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Saying goodbye to the “world’s oldest teenager”, Dick Clark

Dick Clark backstage during the Grammy Awards ...

Dick Clark backstage during the Grammy Awards telecast 2/21/90 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although we all knew Dick Clark has been sick since 2004, it doesn’t make his death any less surprising when you first hear the news.

Richard Wagstaff Clark was born on 30 November 1929 in Mount Vernon, New York to Sales Manager in radio. His older brother, Bradley, who he idolized died in World War II. As a way of dealing with the loss of his only brother, Clark found solace in radio to ease his loneliness. He began working at his uncle and father’s radio station during high school and later ventured out on his own while at university working at a country music station.

He completed his degree in Business at Syracuse University and became neighbours with Ed McMahon while acting as a disc jokey at WFIL in Drexelbrook Community, Philadelphia.

Clark was 27 years old on the pivotal day of August 5, 1957. It marked the end of Bob Horn’s Bandstand and ABC’s re-branding, American Bandstand. It also marks Clark’s first day on the show interviewing Elvis Presley. The show would run until 1987 and be responsible for launching many careers including Buddy Holly and Madonna. This 30 year run would inspire many spin offs around the world.  A success that is extremely rare to duplicate. Canada tried its own version, Electric Circus, which ran for 15 years between 1988 and 2003 on MuchMusic and CityTV.

Clark was also known for giving African American artists their due by playing original R & B recordings and not covers performed by Caucasians. His show, The Dick Clark Radio Show, only lasted one year in 1963, but it was one of the earliest attempts at radio syndication. He also might be one of the earliest stars to get over saturation in the public.

During 15 February 1958 to September 10, 1960, Clark hosted the half hour Saturday night program, Dick Clark Show on the radio while also hosting a half hour weekly variety series on television called Dick Clark World of Talent. It only ran between 27 September to 20 December 1959.

The seventies were also a busy time for Clark. He filled in once for Casey Kasem on March 25, 1972 doing the American Top 40. He started the American Music Awards as a competition to the Grammy Awards in 1973 and in the same year created his own version of Soul Train by hosting Soul Unlimited. There was also the short-lived Dick Clark’s Live Wednesday.

He also appears on three major American networks during the eighties. American Bandstand was on ABC, Pyramids was on CBS and TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes was on NBC. The latter ran from 1984-1988. This is also the time when he had his longest running radio show that started on February 14, 1982 – Rock, Roll and Remember, which was a four-hour oldies show named after his 1976 autobiography. The show went on until 2004 when Clark got his stroke.

By the we get to the nineties, we see only one season of The Challengers from 1990-1991 and one season of Scattergories in 1993. After opening several restaurants, theatres, and having a wide success in television and music, we only see Clark from 2001-2003 on The Other Half where he co-hosted a similar show as The View with Mario Lopez, Danny Bonaduce and Dorian Gresent.

Clark was married three times. The first time to Barbara Mallery in 1952-1961. They had one son, Richard. He then married Loreta Martin from 1962-1971 and they have two children, Duane and Cindy. He is now survived by his final wife, Kari Wington, who he married in 1977.

As someone who was born in the late seventies, it is safe to say that I have spent my entire life with Dick Clark in the media somewhere. I remember spending every New Year’s watching his specials and many evenings watching his shows. He will be greatly missed.

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About Amanda Parsons

I'm a screenwriter, freelance journalist and novelist. I'm currently working on writing a feature film and a historical fiction novel that is part memoir.

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