Dick Clark was a 26-year-old Philadelphia radio disc jockey when he took over the local television dance show Bandstand in 1956. He convinced the ABC network to take the show – which featured teens dancing to the hits of the day — national the following year, re-christening the show American Bandstand. Launching in January 1957, the show became a hit, and a significant force in expanding the popularity and influence of Rock and Roll in the music’s early years. As the host of the show for 33 years, Clark introduced to the world an endless number of musical stars, including Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, James Brown, Sam Cooke, Johnny Cash, Ike and Tina Turner, Simon & Garfunkel, the Doors, the Mamas and the Papas, Stevie Wonder, Talking Heads and on and on.
As host of the Bandstand, Clark's youthful good looks and clean-cut, likeable demeanor appealed to teens without alienating their parents. As the decades rolled by, he barely seemed to age, earning him the nickname 'America's Oldest Teenager." Clark once summed up his job with this simple phrase: "We played a record, and the kids danced." While they did it, many watched: airing every weekday afternoon, the show was watched by an estimated 20 million viewers, and airtime on the show became heavily coveted by artists and record labels.
Clark was a pioneer in showcasing black performers at a time when television was largely promoting only white acts, and he significantly integrated the dance floor as well.
An astute businessman, Clark parlayed his success on Bandstand into a television empire; his Dick Clark Productions produced other music shows, game shows, award shows, kids shows, comedy specials, movies and more. He went on to host the game show Pyramid and the annual Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, led live from New York’s Times Square. He hosted the show annually until his speech was affected by a stroke in 2004; he continued making appearances up until 2012, the year he died of a heart attack.