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Dick Clark, host of American Bandstand

American Bandstand was a television show that aired in various versions from 1952 to 1989, hosted from 1957 until its final season by Dick Clark, who also served as producer. The show featured teenagers dancing to Top 40-type music introduced by Clark; at least one popular musical act—over the decades, running the gamut from Jerry Lee Lewis to Run DMC—would usually appear in-person to lip-sync one of their latest singles. Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon holds the record for most appearances at 110.

The show's popularity helped Dick Clark become an American media mogul and inspired other similar long-running music programs, such as Soul Train and Top of the Pops. Clark eventually assumed ownership of the program through his Dick Clark Productions company.

Show Description

'It premiered locally in late September 1952 as Bandstand on Philadelphiamarker television station WFILmarker-TV Channel 6 (now WPVI-TVmarker), as a replacement for a weekday movie that had shown predominantly-British movies. Hosted by Bob Horn as a television adjunct to his radio show of the same name on WFILmarker radio, Bandstand mainly featured short musical films produced by Snader Telescriptions and Official Films, with occasional studio guests. This incarnation was, of sorts, an early predecessor of music video shows that became popular in the 1980s, featuring films that, themselves, are the ancestors of music videos.

Horn, however, was disenchanted with the program, so he sought to have the show changed to a dance program, with teenagers dancing along on camera as the records played, based on an idea that came from a radio show on WPEN, The 950 Club, hosted by Joe Grady and Ed Hurst. This more-familiar version of Bandstand debuted on October 7, 1952 in "Studio 'B'", which was located in their just-completed addition to the original 1947 building (4548 Market Street), and was hosted by Horn, with Lee Stewart as co-host until 1955. Tony Mammarella was the original producer with Ed Yates as director. The short Snader and Official music films continued in the short term, mainly to fill gaps as they changed dancers during the show—a necessity, as the studio could not fit more than 200 teenagers.

On July 9, 1956, Horn was fired after a drunk driving arrest as WFIL and dual owner Walter Annenberg's The Philadelphia Inquirer at the time were doing a series on drunk driving. He was replaced temporarily by producer Tony Mammarella before the job went permanently to Dick Clark.

In late spring of 1957, the ABC television network asked their O&O's and affiliates for programming suggestions to fill their 3:30 p.m. (ET) time slot (WFIL-TV had been pre-empting the ABC program with 'Bandstand'). Clark decided to pitch the show to ABC brass and after some badgering, the show was picked up nationally (becoming American Bandstand) on August 5, 1957.

"Studio 'B'" measured 80'x42'x24', but appeared smaller due to the number of props, television cameras, and bleachers that were used for the show. The show was briefly shot in color in 1958 when WFILmarker-TV started experimenting with the then-new technology. Due to a combination of the size of the studio, the need to have as much space available for the teenagers to dance, and the size of the color camera compared to the black-and-white models, it was only possible to have one RCA TK-41 where three RCA TK-10 had been used before. WFIL-TV went back to the TK-10s two weeks later when ABC-TV refused to carry the color signal and management realized that the show lost something without the extra cameras.

Clark would often interview the teenagers about their opinions of the songs being played, most memorably through the "Rate-a-Record" segment (to which the phrase "It's got a good beat and you can dance to it" is credited, perhaps apocryphally).

The only person to ever co-host the show with Dick Clark was Donna Summer, who joined him to present a special episode dedicated to the release of the Casablanca film Thank God It's Friday. Throughout the late `50s and most of the `60s, Clark's on-camera sidekick was announcer Charlie O'Donnell, who later went on to announce other programs hosted or produced by Clark.


Early changes

When ABC picked up the game show Do You Trust Your Wife? from CBS in November 1957, they scheduled the program at 3:30PM ET—almost in the middle of Bandstand. Instead of shortening or moving Bandstand, ABC opted to just begin Bandstand at 3PM, cutaway to Do You Trust Your Wife? at 3:30PM, then rejoin Bandstand at 4PM. In Philadelphia, however, WFIL-TV opted to pre-empt the game show by continuing Bandstand as usual, though only for the local audience. This programming gambit, however, denied Philadelphia viewers the network debut of WCAU-TV alum Ed McMahon, who was Johnny Carson's co-host on the game show.

A half-hour evening version of American Bandstand aired on Monday nights from 7:30 p.m.–8:00 p.m. (et), beginning on October 7, 1957. It preceded The Guy Mitchell Show. Both were ratings disasters. Dick Clark later claimed that he knew the prime-time edition would fail because its core audience—teenagers and housewives—was occupied with other interests in the evenings. The Monday night version aired its last program in December 1957, but ABC gave Clark a Saturday night time slot for The Dick Clark Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show, which originated from the Little Theatre in Manhattan, beginning on February 15, 1958.

The program was broadcast "live" weekday afternoons. In the fall of 1961, ABC Television reduced American Bandstand's airtime from 90 to 60 minutes [4:00-5:00pm(et)], then further as a daily half-hour [4:00-4:30pm(et)] in September 1962; beginning in early 1963, all five shows for the upcoming week were videotaped the preceding Saturday. The use of videotape allowed Clark to tour with the singers and to pursue other broadcast interests. On September 7, 1963 the program was moved from its weekday slots and began airing weekly every Saturday afternoon until 1989.

Move from Philadelphia to Los Angeles

Production of the show moved from Philadelphia to the ABC Television Center in Los Angelesmarker on February 8, 1964, which coincidently was the same weekend that WFIL-TV moved from their 46th and Market location to their then-new facility located on City Line Avenue. Color broadcasts began for good on September 9, 1967. The typical production schedule consisted of video taping three shows on a Saturday and three shows on a Sunday every six weeks. The shows were usually produced in either Stage 54 or Stage 55 at the ABC Television Center.

Move from ABC to syndication and the USA Network

Bandstand moved from ABC (who wanted to reduce Bandstand to only 30 minutes rather than an hour) to syndication on September 19, 1987, and to cable's USA Network on April 8, 1989 with a new younger host, comedian David Hirsch. It was also shot outdoors at Universal Studios Hollywood. Clark remained executive producer. The show ended on October 7, 1989, in Hollywood, but it continued to tape live at the Harrah's Club & Casino in Reno, Nevada, and aired locally until the mid-1990s.

Revival plans

In 2004, Dick Clark announced plans to revive the show in time for 2005; although this did not occur, one segment of the revived "Bandstand"—a national dance contest—eventually became the series So You Think You Can Dance. Dick Clark Productions is credited as the show's co-producer and longtime employee Allen Shapiro serves as co-executive producer.

Theme music

Bandstand originally used "High Society" by Artie Shaw as its theme song, but by the time the show went national, it had been replaced by various arrangements of "Bandstand Boogie" composed by Charles Albertine, including the big-band version performed by Les Elgart remembered by viewers of the daily version. From 1969 to 1974 "Bandstand Theme", a synth instrumental version written by Mike Curb opened each show. Moreover, from 1974 to 1977 an orchestral disco version of "Bandstand Boogie" arose playing during the opening and closing credits. Joe Porter was the music arranger and performer of this orchestral disco version of American Bandstand's theme song at this time.

From 1977 to the end of its ABC run in 1987, the show opened and closed with Barry Manilow's rendition of the theme, which he originally recorded for his 1975 album Tryin' to Get the Feeling. The song's new lyrics, which heavily referenced the series, were co-written by Manilow and Bruce Howard Sussman.

The Manilow version was replaced by an updated instrumental arrangement of "Bandstand Boogie" when Bandstand went into syndication.

From 1974 onward, Bandstand featured another instrumental at its mid-show break—Billy Preston's synth hit "Space Race".

References in popular culture

  • The show was parodied in the single Russian Bandstand, in 1959.
  • The show was featured prominently in the 20022005 NBC-TV drama series American Dreams, which like Bandstand was executive produced by Dick Clark. In a 2005 episode of American Dreams, Eddie Kelly and Bunny Gibson—one of the most famous couples to appear on American Bandstand in the Philadelphia years—were the only two to make cameo appearances on the acclaimed TV series. Along with that, Eddie Kelly and Bunny Gibson were named a number of times in the script and Eddie Kelly referred to in the last episode.
  • In the movie Taxi Driver, Travis Bickle, played by Robert De Niro, watches couples dancing on American Bandstand on television during one scene.
  • In the movie Grease, Rydell High School plays host for a dance contest on a televised show similar to American Bandstand, called "National Bandstand".
  • In 1988, the John Waters film Hairspray's The Corny Collins Show is a mix between this and Baltimore's Buddy Deane Show.
  • In the 1989 film Dead Poets Society, English teacher John Keating, played by Robin Williams, belittles the school's poetry textbook's introduction to poetry. The introduction describes a method of giving poems numerical scores of "perfection." He derides this by saying "we're not laying pipe, we're talking about poetry. How can you describe poetry like American Bandstand? "I like Byron, I give him a 42 but I can't dance to it!"
  • In 2001, IGTmarker acquired the rights from Dick Clark Productions and created and developed a slot machine based on the long running music series.
  • In 2004, the band Low released the compilation album A Lifetime of Temporary Relief: 10 Years of B-Sides and Rarities, featuring the track "Peanut Butter Toast And American Bandstand" which mentions the show.
  • In 2005, rapper Bow Wow came out with the featured single Fresh Azimiz from the album Wanted. The song, produced by Jermaine Dupri mentioned the popularity of American Bandstand in the line, "I'm goin' down in history like American Bandstand."
  • In 2008, Bandstand was brought to Broadway. June 30, 2008 for the first time in history the American Bandstand Regulars with the collaboration of Charles Amann, a recognized authority and historian of the period and the Philadelphia Years of American Bandstand and the author of a forthcoming book titled The Princes and Princesses of Dance, were brought to Broadway to perform. The Regulars chosen by Mr. Amann were Diane Iaquinto Celotto, Carmen Jimenez, Eddie Kelly, Marlyn Brown Kernan, and Joyce Shafer Roth. The revue was called The Radio Hits of 1958. Among the Broadway guest stars of today was Constantine Maroulis of American Idol fame.

  • A popular 90's American rap group called The Fugees rapped about American Bandstand in their song Fu-Gee-La. With Wyclef Jean rapping the verse, the reference is as follows. "I'm your candy handyman/ Me without you is like American without the Bandstand/ Cool fellow/ dance hard, stay mellow/ All that gun talk, man who'd a thought you'd die yellow..."

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