to. After all, music is all about how it makes you feel. If a song makes you feel like dancing, it has to be great!

Bandstand Boogie was the name of the theme song for American Bandstand. The words to the song were a collaboration between Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman and the music was written by Charles Albertine. The theme song itself makes a person want to get up and dance.

Special guests and artists performing their hot new songs were a staple on American Bandstand. Ironically, the featured artists usually lip-synced their own songs for the show. No one cared though. It was such a thrill just to be part of the whole experience. B.B. King was the only artist known not to have lip-synced on American Bandstand.

Eventually, Clark moved American Bandstand out of that cramped studio in Philadelphia and moved it to Los Angeles, California. At that point, there was no stopping him or the show. In the early 1970s, Clark attempted to create a similar show for soul music that didn’t fare as well but that didn’t stop him.

Dick Clark took his act right to the top. Year after year he helped Americans everywhere ring in the new year. Clark and American Bandstand became synonymous with American music culture. The iconic show introduced us to artists the likes of Prince, The Jackson 5, Sonny and Cher and Aerosmith. This is just a drop in the bucket compared to the showcase of talent he brought us.

American Bandstand aired from 1952 to 1989 and dramatically influenced America both musically and culturally. The show was a precursor and prototype for other music television shows that followed including Soul Train and even MTV. Dick Clark’s legacy of music will most likely go unmatched for years to come.

Tags: American Bandstand | TV In The 1950s | TV In The 1960s

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Rebeka Knott


Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.