February 3, 2012
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We’re goin’ hoppin’ , we’re goin’ hoppin’ today
Where things are poppin’, the Philadelphia way
We’re gonna drop in, on all the music they play
on the Bandstand . . . Bandstand!
– Charles Albertine
It was a simple, low-cost idea: spin pop records on TV and show local Philly teen-agers dancing to them. It was pure gold.
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• BOB HORN
In 1952, WFIL TV (now WPVI) in West Philadelphia asked veteran DJ Bob Horn to move his radio show to TV. After experimenting with music and videos (shades of MTV!), Bob began inviting local high school students into the studio to dance live before the cameras and decorated the studio set with Philadelphia high school pennants. He called the show Bob Horn’s “Bandstand.” The local ABC affiliate’s daytime broadcasting schedule was nearly non-existent at the time, so the producers ran the show in the after-school 3 – 5 pm slot. The show was an immediate hit. Philly teens rushed home from school to catch the latest dance moves. Dancers on the show became minor local celebrities; it was “Dancing with the Stars” where the stars were the kids next door.
In 1956, Bob Horn was involved in two drunk driving incidents as well as accusations of sexual misconduct with a minor. There was a lot of controversy over the legitimacy of the sexual misconduct charge. He was found innocent or sexual wrongdoing, but the three allegations put an end to Bob’s career at WFIL. In the wings his replacement was waiting; the young Dick Clark.
• DICK CLARK
Dick Clark was just what the station needed to take the spotlight off Bob Horn’s tarnished imaged. Dick was young, clean-cut and wholesome. He took over hosting the show changed its name to “American Bandstand.” A year later, he was able to talk ABC into airing the show nationally. The New York Times had this to say about the show:
“Presiding over the show, which originates in Philadelphia, is Dick Clark, a well-groomed young man richly endowed with self-assurance. Mr Clark is inclined, when expressing agreement with guests on the program to use contemporary idioms such as ‘Crazy!’, ‘I’m With You’ and ‘Ah, too much.’ . . . The girls wore pretty gowns and the boys were dressed conservatively. There were no motorcycle jackets and hardly a sideburn in the crowd.”
Overnight, local high school kids who appeared on the show regularly became national celebrities, getting fan mail and gifts from all over the country. America had its eyes on how Philadelphia teens were dancing. Philly gave birth to new dances and styles that spread across the country: the Bunny Hop, the Bop, the Slop and the Stroll. Philadelphia artists like Fabian and Frankie Avalon got national exposure on Bandstand. From the beginning, the show had also been a platform for African-American artists, including groups like The Chiffons, The Ronettes, the Coasters and the Five satins. It was a black teenager who gave the classic review of a song played on the “Rate-a-Record” segment of the show: “I like the beat and it’s easy to dance to.”
In 1963, American Bandstand and Dick Clark moved from their Philadelphia home out to Los Angeles. In a few short years the show had had an incredible influence on American music and dance. It had placed Philadelphia and Philly style dancing in the national spotlight. It had showcased countless upcoming rock and roll artists, both black and white. Dick Clark’s clean cut looks and jacket and tie had somehow sanitized what seen as anti-establishment rock and roll music and made it palatable for Americans. Importantly, the show had also helped create a new, teen culture in America; it was as if there had been no “teen-agers” before Dick Clark and American Bandstand. Finally, it had inextricably linked innovations in American music and dance to this emerging youth culture, something that would determine the course of pop music and popular dance in the psychedelic ’60s and ’70s.
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The singers’ croonin’, he ain’t the greatest, but gee
My baby’s swoonin’, in front of all of TV
So if you tune in, you’ll see my baby and me
On the Bandstand . . . Bandstand!
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