JULY 7, 1956 SATURDAY
On July 7, 1956, a young radio disc jockey named Dick Clark made his first
appearance hosting an afternoon TV show called Bandstand. Broadcast from Philadelphia, the show had originally begun in 1952. Bandstand played the new rock and roll music and featured kids from local high schools dancing to the music.
When it first began, the dancing was almost accidental, but local TV viewers called in saying they liked watching ''those young people dancing''. As the show's new host, Clark made the most
of that novelty, and took Bandstand to the national level.
The son of a radio-station owner in Utica, New York, Dick Clark had been a radio disc jockey as a student at
Syracuse University. By 1951, when he landed a job at ABC's WFIL station in Philadelphia, he worked in radio, regarded as too youthful looking to be a credible TV newscaster. Clark’s big break came when the station decided to replace former Bandstand
host Bob Horn. A youngish-looking 26 when he took over, Clark quickly made the show his own. He featured musical guests lip-synching their songs and used his teenage audience to ''rate'' new records. Local audiences loved the show.
Bandstand, out of Philadelphia, soon became the highest rated local daytime TV show in the nation. That got the attention of network executives in New York. By August 1957, now called American Bandstand, ABC
began broadcasting the show nationwide at 3 p.m. for an hour-and-a-half. Within six months of going national, American Bandstand was picked up by 101 stations. Twenty million viewers were now tuning in, half of whom were adult. The show was also receiving
20,000 to 45,000 fan letters a week. Teenagers came to Philadelphia from wide and far for a chance to dance on the show. Bandstand also became known as a place where new talent could be seen; a place where aspiring artists could get their start. On the November
22, 1957 show, for example, two young singers using the name ''Tom & Jerry'' appeared. The duo would later become known as Simon & Garfunkel. New dances were often introduced on the show. It was on Bandstand that Chubby Checker brought ''the Twist''
to the nation in the summer of 1960. Bandstand's ''regular'' dance couples approached daytime soap-opera fame, and in the 1950s and 1960s they were written about regularly in teen magazines, as was Clark and the show. It didn’t hurt, of course, that
Bandstand's WFIL-TV station was owned by the Walter Annenberg empire, which also included, among other media outlets, TV Guide and Seventeen magazine for girls. Seventeen had a regular column on Bandstand, “written” by one of the show’s regulars.
And TV Guide put Clark’s telegenic face on its cover several times during the 1950s.
American Bandstand also played another critical role - especially for mainstream
culture and the music business. It helped make America more receptive to rock and roll, a music genre not then accepted as it is today. ''From the time it hit the national airwaves in 1957'', observes rock historian Hank Bordowitz, ''Bandstand changed the
perception and dissemination of popular music''. The show helped make rock and roll more acceptable to many adults by bringing the music and the dancing kids into their homes every afternoon, with Clark providing the responsible, clean-cut adult supervision.
Clark’s income was soon approaching $500,000 a year.
American Bandstand also helped to open the doors to a new kind of music business. And along the way, Dick Clark
became a wealthy man, buying into music publishing companies, record labels, and promoting ''Philly sound'' recording artists on those labels - stars such as Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, and Fabian. Clark also became involved in managing the artists, formed
a radio offshoot, and conducted live productions. He also made personal appearances as a disc jockey hosting live dance events called ''sock hops'' - as many as 14 a week. And he also packaged concert tours, taking the music on the road. He soon had a nice
little musical empire in the making. ''We built a horizontal and vertical music situation'', explained Clark of his various businesses''.... We published the songs domestically and abroad, managed the acts, pressed the records, distributed the records, promoted
In 1960, however, the ''payola'' scandal broke, a controversy involving prominent radio disc jockeys then implicated in playing records for payment
to make them popular. Clark was investigated by Congress during the scandal, along with other prominent disc jockeys like Alan Freed. But Clark, in his appearance before a Congressional committee, was cool and thorough in his testimony, and denied taking ''payola''.
He emerged from the hearings without lasting harm. However, it was later revealed that Clark had been ''given'' royalty rights to more than 140 songs. ABC did require him to divest his outside ventures, more than 30 by one count, including a number of record
labels. Still, Clark and American Bandstand held their popularity.
American Bandstand was broadcast every weekday through the summer of 1963. But in the fall of that
year, it became a once-a-week show run on Saturday afternoons. By February 1964, American Bandstand moved to Los Angeles, in part to facilitate Clark's expansion into other TV ventures and film production. It was also easier in Los Angeles to tap into the
recording industry. By 1965, Dick Clark, then 35, was making about $1 million a year. Musically, the sound on Bandstand changed with the times, featuring the California surf sound in the 1960s, and a decade later, the 1970s disco beat. Through it all, dating
from the 1950s when Clark took over, Bandstand was one of the few places on television where ethnically-mixed programming could be seen.
In fact, Clark later claimed
that he had integrated the show in the 1950s - a claim disputed by some. Clark did feature black recording artists as guests on the show in its early years. When American Bandstand first went national with ABC in August 1957, Lee Andrews and the Hearts appeared
among the first guests performing their song, ''Long Lonely Nights''. In that year as well, other black artists also appeared, including Jackie Wilson, Johnny Mathis, Chuck Berry, Mickey & Sylvia, and others. Integration of the studio audience, however,
appears to have been slow and controlled according to research by John Jackson in his 1997 book, American Bandstand, and also Matthew F. Delmont in his 2012 book, The Nicest Kids in Town. However, there are also reports that when Clark took black and white
artists on the road to perform concerts in his ''Caravan of Stars'' shows of the 1960s - sometimes in towns where segregation was still practiced - he insisted on equal treatment of his performers at those venue otherwise threatening to pull his show.
In the 1970s, with the rise of disco, Bandstand began to become something of an artifact rather than a trendsetter, although still netting its share of popular guests. By the mid-1980s,
with the rise of MTV and other music video channels, American Bandstand’s format became dated. In September 1987 Bandstand moved to syndication, and in April 1989 it ran briefly on cable's USA Network with a new host and Clark as executive producer.
The show ended for good on October 7, 1989. Yet over its three decades, American Bandstand played a key role in the music business. Not only did it become the place where major record labels sought to showcase their songs and artists, it also generated millions
in record sales each year, plus millions in advertising revenue for ABC. As for recording artists - with the notable exceptions of Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones - most of the major rock and roll acts from the 1950s through mid-1980s appeared
on the show.
Sonny and Cher made their first TV appearance on American Bandstand, June 12, 1965. The Jackson 5 made their TV debut on the show February 21, 1970, as did
Aerosmith in December 1973. In January, 1980, Prince made his TV debut on Bandstand. Among others appearing during the show's 33-year run were: Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, James Brown, the Beach Boys, the Doors, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles,
the Temptations, the Carpenters, Van Morrison, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Neil Diamond, Ike & Tina Turner, Pink Floyd, Creedence Clearwater Revival, George Michael, Rod Stewart, Bon Jovi, Gloria Estefan, Michael Jackson, and last but not least, Madonna,
who appeared January 14, 1984 singing the tune ''Holiday''. But even after the show’s on-air demise, American Bandstand did not die. In early 1996, MTV's sister network, VH-1 began broadcasting old Bandstand episodes, mostly from the 1975-1985 period.
Within three months, these reruns - called the Best of American Bandstand, with taped introductions by Dick Clark himself - became one of VH1’s top-rated programs.
addition to American Bandstand, Clark amassed a portfolio of other TV and movie productions, among them, numerous TV specials and awards shows. In the late 1960s he did various television series, talent shows, and also hosted TV game shows, culminating in
the late 1970s with The $25,000 Pyramid. In the 1980s and 1990s, his Dick Clark Productions, Inc. turned out more than a dozen made-for-television movies, at least 60 TV specials, several Hollywood films, and radio shows. By 1986, Clark had made the Forbes
400 list of the wealthiest Americans. In recent years he continued his TV productions, landing a prime time TV series, American Dreams. That show was set in 1950s-1960s Philadelphia and used American Bandstand footage in its storyline. It ran for three seasons
on NBC during 2002-2005. Clark also parlayed the American Bandstand name into other businesses, using it as a brand and capitalizing on its nostalgia cache. He opened a chain of music-themed restaurants using the name Dick Clark’s American Bandstand
Grill. Several of these have opened at airports - Indianapolis, Indiana; Newark, New Jersey; Phoenix, Arizona; and Salt Lake City, Utah. Two others are located in Overland Park, Kansas and Cranbury, New Jersey.
In June 2006, Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater - which uses some now-senior performers from the 1960s era in its acts - was opened in Branson, Missouri. An American Bandstand Grill opened there as well. In 2007, Dick
Clark’s American Bandstand Music Complex, with restaurant, opened in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
Throughout his career, Clark kept one foot in the world of radio,
and would later focus some of his business interests there, also using it as a platform for rock and roll nostalgia. In 1981, he created The Dick Clark National Music Survey for the Mutual Broadcasting System, which counted down the Top 30 contemporary hits
of the week.
Beginning in 1982, Clark also hosted a weekly weekend radio program distributed by his own syndicator, United Stations Radio Networks. That program focused
on oldies, called Dick Clark’s Rock, Roll, and Remember - also the name of a 1976 autobiographical book he wrote with another author. This radio program would also sell recordings of its shows, some of which involved Clark interviews with, and/or features
on, current and former music stars. By 1986, he left Mutual Broadcasting to host another show, Countdown America. In the 1990s, Clark hosted U.S. Music Survey, which he continued hosting up until 2004, when he suffered a stroke. Although he recovered partially
from his stroke, his public appearances since that time have been limited.
In June 2007, Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins professional football team and
Six Flags amusement parks, and also a partner with Tom Cruise in a film venture, announced the purchase of Dick Clark Productions for $175 million. In the deal, Snyder became the owner of American Bandstand's entire library of televised dance shows stretching
over 30-plus years. In addition, Snyder is also acquiring other Dick Clark assets, including the New Year's Rockin' Eve broadcast from Times Square, the Golden Globe Awards show, the American Music Awards, the Academy of Country Music Awards, and the Family
Television Awards. The Dick Clark properties also include the Bloopers television shows and Fox’s popular reality TV show, So You Think You Can Dance. Snyder, who will take over as chairman of Dick Clark Productions, said in a press release, ''This was
a rare opportunity to acquire a powerhouse portfolio and grow it in new directions''. It was not entirely clear at the time of the deal's announcement, exactly what Snyder would do with the American Bandstand material, other than mention of possibly using
it visually on television screens throughout Six Flags amusement parks while patrons were standing on line.
Today, the legacy of American Bandstand is alive and well,
and can be found in various venues, including the internet, YouTube, and various fan web sites. There are also a number of books on Dick Clark and the show, including Clark’s 1976 autobiography written with Richard Robinson, and a 1997 volume authored
by John A. Jackson entitled, American Bandstand: Dick Clark and the Making of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Empire. (See also: 1957 Sun Sessions 2 / August 5, 1957).
9, 1956 MONDAY
Capitol released Wanda Jackson's ''I Gotta Know''.
JULY 11, 1956
Johnny Cash at this point was selling so many records that artists and repertoire man Steve Sholes from RCA, riding high now on Elvis' unprecedented popularity,
even tried to buy his contract. The negotiations never really went anywhere (''Johnny could be bought'', Sam Phillips wrote back to Sholes somewhat disingenuously, ''but he'll come high. Of course any deal would be subject to Johnny's consent''), but not long
afterward Sam told John he wanted to talk to him, as he had once talked to Elvis, about the perils of success.
JULY 12, 1956 THURSDAY
Singer/songwriter Julie Miller is born in Dallas, Texas. She becomes a duet partner of husband Buddy Miller, working to critical acclaim in the alternative country-movement, and playing on cuts by Emmylou Harris.
RCA released Elvis Presley's double-sided hit, ''Don't Be Cruel'' and ''Hound Dog'' (RCA Victor 47-6604).
ABC series ''Polka Time'' debuts, featuring Stan Wolowic's Polka Chips. The band is a hybrid version of The Prairie Ramblers and still includes banjo player Chick Hurt and bass player Jack Taylor, both of whom backed Patsy Montana on ''I Wanna Be A Cowboy's
JULY 14, 1956 SATURDAY
Elvis Presley earns a number 1 country
single in Billboard magazine with ''I Want You, I Need You, I Love You''.
Sony James performs on ABC-TV's ''Ozark Jubilee''.
JULY 16, 1956 MONDAY
Columbia released Bobby Lord's ''Without Your Love''.
JULY 17, 1956 TUESDAY
The cruise ship Andrea Doria sets sail from Genoa, Italy, for New York. Among the passengers is songwriter Mike
Stoller, a co-author of Elvis Presley's current pop and country hit ''Hound Dog''.
JULY 18, 1956 WEDNESDAY
Jim Reeves recorded the original version of ''Am I Losing You'' and ''According To My Heart'' during an evening session at RCA's McGavock Street studios in Nashville. Reeves re-cuts ''Am I Losing You'' in 1960, gaining a hit with it a second
JULY 20, 1956 FRIDAY
Patsy Cline writes tiredly to fan club president
Treva Miller: ''I'm working six days a week and I've been going to Dr. He says I'm not getting enough rest and he's going to put me in bed about three days a week or the hospital if I don't slow down''.