Posts tagged WFIL
TV and music pioneer Dick Clark dies at age 82
American Bandstand is an American music-performance show that aired in various versions from 1952 to 1989 and was hosted from 1956 until its final season by Dick Clark, who also served as producer. The show featured teenagers dancing to Top 40 music introduced by Clark; at least one popular musical act—over the decades, running the gamut from Jerry Lee Lewis to Run DMC—would usually appear in person to lip-sync one of their latest singles. Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon holds the record for most appearances at 110.
The show’s popularity helped Dick Clark become an American media mogul and inspired similar long-running music programs, such as Soul Train and Top of the Pops. Clark eventually assumed ownership of the program through his Dick Clark Productions company.
It premiered locally in late September 1952 as Bandstand on Philadelphia television station WFIL-TV Channel 6 (now WPVI-TV), as a replacement for a weekday movie that had shown predominantly British movies. Hosted by Bob Horn as a television adjunct to his radio show of the same name on WFIL radio, Bandstand mainly featured short musical films produced by Snader Telescriptions and Official Films, with occasional studio guests. This incarnation was an early predecessor of sorts of the music video shows that became popular in the 1980s, featuring films that are themselves the ancestors of music videos.
Historic marker at WFIL studiosHorn, however, was disenchanted with the program, so he sought to have the show changed to a dance program, with teenagers dancing along on camera as the records played, based on an idea that came from a radio show on WPEN, The 950 Club, hosted by Joe Grady and Ed Hurst. This more-familiar version of Bandstand debuted on October 7, 1952 in “Studio ‘B’,” which was located in their just-completed addition to the original 1947 building (4548 Market Street), and was hosted by Horn, with Lee Stewart as co-host until 1955. Tony Mammarella was the original producer with Ed Yates as director. The short Snader and Official music films continued in the short term, mainly to fill gaps as they changed dancers during the show—a necessity, as the studio could not fit more than 200 teenagers.
On July 9, 1956, Horn was fired after a drunk-driving arrest, as WFIL and dual owner Walter Annenberg’s The Philadelphia Inquirer at the time were doing a series on drunken driving. He was also involved in a prostitution ring and brought up on morals charges. Horn was temporarily replaced by producer Tony Mammarella before the job went to Dick Clark permanently.
In late spring of 1957, the ABC television network asked their O&O’s and affiliates for programming suggestions to fill their 3:30 p.m. (ET) time slot (WFIL-TV had been pre-empting the ABC program with ‘Bandstand’). Clark decided to pitch the show to ABC brass, and after some badgering the show was picked up nationally, becoming American Bandstand on August 5, 1957.
“Studio ‘B’” measured 80′x42′x24′, but appeared smaller due to the number of props, television cameras, and risers that were used for the show. It was briefly shot in color in 1958 when WFIL-TV began experimenting with the then-new technology. Due to a combination of factors that included the size of the studio, the need to have as much space available for the teenagers to dance, and the size of the color camera compared to the black-and-white models, it was only possible to have one RCA TK-41 where three RCA TK-10s had been used before. WFIL-TV went back to the TK-10s two weeks later when ABC-TV refused to carry the color signal and management realized that the show lost something without the extra cameras.
Clark would often interview the teenagers about their opinions of the songs being played, most memorably through the “Rate-a-Record” segment. During the segment, two audience members each ranked two records on a scale of 35 to 98, after which the two opinions were averaged by Clark, who then asked the audience members to justify their scores. The segment gave rise, perhaps apocryphally, to the phrase “It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.” In one humorous segment broadcast for years on retrospective shows, comedians Cheech and Chong appeared as the record raters.
Featured artists typically performed their current hits by lip-synching to the released version of the song.
The only person to ever co-host the show with Dick Clark was Donna Summer, who joined him to present a special episode dedicated to the release of the Casablanca film Thank God It’s Friday. Throughout the late `50s and most of the `60s, Clark’s on-camera sidekick was announcer Charlie O’Donnell, who later went on to announce Wheel of Fortune and other programs hosted or produced by Clark, such as The $100,000 Pyramid.
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