Thursday, August 05, 2021

THROWBACK THURSDAY: American Bandstand Memories


On August 5, 1957 -- which wasn't long before I turned four years old -- the ABC network debuted an afternoon teenage dance show hosted by a clean-cut guy from Philadelphia named Dick Clark.

Known as "America's Oldest Teenager," Clark had been with the show's precursor, "Bandstand," which aired on local TV in Philadelphia. (WFIL, now WPVI). The original show had been around since 1952. Clark came aboard in 1956. When ABC asked local affiliates for suggestions for a an afternoon show, Clark lobbied for "Bandstand" to go national.

According to Clark's obituary (he died in 2012 at the age of 82) in the Los Angeles Times, "Clark and “American Bandstand” not only gave young fans what they wanted, it gave their parents a measure of assurance that this new music craze was not as scruffy or as scary as they feared. Buttoned-down and always upbeat, polite and polished, Clark came across more like an articulate graduate student than a carnival barker."

That obit discusses that first national show:

"...from the no-frills Studio B of WFIL-TV on Market Street in Philadelphia, Clark greeted a national television audience for the first time with the backdrop of a faux record store, a concrete floor and crowd of giddy teens in clean-cut mode: Ties for boys, no slacks for girls and no gum chewing were the rules from the first day."

Indeed Clark's innate square demeanor made for a pretty weird show. Most of the time American Bandstand  simply played current hits and showed teenagers dancing. The guest artists who came to th studio never played live. They just lip-synched.

Clark used “Bandstand” as a springboard for various business schemes. He became an artist manager, a music publisher and had his fingers in record-pressing plants as well as a distribution business. America's Oldest Teenager had partial rights to more than 100 songs and, according to the Los Angeles Times, "had his name on the financial paperwork of more than 30 music-related businesses." 

Those wheelings and dealings led him to testify before Congress during the payola scandal in 1960. Though he testified that he never accepted any money to play records on the show, ABC made him sell off his business holdings that some saw as conflicts of interest.

Here are some videos of American Bandstand through the years:

Here's Jackie Wilson. According to the Internet Movie Data Base, Jackie appeared on Bandstand five times between 1957 and 1965. "Lonely Teardrops" was released in 1958, so I expect this clip was from one of his two appearances on the show that year.

I'm thinking the following clip might just be the only Andre Williams song ever to be played on Bandstand. This version is by James & Bobby Purify (which was the first version I ever heard.) I also like Dick Clark's Dr. Pepper commercial that introduces it, though I wonder if the "Proud Crowd" he mentions was a precursor of the Proud Boys.

Dick Clark, as he shows in this 1967 interview with The Jefferson Airplane, was in tune with the far-out youth of the Swingin' '60s. He asks bassist Jack Cassidy a very insightful question: "If you gave $100,000 to a hippie ..."

American Bandstand lasted until 1989. At the beginning of that decade, he had a 19-year-old Prince on the show:

Also in 1980, there was something Rotten on Bandstand.

But one group you never heard on American Bandstand was The Tandoori Knights (King Khan & Bloodshot Bill, who wouldn't be around until about 20 years after Clark's show went off the air.) Here is the Tandooris' lament about that fact:

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