Dick Clark died this week. America's oldest teenager made it to 82. Dick had become a caricature, particularly to those who did not grow up with him. Those of us who grew up with American Bandstand understand the major impact he had on youth. Rock'n Roll was often dance focused. The girls in my neighborhood would run home at 4 to watch American Bandstand, Hoosier Favorite, Where the Action is, and other shows to learn the new dances. They would dance down the street, dance at the park, dance at the pool and dance at home. The sound track was usually provided by the low fi of a black and white TV or pocket radio. American Bandstand was the national clearinghouse.
From the NYT obit: “It meant everything to do Dick’s show,” Paul Anka said. “This was a time when there was no youth culture — he created it. And the impact of the show on people was enormous. You knew that once you went down to Philadelphia to see Dick and you went on the show, your song went from nowhere to the Top 10.” One of the first dances I remember was The Stroll. This song was written after the dance became a favorite on American Bandstand. Every TV market had its own dance show. The national influence of ABS can be seen with kids in Idaho dancing to the original ABS theme song and doing The Stroll.
Some of his shows bordered on the absurd. Check out Dick and "The Pink Floyd."
Dick's interview with Jefferson Airplane answers the question, "Do parents have anything to worry about?"
Dick and Ed Sullivan were the first nationally syndicated shows to consistently break the defacto segregation of network variety hours. Both consciously ignored the backlash of southern network affiliates. Per the Museum of Broadcast Communications, ABS provided "American television broadcasting with the most visible ongoing image of ethnic diversity until the 1970s.” Dick should be remembered for his contributions to music and society.