But this wasn't the Bandstand that was so popular in Philadelphia. NBC's Bandstand originated in Studio 6A in Rockefeller Center in New York City, featured big band-era music and aired weekday mornings on radio stations from coast to coast.
Veteran announcer Bert Parks, whose previous radio assignments included national hit shows Camel Caravan and Stop the Music!, was saddled with hosting duties for this dud of a show that lasted less than a year.
Even Parks knew he was riding a loser. In a candid on-air moment, he offered a rhetorical summation of his plight when he asked, "Did you ever get the feeling the whole business is sliding into a lake?"
While it's easy in hindsight to celebrate the phenomenally successful run of American Bandstand under Dick Clark, it may not be as obvious that the show could have just as easily slid "into a lake" when Clark took the helm around the same time as Parks' dismal experience.
For one thing, WFIL-TV's Bandstand was not that special. Although wildly popular as a local show, there were similarly popular TV dance shows in other cities in 1956, like Ted Steele's Dance Time on WOR-TV in New York City or Dewey Phillips' Pop Shop on Memphis' WHBQ-TV.
And the music played on Bandstand in 1956 was better suited to the Big Band era than the Rock & Roll era, which was just beginning. Although Bandstand picked Elvis Presley as top male vocalist for 1956, Elvis didn't make a personal appearance in Philadelphia until 1957 and never appeared on Bandstand. Patti Page - Bandstand's top female vocalist for 1956 - was more typical of the kind of singer you were likely to hear on Bandstand in the mid-1950s.
You were more likely to see Don Cherry, Sunny Gale or the Four Aces pop into the Bandstand studio than Elvis, Fats Domino or Bill Haley & His Comets in 1956. As WFIL disc jockey Jerry Ross later said, Dick Clark "didn't know Chuck Berry from a huckleberry."
Of course, Clark did better than keeping Bandstand from sliding onto the trash heap of teen dance shows - he managed to take it national on ABC. For that, he owes a great debt to Al Jarvis (pictured).
Jarvis was a popular Los Angeles disc jockey in the 1940s who is largely credited with being the first person to spin records for a dancing audience on television. His Let's Dance program on KLAC-TV in 1947 was also the first to offer lip-synching guest singers and a rate-a-record segment.
ABC noticed and planned to take the show to a national audience but the network's Southern affiliates insisted on only white performers. Jarvis refused and ABC backed out. Had Jarvis' show proved successful, Clark may have never had the opportunity to get Bandstand on the national stage.
Did you know? Actor Bruce Dern was a 20-year-old half-miler at Penn who drove a Breyer's ice cream truck part-time when Dick Clark succeeded Bob Horn as host of Bandstand in 1956. By 1957, however, Dern had quit the track team when his coach insisted he shave his Elvis-style sideburns. Dern, who claimed he needed the 'burns for his drama class, picked the class over track. Good choice.
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.
Other recent posts by Larry Lehmer: George Armstrong Custer wanted to make a name for himself. Crazy Horse wanted to protect his people. Both died while pursuing their goals. Check out their story at Before Their Time.