“America’s oldest teenager” has left us:
Dick Clark, the music industry maverick, longtime TV host and powerhouse producer who changed the way we listened to pop music with “American Bandstand,” and whose trademark “Rockin’ Eve” became a fixture of New Year’s celebrations, died today at the age of 82.
Clark’s agent Paul Shefrin said in statement that the veteran host died this morning following a “massive heart attack.”
We’ve written about Dick Clark a bunch of times, going all the way back to BR #2. He played a much larger part in the ushering in of the Rock and Roll era than most people imagine. From USA Today, this morning:
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. American Bandstand provided the first national exposure for Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly and Chubby Checker, among others.
“The man was big. He was the biggest thing at the time in America at that time. He was bigger than the president!” Hank Ballard, who wrote The Twist, once said.
Regarding Ballard and “The Twist,” from UJBR’s Plunges Into Music:
In 1959 he heard a little-known Hank Ballard b-side called “The Twist.” Clark loved the song and urged Ballard to perform in on Bandstand, but Ballard wan’t interested. So Clark searched around Philadelphia (where the show was based) and found a part-time chicken-plucker named Ernest Evans who was known for his ability to mimic popular singers. Before Evans could perform, however, Clark insisted he find a good stage name. Clark’s wife, Barbara, suggested modeling it after Fats Domino. “Fats” became “Chubby,” and “Domino” became “Checker.” So the newly-christened Chubby Checker sang “The Twist” on Bandstand and it was an immediate hit. The insgle shot to #1, and the dance craze of the 1960s was born.
RIP, Dick Clark.