Your Happiest Years was a book of advice for teenagers, a topic Dick Clark felt particularly well-qualified for. Besides dispensing generic advice, the book also contained anecdotes from Clark’s personal experiences and included several family and business photos.
While Clark was seen as a staunch defender of teenagers and wholesome living in general, the tone of Your Happiest Years was a real downer for those teens who espoused the very independence that was represented by the music Clark played on American Bandstand. If there was a theme to Clark’s book it was obey your parents and get ready for a life just like theirs.
He told the story of a girl he knew who stayed at a friend’s home one night without informing her parents. Her frantic father went out looking for her, wrecked the family car, and emerged as a cripple.
Clark warned of the consequences of too much makeup, not enough deodorant, long hair and going steady. How can you be ready for adulthood if you don’t heed Mom, Dad and Mother Nature?
For maturing girls he cautioned:
“A young woman should begin in her teens learning the things that keep a home running smoothly. She can watch how her mother cooks and bakes. There are also many opportunities for a daughter to observe how Mother handles Dad when he’s had a tough day at work. Mom can always use some help around the house, with dishes, cleaning, cooking, and a million other things a girl should know to qualify for that band of gold.”
And for boys:
“A pinball machine may be a lot of fun when you’re seventeen, but at twenty-two it’s no date for a dance, and it won’t sew up those ripped shirts when you’re thirty.”
Although Clark had clearly set his career course by the teenage compass, he was always looking for opportunities to expand his reach to an older, more mature audience. As he frequently pointed out, over half his audience consisted of adults.
His prime time shows, featuring rock & rollers of the present and pop singers more familiar to the older set, were attempts to bridge the gap between young and old. Clark even occasionally put his own performing skills on the line, like his lip-syncing to his own recording of the old standard, Bye Bye Blackbird, on Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall on NBC on October 14, 1959.
As Clark rehearsed for the Como show, many of the older music fans he sought were mourning the death of Mario Lanza, the popular singer from South Philadelphia who had shot to fame portraying the famed opera star Enrico Caruso earlier in the decade. Lanza, who as Alfredo Cocozza had been a football star and powerful weightlifter at Southern High School, won great acclaim for his starring role in The Great Caruso in 1951.
Excerpted from Bandstandland © 2016 Larry Lehmer
 Your Happiest Years, p. 136.
 Your Happiest Years, pp. 126-127.