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Dick Clark Memories From An Old Philly Boy

With the passing this week of that American Icon, Dick Clark, everyone has been sharing their memories of him and his many contributions to American music and culture through the past half-century. Here are mine:

David Welker, Getty Images

I grew up in Philly back in the 50′s when fate or good luck or whatever you want to call it thrust Dick Clark into the after-school TV spotlight. I was just a little boy during the Eisenhower Administration. I had an older, teenage sister, Ann. When Bandstand suddenly appeared on TV, it very quickly became a big deal. My sister Ann thought so too, because she and her partner in crime, a friend named Dorothy, conspired, against my mom’s better judgment, to travel out to 45th and Market Streets in Philly to get on the show. Because it was cool.

I am sure that if you counted everyone who ever claimed they danced on Bandstand, you could probably fill a large football stadium. I do not know about the rest of them, but I do know my sister was there. No, she wasn’t a regular on the show with a fan club or anything like that.

But she did go all the way out to the channel six studios after school, more than once. And sometimes she came home disappointed because she did not get in. (After all, everyone wanted to be on Bandstand with Dick Clark.)

And even though I was just a kid, I can remember staring endlessly at our little TV screen when Bandstand was on, after school, straining to see Ann. And we did! Wow! My sister on Bandstand! (It did not become American Bandstand until Dick and channel six put the show on the ABC network).

Then a year or two later, probably around 1959 or 60 or so, another sister, Mary Ann, moved to Maple Shade in South Jersey. I remember her Parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, was brand new then, and one of those summers, they threw a big summer carnival in the parking lot of the Church to help raise money for the new parish.

My sister was a member of the parish, so we all came over from Philly for the carnival, probably sometime in July. One of the attractions was…you guessed it…Dick Clark from channel six in Philadelphia. He came and played some records for the teenagers.

I was too young to care about rock n’ roll or Elvis or girls or anything like that. But I remember going to that OLPH carnival and my family pointing and saying, “see him, Joey? that’s Dick Clark from Bandstand. And sure enough, that smooth, ultra-cool voice came wafting out of the church carnival loudspeakers.

A big deal for a little parish and a little town like Maple Shade.

Did it make an impression on me to pursue a career in broadcasting? I don’t know.

My sister Ann never went into show biz. But she did dance on Dick Clark’s Bandstand.

 

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