Dick Clark Biography: From 'American Bandstand' to 'Rockin' Eve'

Richard Wagstaff Clark was born November 30th, 1929 and raised in Mount Vernon, New York, where he nurtured a love of broadcasting. Early radio and TV jobs soon led to his big break: in 1956 he took over as the sole host of "Bandstand." Pretty soon, the show was renamed "American Bandstand" when it went national, and became a sensation. Clark was credited with shaping music trends and the early years of television. He parlayed that success into a success business career behind-the-scenes, and added countless production credits along the way. Clark became the face of New Year’s with his "Rockin' Eve" specials, and goes does in history as "America’s Oldest Teenager." In this video, WatchMojo.com learns more about the life and career of Dick Clark.
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Biography of Dick Clark


He was America’s Oldest Teenager. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be learning more about the life and career of Dick Clark.

Early Years


Richard Wagstaff Clark was born November 30th, 1929 and raised in Mount Vernon, New York. He built on his childhood love of broadcasting in 1945 when he joined a local radio station. That led to a TV job, and he soon began his rise to stardom.

“Bandstand”


With a business degree from Syracuse University, he moved to Pennsylvania in 1952 and got his big break: Clark became the stand-in host on “Bandstand,” and by 1956 he was sole face of the program.

“Bandstand” Goes National


Clark’s hard work paid off when ABC picked up the show for broadcast to the entire nation. On August 5th, 1957, “American Bandstand” debuted and became the soundtrack of a generation.

“American Bandstand”


Musical performances by popular artists, fresh-faced teen dancers and even the Rate-a-Record segment were audience favorites, and bridged the gap between traditional values and rebellious rock and roll. Clark himself developed iconic status, and was credited with shaping early television and influencing popular music.

Payola Scandal


This influence came into question during the 1950s when he was involved in the payola scandal. Clark’s shares in various music businesses were seen as a conflict of interest because of his impact on music trends. Before charges of wrongdoing were laid during the U.S. Senate investigation, he sold his shares and continued his thriving career on “Bandstand” and the short-lived “Dick Clark Show.”

Integration of “American Bandstand”


Soon, “American Bandstand” made history by allowing African-American teenagers to appear alongside white dancers. In 1963, the show went from a weekday to a weekly production, where it remained a Saturday afternoon staple until its end in 1989. “Bandstand” also moved from Philly to Hollywood, where Clark’s TV producing career exploded.

“New Year’s Rockin’ Eve”


In 1972, he became the face of New Year’s by producing and hosting “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.” For decades, Clark counted America down to midnight live from Times Square.

Game Shows


Clark then joined “The $10,000 Pyramid” in March 1973. That game show franchise eventually won Clark three Emmy awards for his work as host.

Production Efforts


1973 was a busy year: Clark debuted the American Music Awards as a challenger to the Grammys, and “Soul Unlimited” as a competitor to “Soul Train,” though that effort was short-lived. Soon, Dick Clark Productions took over the Golden Globes ceremonies.

The 1980s


By 1984, he partnered with Ed McMahon to produce and co-host the long-running “TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes.” In addition, his production company brought more specials and series to television, which helped Clark become one of the wealthiest men in the biz. He was also considered a pioneer in syndicated radio, with his shows playing across the country.

The 1990s


Into the 1990s, he added more game shows to his own résumé. He was inducted into both the Television and the Rock and Roll Halls of Fame in 1993, and the following year he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Daytime Emmys.

The Millennium


Clark’s accomplishments continued into the new millennium – which he helped kick off from Times Square. In 2001, he tackled co-hosting duties on “The Other Half.” The next year, he produced “American Dreams” about a pair of girls during the “American Bandstand” era, and sold Dick Clark Productions for $140 million.

Declining Health


But Clark’s health soon declined. In early 2004, he announced he had type-2 diabetes, and by year’s end he suffered a stroke that left him unable to undertake his New Year’s Eve duties for the first time since 1972.

Back on TV


He returned to TV on December 31st, 2005, with Ryan Seacrest as co-host and co-producer. Though his deteriorating health was obvious, his appearance was widely considered inspirational. The television industry soon bestowed numerous awards and honors on this legend. Clark himself continued ringing us into the New Year until 2012.

Death


However, on April 18th that year, he suffered a massive heart attack and died. His influence was subsequently celebrated by those who admired him.

Legacy


A TV mainstay, a brilliant producer, and a savvy businessman, Dick Clark is remembered as a pop culture institution. His eternal youth, work ethic and ability to instinctively understand the public kept him relevant for over five decades. “For now, Dick Clark...so long.”
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