Besides being neighbors and, in some cases, classmates, another thing these singers had in common was that they were all minors. As such, they came under the protection of the Orphans' Court.
Orphans' Courts were set up in each Philadelphia county by the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776. The courts weren't established for orphans as the term is commonly used - children without living parents - but were created to protect "the best interests of those persons and entities" who had not yet reached the age of majority.
So, under Pennsylvania law, each of these singers was appointed a guardian and had to petition the court in order to tap into their assets.
For instance, Fabian had to ask the court for $7,000 in 1960 to build a studio in the basement of his parents' home in Haddonfield, N.J., a house his parents had bought two years earlier with an advance from Fabian's estate.
Rydell and Checker went to court to get money for new cars. While Rydell had little trouble in getting $4,534 to buy a 1961 Pontiac, Checker had to pull a few strings to get what he wanted. Checker's guardian wanted him to get a Pontiac Bonneville sports coupe, but Checker had his eyes on a new Ford Thunderbird. The judge favored the guardian's position since the Pontiac was $530 cheaper, but relented when Checker's managers offered to pay the difference out of their own pockets.
A few months later, Checker was back in court, trying to divert some of his earnings to his parents. But Judge Harold O. Saylor denied the request, saying that Checker's parents - Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Evans - earned enough from their jobs to live comfortably. At the time, Raymond Evans was earning $75 a week as a longshoreman and his wife pulled down $35 a week as a seamstress. Checker was earning as much as $2,000 for each appearance.
Judge Saylor did rule, however, that Checker was entitled to a $200 a week clothing allowance after Checker’s managers insisted he ruined his clothes while working up a sweat while dancing.
About that photo. The picture at the top of this post is an ad from the May 1, 1961, issue of Billboard for Bob Heller's Flying Record Distributing Company. Heller was a well-known Philadelphia promotion man who once worked for Chips Distributing, which was once partially owned by Dick Clark. In an era where promotion men spent long days on the road, delivering records to small radio stations from the trunk of their cars, it looks as if Heller found a different way to get the job done. The plane, a 1960 Piper, is still in the air and is registered to an owner in Lamar, Colo.
Getting an appointment to see Dick Clark was notoriously difficult, especially for people he didn't know. This funny Saturday Night Live skit is probably not far off the mark:
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.