But would they get the chance? What kind of music would this new guy play?
That was the day Dick Clark took over Bandstand from Bob Horn. When Horn was at the helm, the kids knew they could count on a good mix of jitterbug and slow dance tunes. But Clark? No one in the Bandstand crowd listened to his radio show, stuffed with tunes from their parents' era.
Clark was as uncertain about what he was about to play as were the young dancers. As fellow WFIL disc jockey Jerry Ross famously said of Clark, "He didn't know Chuck Berry from a huckleberry."
In fairness, many Americans didn't know what to think of the music that was emerging in 1956. Helen Bolstad took dead aim at the music that year, gathering material for an article simply entitled "Rock 'n' Roll" that appeared in the September 1956 issue of TV Radio Mirror magazine. What Bolstad wrote was hardly good news for fans of the music:
“Dr. Francis J. Braceland, psychiatrist-in-charge of the city's [Hartford, Conn.] Institute of Family Living, termed rock 'n' roll “a communicable disease” and castigated it as “a cannibalistic and tribalistic form of music . . . which appeals to adolescent rebellion and insecurity.”
Even people closer to the music proved to be harsh critics:
Veteran disc jockey Fred Robbins said: “Too many disc jockeys are failing to live up to the importance of their jobs.” He blamed them for a great part of “the rock 'n' roll scourge,” calling it “musical junk ... a mere perversion of rhythm-and-blues.”
Leonard Feather — who conducted the quiz, Platterbrains, on ABC Radio, and whose Encyclopedia Year Book of Jazz had been recently released— stated: “Rock 'n' roll bears the same relationship to jazz that wrestling does to boxing. Jazz is an art form. Rock 'n' roll is a phony. It appeals to morons of all ages, but particularly to young morons. It is unfortunate that so many good musicians must play out of tune to make a living.”
Did you know? Eddie Fisher made his first appearance in his old hometown on Jan. 28, 1960, when he lip-synced to Scent of Mystery on American Bandstand. Dick Clark proclaimed the entire program a “Salute to Eddie Fisher.”
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.