Born in 1929 in Mount Vernon, N.Y., Clark got his first job at his family-owned radio station in Utica, where he started in the mailroom and he became a weatherman and station announcer. He moved to Philadelphia and became a discjockey at WFIL-AM, and became a substitute host on Bob Horn’s Bandstand, a daily local show at the TV component WFIL (now ABC O&O WPVI), where local-area teenagers danced to the latest hits. Clark became the permanent host in 1956 when Horn was dropped from the show. When ABC picked up the show coast-to-coast in 1957, it became American Bandstand.
Clark’s success on the show came mostly due to his interaction with the teens on the program. The series began featuring “live” performances from artists such as Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. Through the years, the show would become a showcase for artists, including The Beach Boys, Donna Summer, Jefferson Airplane, Prince, Madonna, The Beastie Boys, and Run-D.M.C.
In September 1963, Bandstand transitioned from a strip to a weekly Saturday afternoon show. A few months later, Bandstand moved from Philadelphia to Los Angeles and started broadcasting in color in 1967. Due to the network wanting to expand its college football offerings in 1987, Dick Clark and ABC parted ways on the show after a 3o-year relationship. Thus, Bandstand moved to first-run syndication on September 19, 1987. But an early cancellation by WWOR-TV in New York City (the nation’s largest market) hurt the show, and ended its broadcast run on September 10, 1988 (the program did move to the USA network for the 1989-90 season, but under a different host.)
But Clark was known for much more than Bandstand. He also was also a game show host, notably best known for hosting various incarnations of the multiple-Emmy winning The [insert dollar amount here] Pyramid, which ran on various incarnations on ABC ($10,000; $20,000), CBS ($25,000) and syndication ($50,000; $100,000.) Other game shows Clark hosted throughout his career included Scattegories, The Challengers, and Winning Lines.
He was also one-fourth of a panel on syndicated talk show The Other Half, which ran from 2001-03.
Clark also teamed up with fellow Philadelphian Ed McMahon to host TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes for NBC, which was a series of specials and a weekly series. Clark’s other shows included Dick Clark’s Golden Greats (syndicated, 1988-89), Dick Clark’s Nitetime (syndicated, 1985-86) and Dick Clark’s LIVE Wednesday (CBS, 1978.)
Clark formed his production company in 1957 (dick clark productions) and has produced over 10,000 hours of programming. In addition to the shows listed above (with the exception of Pyramid, Winning Lines, and The Other Half), Clark produced Puttin’ On The Hits, Greed, American Dreams, Donny & Marie (1998-2000 talk show), The Weird Al Show, Trial By Jury, and So You Think You Can Dance.
Clark also produced tons of specials: among them include The American Music Awards, a special created after ABC lost The Grammy Awards to CBS in 1973. Clark also produced The Academy of Country Music Awards, The Golden Globe Awards, Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, an ABC tradition since 1972, and of course, those Blooper specials.
Clark was also a major force in radio programming – he created The National Music Survey in 1981 for Mutual Broadcasting, a countdown show to rival American Top 40 (Clark guest hosted an episode of AT 40 in March 1972, subbing in for Casey Kasem.) When he left Mutual five years later, Clark formed Unistar syndication and took over another countdown series, Countdown America. In 1994, Clark sold Unistar to Westwood One, which promptly canceled the show (the same year, the original version of AT40 – which by then was hosted by Shadoe Stevens – was also canceled after its then-syndicator ABC Radio purchased Rick Dees’ rival countdown show.)
Clark created a new countdown show to replace Countdown America called The U.S. Music Survey. It ran until 2004. Clark also created and later hosted a long-running syndicated oldies show titled Rock, Roll & Remember, the same name of his 1976 autobiography.
In late 2004, Clark suffered a stroke, effecting his speech and movement. He scaled back his on-air duties, handing the hosting reins to Ryan Seacrest for New Years’ Rockin’ Eve while Clark was in ABC’s studio above Times Square. In 2007, Clark sold his production company to Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.
Dick Clark was often referred to as “America’s Oldest Teenger” due to his youthful appearance, even as he aged.
Clark’s death comes as another pioneering music show host (Don Cornelius) passed away in February. Ironically, Cornelius and Clark would cross paths – though not on friendly terms – after a Soul Train clone called Soul Unlimited came and went quickly in 1973. (Both men would eventually collaborate on several specials featuring African-American artists.)
At the end of any show he hosted, Dick Clark would sign off as saying… “For now, Dick Clark… so long” and delivered a military salute, a classy way to exit.
An industry legend and pioneer and one who made a lot of contributions to the media industry, the military salute is returned right back. There won’t be another one like him.
Chicago connections: According to the book The Golden Age of Chicago Children’s Television (2004) by Ted Okuda and Jack Mulqueen, Dick Clark made an appearance on WCIU-TV’s Kiddie A Go-Go to promote a movie he produced, Psych-Out. He was taught some dance steps and confessed in a thank-you letter that Kiddie-A-Go-Go was the first show he ever danced on.
In 1991, Dick Clark did a local commercial for WTMX-FM (then known as Mix 102, now known as Mix 101.9.) Ironically, Clark mentions Whitney Houston as one of the station’s artists at the time – she would pass away on February 11 of this year. Here it is in its entirety, taken from a local break of the December 7, 1991 broadcast of Saturday Night Live:
(Updated at 11:07 p.m. on 2012-04-21.)