Born Richard Wagstaff Clark in Mount Vernon, New York on November 30, 1929, the future TV legend began his career by working in the mailroom at Utica, New York radio station WRUN, which his father and uncle ran. Clark graduated from Syracuse University in 1951 with a degree in business, and left the following year for a DJ job at Philadelphia’s WFIL radio station, where he launched Dick Clark’s Caravan Of Music.
At that time, Clark began filling in for host Bob Horn on WFIL’s sister television station on the series Bob Horn’s Bandstand. After Horn left the station, ABC picked up the series for and re-branded it American Bandstand. It launched nationally on August 5, 1957. Bandstand ran Monday through Friday until 1963, when Clark relocated to Hollywood, California. The series was then bumped to a weekly Saturday night show, with Clark hosting until 1988, and David Hirsch taking over on-air duties in the program’s final year, 1989.
During each episode, major radio hits would be played while young adults danced and were occasionally interviewed by Clark. It was during this time that the host’s nickname of “America’s Oldest Teenager” and his signature sign-off phrase, “For now, Dick Clark…so long,” were coined.
ABBA performing “SOS” on American Bandstand in 1975
Artists who appeared on American Bandstand over the years included The Beach Boys, Frankie Avalon, Elvis Presley, Bee Gees, Ben E. King, Roy Orbison, The Shirelles, Aretha Franklin, ABBA, New Edition, The Sugarhill Gang, Barry White, Donna Summer, Cyndi Lauper, Def Leppard and Beastie Boys.
Cyndi Lauper performing “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” & “Time After Time” on American Bandstand in 1984
The mogul’s Dick Clark Productions, founded in 1957, was behind such such popular game shows as The $10,000 Pyramid and The $25,000 Pyramid, as well as Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve, which launched in 1972, and the American Music Awards. The latter was first broadcast in 1973. Clark’s company also produces the annual Golden Globe Awards, the series So You Think You Can Dance and the Academy Of Country Music Awards.
Rockin’ New Year’s Eve, which features an array of performers each year cranking out their hit songs at New York’s Times Square, was hosted by Clark for over 30 years, until he suffered a stroke in 2004. It was the same year the TV producer disclosed that he had Type 2 diabetes.
American Idol host Ryan Seacrest was brought on as co-host of Rockin’ New Year’s Eve in 2005, to aid the speech-impaired Clark, and the show is still running today. Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Justin Bieber and LMFAO performed at last year’s televised bash.
Clark received a Peabody Award in 1999 and multiple Emmys throughout his career. He was also added to the Hollywood Walk Of Fame in 1976 and inducted into the National Radio Hall Of Fame in 1990, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and National Academy Of Television Arts & Sciences Hall Of Fame, both in 1993.
Dick Clark was married three times and is survived by his wife, Kari Wigton, son Richard from his first marriage, to Barbara Mallery, and two children Duane and Cindy from his second marriage, to Loretta Martin.