Dick Clark, founder and host of "American Bandstand," died Wednesday of a heart attack Wednesday He was 82.
Clark, whose popular show helped catapult the careers of teens idols like Chubby Checker Chuck Berry, Jackie Wilson and The Jackson 5, was a shrewd entrepreneur who built a small empire for himself in the entertainment industry. In addition to the teen dance show, his other ventures all of which fell under the umbrella of Dick Clark Productions, included specials, games shows, made-for-TV movies, and even feature films and restaurants.
From Bandstand in the 1950s to his three decades of New Year's Rockin' Eves, Clark was particularly adept in the melding of music and TV.
"Music is the soundtrack of your life," he was quoted as saying, and yet, he wasn't ever the one shimmying on the dance floor. And his favorite music? "Disco," he said in more than one interview. Clark was all about the smooth running of the production, not so much the joy of music. "I don't make culture," he once said. "I sell it."
In fact, the life of Richard Wagstaff Clark is a classic mailroom-to-boardroom Hollywood story. He was a broadcast salesman from start to finish.
The Mount Vernon, N.Y.-born Clark began his career in 1945 working as a teenager in the mailroom of WRUN-AM in Utica, N.Y., a station owned by his uncle and run by his father. He worked his way up to weatherman and newsman.
At Mount Vernon's A.B. Davis High School in 1947, Clark was voted "Most Likely to Sell the Brooklyn Bridge."
After getting his business administration degree from Syracuse University in 1951, clean-cut Clark used his stint in radio to move into a news casting job at WKTV in Utica. But it was in 1952, when he went to work for WFIL radio and television in Philadelphia, that his career really began to take off.
That summer WFIL decided to follow the new trend of having radio announcers play records over the air. Shortly after, the station decided to try the trend on TV.
Teenagers were invited to come and dance while the records were played by host Bob Horn. The show was called Bob Horn's Bandstand. When Horn went on vacation, Clark filled in for him, and when Horn was arrested for drunken driving in 1956, Clark got the job permanently.
What made him a success was his rapport with the teens and his non-threatening image to their parents. He knew what to sell. But he deserves credit for doing something bigger than just putting on a show.
In 1957, American Bandstand went national, and Clark began introducing the American public to rock and roll. He was, in some ways, the Carson Daly of his day.
American Bandstand was important to the music world. Not only did it show worried parents exactly what their kids were interested in, but when Clark changed the name of the show, he also ended its all-white policy and began introducing black artists, a hot-button issue of the time.