Thursday, April 29, 2010
Forgotten Music, AMERICAN BANDSTAND
I am going to suggest here that the first reality show premiered back in the late fifties and was called American Bandstand. I came to the show a few years later. Probably around 1960-61. At that time, American Bandstand was on the air for ninety minutes a day and a national show. What made it special for me was that it took place in Philadelphia (my hometown) and the possibility of being on the show was never far from my mind.
Bandstand began as a local program in Philadelphia on October 7, 1952. Back then it was hosted by Bob Horn and was called Bob Horn's Bandstand. In July of 1956, the show got a new host 26 year old, Dick Clark. ABC picked the show up, and it was renamed American Bandstand.
Dick Clark, 26 years old at the time, was conservative in dress and manner (as were the students who appeared on the show every day; nice dresses required for the girls; suits and ties for the boys). 'American Bandstand' soon became a major stop for such acts as Jerry Lee, and became a showcase for new talent, including Frankie Avalon, Bobby Darin, Connie Francis, Fabian and others. (Two of the biggest hitmakers during the late 50’s never appeared on "Bandstand"--Elvis Presley didn’t need the show; Rick Nelson was already a TV presence on his family’s sitcom 'The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet'.) Another popular feature was Rate A Record, with teens giving the latest 45 RPM song a score ranging from 35 to 98. (Not that the teens were always perceptive. In 1963, Clark played a song that was a hit in Europe but was going nowhere in the US at the time. Without exception, the 'Rate A Record' panel gave mediocre scores to She Loves You by The Beatles.) (From an online source)
Today, it may seem like the reason kids watched the show was to be introduced to new songs and to see/hear favorite singers/groups. But the primary reason, my friends and I watched the show was to follow the romances of the couples who were regularly on the show. To see who Carmen was dancing with. To see what kind of dance someone had just invented and to learn it. To see if Dick Clark let his disdain for most of the kids show. To see if someone was dancing closer than the producers allowed. It was all about the people, the personalities.
Not that we didn’t enjoy Frankie Avalon or Fabian or Connie Francis. But their performances were fairly static compare to what came later on MTV, plus they generally lip-synched their songs. It is said that B.B. King was the only performer not to mime his song.
Musicians to make their TV debut on American Bandstand include Linda Ronstadt, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Cyndi Lauper. You can see a lot of stuff about American Bandstand online. As you might expect. Just don't tell me that Arlene and Kenny are not still an item.
Check out the other memories of forgotten music at Scott D. Parker's blog.