Interviews

 

Dick Clark

Producer / Host / Executive

Dick Clark on the origins of American Bandstand

00:36

The key ingredient is giving the audience what they expected to get. If I'm there to escape, let me escape. If I'm there to be taught, teach me. But, don't suck me in, thinking I'm going to escape and then teach me. You've caught me off guard. You'd say, 'I've been had,' and you'd leave.

About this interview

In his one-and-a-half-hour Archive interview, Dick Clark (1929-2012) shares how he first got into television hosting, and outlines the rise of American Bandstand from a local Philadelphia show to a national phenomenon. He explains his involvement with the payola scandals of the 1950s, the origins of New Year's Rockin' Eve, and his hosting duties on the game show $10,000 Pyramid. Clark recalls working with Johnny Carson to produce Bloopers and Practical Jokes, discusses forming Dick Clark Productions, and details the role of a producer. He also describes the challenges of producing live awards shows, and speaks of what he believes to be the secret to live TV. James Moll conducted the interview on July 29, 1999 in Burbank, CA.

The key ingredient is giving the audience what they expected to get. If I'm there to escape, let me escape. If I'm there to be taught, teach me. But, don't suck me in, thinking I'm going to escape and then teach me. You've caught me off guard. You'd say, 'I've been had,' and you'd leave.

Interview Highlights

Embedded thumbnail for Dick Clark on the origins of American Bandstand

Dick Clark on the origins of American Bandstand

00:36
Embedded thumbnail for Dick Clark on the genesis of New Years Rockin' Eve

Dick Clark on the genesis of New Years Rockin' Eve

03:01
Embedded thumbnail for Dick Clark on similarities between American Bandstand and MTV

Dick Clark on similarities between American Bandstand and MTV

01:11
Embedded thumbnail for Dick Clark on being targeted in the music "payola" investigation

Dick Clark on being targeted in the music "payola" investigation

03:22
Embedded thumbnail for Dick Clark on forming Dick Clark Productions

Dick Clark on forming Dick Clark Productions

01:22
Embedded thumbnail for Dick Clark on his legacy

Dick Clark on his legacy

00:44

Related Content

From the Museum of Broadcast Communications Encyclopedia of Television:

With a career spanning fifty years, Dick Clark is one of television's most successful entrepreneurs of program production. Often acknowledged more for his youthful appearance than for his business acumen, Clark nevertheless has built an impressive production record since the 1950s with teen dance shows, prime-time programming, television specials, daytime game shows, made-for-television movies, and feature films.

As a teenager, Clark began his career in broadcasting in 1945 in the mailroom of station WRUN in Utica, New York, working his way up to weatherman and then newsman. After graduating from Syracuse University in 1951, Clark moved from radio into television broadcasting at station WKTV in Utica. Here, Clark hosted Cactus Dick and the Santa Fe Riders, a country music program which became the training ground for his later television hosting persona. In 1952, Clark moved to Philadelphia and radio station WFIL as a disc jockey for Dick Clark's Caravan of Music. At that time, WFIL was affiliated with a television station which carried Bandstand, an afternoon teen dance show. Clark often substituted for Bob Horn, the show's regular host. When Horn was jailed for drunken driving in 1956, Clark took over as permanent host, boosting Bandstand into Philadelphia's best-known afternoon show. From that point on, he became a fixture in the American television broadcasting arena.

In 1957, the American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) picked up the program for its daytime schedule, changing the name to American Bandstand. As a cornerstone of the afternoon lineup through 1963, the program was a boon for ABC, an inexpensively produced success for the network's target audience of youthful demographics. From 1963 through 1987, American Bandstand ran on a weekly basis to become one of the longest running shows in broadcast television.

In addition to Clark's hosting and producing duties for American Bandstand, he began to diversify in the 1950s by moving into the music publishing and recording industries. However, by the end of 1959, the federal government began to scrutinize Clark for a possible conflict between his broadcasting interests and his publishing and recording interests. At that time, payola, the practice of music industry companies paying radio personalities to play new records, was widespread throughout radio broadcasting. Clark, with the cultural scope of his network television program, became the prime target of the Congressional investigation into this illegal activity. Pressured by ABC to make a choice between broadcast and music industry interests, Clark opted for the former, divesting himself of his publishing and recording companies. Even though Clark was cleared of any illegal behavior, he had to testify before the Congressional Committee on payola practices in 1960.

Given the present state of cross-corporate links among the recording, broadcasting, cable and film industries, Clark's persecution would be highly unlikely now. Indeed, even at the time of the payola scandals, the networks and film studios, such as ABC and Disney, were already inextricably connected with program production, broadcasting and profits. In retrospect, Clark's problems stemmed as much from his embrace of a somewhat raucous, interracial youth culture and his involvement in the conflict between ASCAP, representing the old guard of the music publishing business, and BMI, representing the new breed of rock and roll songwriters.

A somewhat tarnished reputation did not hinder Clark's further success in the area of broadcast programming and film production with Dick Clark Productions. DCP produced Where the Action Is, another daily teenage music show, during the late 1960s, as well as feature exploitation films such Psych-Out, The Savage Seven and Killers Three. At this time, Clark also moved into the game show arena with Missing Links and The Object Is, culminating in the late 1970s with The $25,000 Pyramid.

In addition, DCP produced Elvis, Murder in Texas, and The Woman Who Willed a Miracle, made-for-television movies which garnered impressive audience ratings. The latter won an Emmy Award. On a more low-brow level, DCP also introduced Bloopers and Practical Jokes, another inexpensive, but extremely popular recurring television special to American audiences. Clark also produces award shows, the American Awards and The Golden Globe Awards.

Often criticized for the lack of quality in DCP programs, Clark points to the networks and the audiences as the index of that quality. He gives them what they want. In an interview in Newsweek magazine in 1986, Clark points out, "If I were given the assignment of doing a classical-music hour for PBS, it would be exquisite and beautifully done." Despite the boyish good looks and charm that are the identifying characteristics of this American icon, it is Clark's economically efficient business savvy and his uncanny ability to measure the American public's cultural mood that have been his most important assets in television broadcasting.

-Rodney Buxton

DICK CLARK (Richard Wagstaff Clark). Born in Mt. Vernon, New York, U.S., 30 November 1929. Graduated from Syracuse University, 1951. Married 1) Barbara Mallery, 1952 (divorced, 1961); child: Richard, Jr.; 2) Loretta Martin, 1962 (divorced, 1971); children: Duane and Cindy; 3) Karen Wigton, 1977. Announcer, station WRUN, Utica, New York, summer 1950; staff anouncer, station WOLF, Syracuse, New York, 1950; announcer, WRUN, 1951; announcer, station WKTV, Utica, 1951; announcer, station WFIL, Philadelphia, 1952; host, American Bandstand, 1956-89, 32nd Emmy Awards, 1981, and Daytime Emmy Awards; formed Dick Clark Productions, 1956, producing more than 7,500 hours of television programming, including more than 30 series and 250 specials, and more than 20 movies for theatrical release and television. Founder, Dick Clark Media Archives. Inductee: Hollywood Walk of Fame, 1976; Broadcasting Magazine Hall of Fame, 1992; Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, 1993; Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame, 1993. Recipient: Emmy Awards, 1979, 1983, 1985, 1986, and Daytime Emmy, Lifetime Achievement Award, 1994; MTV Award, 1987; Grammy National Trustees Award, 1990; named International Person of Year, NAPTE, 1990; Distinguished Service Award, National Association of Broadcasting, 1991; American D.J. Association, Lifetime Achievement Award, 1995; Person of the Year, Philadelphia Advertising Club. Address: Dick Clark Productions, 3003 West Olive Avenue, Burbank, California 91510-7811, U.S.

TELEVISION SERIES (selection)

1951 Cactus Dick and the Santa Fe Riders (host)
1956-89 American Bandstand (host, executive producer) 1958-60 The Dick Clark Saturday Night Beechnut Show (host)
1959 Dick Clark's World of Talent (host)
1959 The Record Years (host, executive producer)
1964 Missing Links (host)
1964 The Object Is (host)
1973-74 Dick Clark Presents the Rock and Roll Years (host, executive producer)
1973-75 In Concert (executive producer)
1973-89 CBS, ABC, Syndication (host)
$10,000 Pyramid
$20,000 Pyramid
$25,000 Pyramid
$50,000 Pyramid
$100,000 Pyramid
1981 The Krypton Factor (host)
1984-86, 1988 TV's Bloopers & Practical Jokes (executive producer)
1985-88 Puttin' on the Hits (executive producer)
1988 Live! Dick Clark Presents (host, executive producer)
1990-91 The Challengers (host, executive producer) 1995- Tempestt (executive producer)

MADE-FOR-TELEVISION MOVIES (executive producer)

1979 Elvis
1979 Man in the Santa Claus Suit
1979 Birth of the Beatles
1981 Murder in Texas
1983 The Demon Murder Case
1983 The Woman Who Willed a Miracle
1985 Copacabana
1988 Promised a Miracle
1988 The Town Bully
1988 Liberace
1989 A Cry for Help: The Tracy Thurman Story
1991 Death Dreams
1993 Elvis and the Colonel: The Untold Story
1994 Secret Sins of the Father

TELEVISION SPECIALS (selection, executive producer)

1965-67 Where the Action Is
1966 Swinging Country
1968-69 Happening
1970 Get It Together
1970 Shebang
1972- Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve
1977 Dick Clark's Good Ol' Days
1978 Dick Clark's Live Wednesday
1980 The Sensational, Shocking Wonderful Wacky 70's 1981 Whatever Became Of . . .?
1981 I've Had It up to Here
1982 Inside America
1983 Hollywood's Private Home Movies
1983 The 1/2 Hour Comedy Hour
1984 Hollywood Stars Screen Test
1984 You Are the Jury
1985 Reaching for the Stars
1985 Rock 'n' Roll Summer Action
1985 Live Aid--An All-Star Concert for African Relief 1985 American Bandstand's 33 1/3 Celebration
1985 Dick Clark's Nighttime
1986 America Picks the #1 Songs
1986 Alabama . . . My Home's in Alabama
1987 Keep on Cruisin'
1987 Superstars and Their Moms Celebrities! Where Are They Now?
1987 In Person from the Palace
1987 Getting in Touch
1988 Sea World's All-Star Lone Star Celebration
1989 Freedom Festival '89
1991, 1993 Super Bloopers & New Practical Jokes
1992 1992 USA Music Challenge
992 American Bandstand's 40th Anniversary
1992 The World's Biggest Lies
1992 A Busch Gardens/Sea World Summer Safari
1992 Golden Greats
1992 Olympic Flag Jam
1993 The Return of TV Censored Bloopers
1993 The Academy of Country Music's Greatest Hits 1993 The Olsen Twins Mother's Day Special
1993 American Bandstand: One More Time
1993 Caught in the Act
1993, 1994 Sea World/Busch Garden Summer Celebration
1993-95 The Jim Thorpe Pro Sports Awards
1994 Taco Bell's Battle of the Bands
1994 How I Spent My Summer Vacation
1994 Chrysler American Great 18 Golf Championships 1994 American Music Awards 20th Anniversary Special 1994 Golden Globes 50th Anniversary Celebration
1994 Hot Country Jam '94
1994 American Bandstand's Teen Idols
1994 American Bandstand's #1 Hits
1994 Universal Studios Summer Blast
1994, 1995 Will You Marry Me?
1995 We're Having a Baby
1995 The Making of the Adventures of Mary Kate and Ashley 1995 Christmas at Home with the Stars
1995 When Stars Were Kids
1995 Rudy Coby: The Coolest Magician in the World 1995 Sea World/Busch Gardens Party for the Planet 1995 All Star Ultra TV Censored Bloopers
1995 TNN Country Series

FILMS

Actor and Producer: Because They're Young, 1960 (actor); The Young Doctors, 1961 (actor); Wild in the Streets, 1968. Killers Three, 1968; Psych-Out, 1968 (producer); The Savage Seven, 1968 (producer); The Dark, 1970 (producer); Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, 1985 (producer)

RADIO

Dick Clark's Music Machine; Dick Clark's National Music Survey; Dick Clark's Rock, Roll and Remember; Dick Clark's U.S. Music Survey.

PUBLICATIONS

Your Happiest Hears. New York: Rosho Corporation, 1959.

To Goof or Not to Goof. New York: B. Geis Associates, 1963.

Rock, Roll and Remember (with Richard Robinson). New York: Crowell, 1976.

Dick Clark's Program for Success in Your Business and Personal Life. New York: Cornerstone Library, 1980.

Looking Great, Staying Young (with Bill Libby). Indianapolis, Indiana: Bobbs-Merrill, 1980.

Dick Clark's The First 25 Years of Rock 'n' Roll (with Michael Usland). New York: Dell, 1981.

The History of American Bandstand (with Michael Shore). New York: Ballantine, 1985.

Dick Clark's Easygoing Guide to Good Grooming. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1985.

FURTHER READING

"'Bandstand' Ready to Rock Again." Broadcasting (Washingto, D.C.) 21 May 1990.

"Dick Clark on Dick Clark: The Flip Side." Broadcasting (Washington, D.C.) 1 May 1989.

Miller, Holly G. "Dick Clark's Role After Rock." Saturday Evening Post (Indianapolis, Indiana), July-August, 1995.

Responsibilities of Broadcasting Licensees and Station Personnel: Hearings before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, House of Representatives, Eighty-Sixth Congress, Second Session on Payola and Other Deceptive Practices in the Broadcasting Field. Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1960.

Schipper, Henry. "Dick Clark." Rolling Stone (New York), 19 April 1990.

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