If anyone ever discovered the location of the mythical fountain of youth, it was Dick Clark. Over many a decade, his seemingly inability to age led to the nation affectionately dubbing him “America’s teenager”. Host of American Bandstand for three decades, and the man who collectively led us into every New Year’s celebration for forty years, Dick Clark was nothing short of an icon, beloved by millions.
Clark was an up-and-coming disc jockey in the early 50s. He began hosting a Philadelphia-based show in 1956 called Bandstand after the former host was arrested for drunk driving and fired. A year later, ABC transformed the popular radio show into a television series, retitling it American Bandstand. Audiences loved him immediately, with kids feeling like he was one of them, and parents trusting that their kids were in good hands. As such, his impact in regard to promoting new musical acts, even that dangerous new variety called “rock and roll, ” was profound. Through American Bandstand, audiences were introduced to such up-and-coming talent as Buddy Holly and Chubby Checker in the 50s, and Simon and Garfunkle, Smokey Robinson and Ike and Tina Turner in the decade that followed. It never mattered what color the artists were and audiences were never segregated. Suffice to say, American Bandstand was way ahead of its time, thanks to Clark’s visionary leadership.
In 1972, Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve debuted on ABC, and quickly became an annual staple. Broadcasting from New York’s Times Square, Clark would cover the eager crowds until the ceremonious dropping of the ball, then provide plenty of musical entertainment to ring in the new year. He hosted the show every year (serving as co-host with Peter Jennings during the Millenium coverage in 1999) up until 2004, when a serious stroke left him unable to speak. Regis Philbin filled in that year, and soon after, Ryan Seacrest was named co-host and would eventually take over as permanent host. Clark made a few appearances, despite his worsening health, in the years that followed, before passing away in 2012.
New Year’s Eve and American Bandstand would have been enough to cement his status in pop culture history, but there’s plenty of other endeavors that Clark is fondly remembered for. He and Ed McMahon served as hosts for TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes for four years. He also served as a game show host for a number of decades, most notably on the $20,000 (later, the $50,000, then $100,000) Pyramid. And the company he founded, Dick Clark Productions, produces the Golden Globe Awards, American Music Awards, Academy of Country Music Awards, and many other television shows.
Dick Clark’s impact was immeasurable, but he always kept a humble perspective on his fame. In his own words “I played records, the kids danced, and America watched.” We watched and we took him into our hearts. And for generations of people across America, New Year’s Eve will never seem quite the same without him.
If you have any memories that you would like to share, about American Bandstand, New Year’s or anything else regarding Dick Clark, we’d love to hear them in our comments section.