For most of the 1960s, Len Brown held what would be a dream job for many men around his age - writing copy for baseball cards distributed by Topps Gum Company, the biggest hobby card company in the world at the time.
Working at Brooklyn-based Topps seemed inevitable for Brooklyn native Brown, who was befriended by a Topps executive when he was just 14. But it wasn't baseball that was foremost on his mind when he punched into his first day of work in 1959.
Stan Hart of Topps' development department grabbed Brown and immediately started quizzing him:. What do you know about this singer Fabian? Topps, which had registered a big success with a series of Elvis Presley trading cards in 1956, was considering a similar offering featuring Fabian. Evidently Brown's opinion proved constructive since Topps followed with a 55-card set later that year.
While highly graded single cards from the 66-card Presley set have sold for more than $2,000 in recent years, complete Fabian sets can be found for $35-75 on online auction sites.
Quotable. One of American Bandstand's biggest critics was Mitch Miller, the most powerful a & r man in the music business in the early 1950s. Miller never passed on an opportunity to take a shot at rock & roll, which was akin to devil worship in the eyes of many of his contemporaries.
“If anything is wrong with rock-‘n’-roll, it is that it makes a virtue out of monotony,” Miller said as the public debate about payola heated up in the late 1950s.
Fats Domino biographer Rick Coleman doesn't exactly disagree when he paints Dick Clark as a lemons-to-lemonade kind of guy in his book, Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’ Roll:
“Clark captured America’s young like an ice cream man, feeding them mostly soft serve vanilla with sprinkles of rock ‘n’ roll.”
The last word. Disc jockey Alan Freed to columnist Earl Wilson shortly after being fired from New York's WABC in 1959: “I’ve never taken a bribe. … Somebody said to me once, ‘If somebody sent you a Cadillac, would you send it back. I said, ‘It depends on the color’.”
Author Larry Lehmer is writing a book about the Philadelphia years of American Bandstand. The book is called Bandstandland. It has lots of details about the show you've never read before. If you have any stories about American Bandstand or Dick Clark that you'd like to share in the book, contact Larry.