On This Day: ‘American Bandstand’ Hosted by Dick Clark Makes National Debut in 1957

by Sean Griffin

American Bandstand hosted by Dick Clark made its national debut on this day, August 5, 1957.

The landmark program started off as a gamble. The show started as a local Philadelphia hit called Bandstand. It had ran since 1952, and since 1956, it had been fronted by an ambitious young host named Dick Clark.

Famously, Clark got to host the program after the show’s original host Bob Horn got canned after a drunk driving arrest. Clark, once taking the reins, lobbied for a wider audience for the show. On August 5, American Bandstand was broadcast across 67 ABC-affiliate stations across the country.

Fans gravitated toward Clark’s easy on-air persona and his undeniable eye for talent and trends.

Many of the biggest acts of the classic rock, across multiple genres, appeared on the program during its run. These include stars like Michael Jackson, Madonna, and The Beach Boys.

Clark “transformed himself and a local Philadelphia television program into two of the most culturally significant forces of the early rock-and-roll era,” notes History.com. 

According to IMDB, the show’s debut episode featured Billy Williams performing “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself A Letter.” Additionally, The Chordettes sang “Just Between You and Me” on the national debut episode, according to IMDB. 

The show notably showcased an astonishing list of rising-star acts. They came from the R&B, soul and burgeoning rock ‘n’ roll genres.

“From the outset he introduced the country to a parade of future Hall of Famers,” reported Rolling Stone upon Clark’s death in 2012. “Including Johnny Cash, Eddie Cochran, Sam Cooke, the Drifters, Buddy Holly and Jackie Wilson.

One Rolling Stone account claims that two-thirds of the members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame made their national debut on American Bandstand.

‘American Bandstand’ and Dick Clark’s Impact

Not only did the show launch the careers of some of the most iconic American performers. It also launched many nationwide dance crazes, including the Watusi, the Stroll and the Twist. The song “The Twist” was named the biggest chart hit of all time by Billboard in 2018. 

American Bandstand became such an immediate national success that ABC in October moved the show from its 3:30 after-school time slot targeting teenagers to a prime-time slot with wider audience potential. The program reached 20 million viewers per episode.

Then, Clark formed Dick Clark Productions in 1957. He produced and hosted the first “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” in 1972. Next, in 1974, Clark created the American Music Awards to compete with the Grammy Awards.

However, Clark and American Bandstand ended their network run in 1987. He had hosted for thirty years on one of the most influential programs in entertainment history. Moreover, because of Clark’s role in establishing so many legendary artists, Clark himself was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. 

“He curated the soundtrack of the American teenager’s life,” the Rock Hall states. “As the charismatic host of ‘American Bandstand,’ Dick Clark gave rock bands national exposure, stood up against censorship and spread the gospel of rock and roll.”