For virtually all of Dick Clark's on-air, professional television career he was known as "America's oldest teenager." This was almost certainly due to his youthful appearance and his carefully crafted "aw-shucks" persona.
But, to hear Clark tell it, it was also because he created the term.
In more than one interview, Clark claims that when he took over Bandstand from Bob Horn in 1956, "there wasn't any such thing as a teenager. We didn't have a name for them."
That, of course, is preposterous. The term had been around for a while - some sources say as far back as 1921. Perhaps Clark forgot his own duties as an announcer on Paul Whiteman's TV Teen Club program on WFIL-TV in Philadelphia a few years earlier.
Clark was often prone to exaggeration when it came to his role in TV history, such as his outlandish claim that he integrated the dancers on Bandstand from the beginning "because it was the right thing to do."
Thus, it's a rare occasion when the general public gets a glimpse of "the real Dick Clark." But, thanks to former record executive Joe Smith, it's possible. Smith included excerpts of an interview he did with Clark in his 1988 book, Off the Record. The Clark interview is among the 238 hours of interviews with more than 200 people in the music industry that Smith did in the 1980s and donated to the Library of Congress last June. Some of the interviews are expected to be available for on-line streaming later this year.
Here's part of the stunningly candid Clark interview about the early years of Bandstand, as it appeared in Smith's 1988 book:
"I never gave a moment's notice to the impact we were having on people's careers. I was too busy with my own life, trying to figure out how I was going to do the shows and also do 14 record hops a week.
“We made 75 cents a head on the record hops. We used to buy rolls of quarters, take in a dollar from each kid, and then give them a quarter back. The dollars we would stuff into a 45-rpm record box.
“Eddie McAdam, may he rest in peace, worked with me at the time. He used to sweat profusely. Literally, he would perspire all the time. By the end of the night, the sweat would drip off the end of his tie and into the box with all the money, which was coming in hand over fist.
“We’d take the boxes of money and stick them in a spare bedroom. Two or three weeks would go by and then my wife and I would try to straighten out all these crumpled, sweaty one-dollar bills.
“It was a cash business and we kept immaculate books. As a matter of fact, we reported that income. Friends of mine would say, ‘You’re what? There’s no way in the world anyone’s going to know where that money came from.’
“But I was terrified. I was making a killing, racing around trying to get all the money I could. My tentacles went in every direction. I didn’t want to let an opportunity go by.”
Do you have any stories about Bandstand, Dick Clark or growing up in the Philadelphia area during the show's run at WFIL-TV? Please share them in the comments section or e-mail them to me.