On This Day: Dick Clark Makes First-Ever Appearance on ‘American Bandstand’ in 1956

by Suzanne Halliburton
Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Dick Clark, who earned the nickname “America’s oldest teenager,” introduced himself on American Bandstand 65 years ago, today.

Back then, Clark was a hip 26 and the perfect host to introduce the show’s musical acts, while allowing the teenagers to dance and rate the records.

The show was a regional one, filmed at the WFL studio in Philadelphia. Clark worked as a DJ at the radio affiliate. When the first host found himself in some legal trouble, Dick Clark took over as host. And the rest, as they say, is history. Clark, for the rest of his life, always was known as the American Bandstand host, even when he died in 2012 at the age of 82.

The DoYouRemember Instagram account commemorated the day, Friday, with a photo of Dick Clark. It captioned the snap: “Dick Clark made his first appearance on American Bandstand on this day in 1956! “

Hosting the show was an intense job for anyone. American Bandstand went live five days a week for three hours a day. That’s a lot of singing and dancing.

And about the singing part. Only Jerry Lee Lewis actually sang. The rest of the musical acts lip-synched their own music. That was a Dick Clark edict. He always said he wanted the teenagers at home to hear the actual studio recording they wanted to buy. Clark thought that live performances didn’t sound the same.

With a year under his belt, Dick Clark took American Bandstand to America in 1957.

Dick Clark Established Strict Rules for Dancers

You could make the case that the dancers were the true stars of the show. They also rated the record of the day. Dick Clark wanted the dancers to be very clean-cut. According to the book  Bandstand Diaries: The Philadelphia Years 1956 to 1963, Clark enforced strict dress codes. Girls could wear only dresses or skirts. Boys wore a suit or sport coat, with a tie. You couldn’t smoke or chew gum.

None of the dancers were paid. They often waited in line for hours outside the studio to get a chance to dance on the show. It was that big of a deal. If Clark found out a dancer was making money off the show, he’d fire that dancer.

ABC scheduled the show for afternoons, starting at 3:30. Girls in middle school or high school represented its core audience. They’d see fad dances like the twist or watusi performed on the show. Then those same girls would be trying the moves at home. And, of course, they’d buy the music they heard on the show.

In 1964, Dick Clark moved the show from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. And the show also moved to Saturdays. He moved the show to syndication in 1987 and served as its host for two more years.

Dick Clark always got a year older, but he never seemed to age. He probably had American Bandstand to thank for that.