TV Boomer Rock n Roll Birth: American Bandstand Inside Story

Posted on April 21st, 2017 in 1950s,1960s,Celebrities,Music,Pop Culture,Television by Terry Hamburg

 


“Kids in Bristol are sharp as a pistol, when they do the Bristol Stomp!”

“Everybody’s doin’ a brand new dance now, come on baby, do the Locomotion!”

 

Baby boomers learned the coolest moves watching American Bandstand.

But there’s trouble in television paradise. “Gentlemen, our dance show host is cooling his heels in a drunk tank and the tabloids are crawling all over it.”

Local television personality Bob Horn got nabbed at the height of his station’s anti-DUI campaign. Jittery execs turned to a wholesome lad scarcely older than the baby boomer boppers he’d be leading. Plucked from obscurity, Dick Clark rock and rolled “American Bandstand” from Philly to national television in 1957.

 

It’s more than the first television rock and roll party. It’s a baby boomer coming-of-age pageant. A teen soap opera. Will Justine and Bob break up? Are Bunny and Eddie an item? One day, they’re anonymous kids from neighborhood high schools—the next, instant celebrities splashed on magazine covers across the country, models for teenage fashion and passion. It was the beginning of the boomer pop culture juggernaut.

 

“American Bandstand” debuted full throttle with a “Whole Lot of Shaking Going On” by “The Killer,” wild man Jerry Lee Lewis, and the pace never slowed. Move over Lawrence Welk and Liberace. The new Pied Piper of music paraded a stream of gyrating young rebels delivering “jungle beat” rhythms and “vile” lyrics into America’s prim and proper living rooms. Realizing that boomer parents would probably flip channels as fast as their lids, Dick Clark set about to tame the rock n’ roll express. The rules:

√ Boys, wear coats and tie. Get frequent haircuts. Your host will set the example.

√ Girls, no provocative dress, knees must be covered, and no jeans.

√ Keep cigarettes and gum chewing out of the studio.

√ No “French kissing” or lewd touching.

Years later, Clark told a reporter that “the thinking behind it was if we looked presentable, ‘normal,’ the way they think we ought to look, they’ll leave us alone.” It worked.

 

Trivia Factoids

Uh-oh. Snooping reporters discovered that third wife of Jerry Lee Lewis was his 13-year-old second cousin. “The Killer” immediately became persona non grata on “American Bandstand.”

When the Beatles appeared for the first time on American Bandstand (via “video film”), the nation watched the in-house Philly boomer kids laugh out loud at the Fab Four’s mop-top hairstyles. No one was laughing a year later. The fad became a boomer wildfire.

In an era where black identities of music stars were downplayed, Dick Clark said: “It was just too painfully obvious that rock ‘n’ roll—and by extension “Bandstand”—owed its very existence to black people, their culture, their music. It would have been ridiculous, embarrassing, not to integrate the show.”

Bob Horn’s woes didn’t end with the drunk driving arrest. Later, he was accused of four statutory rapes that ended in hung juries. On indictment day, a tipsy Horn caused a driving accident injuring five people.

 

Baby Boomer Trivia Questions

 

 

Clean-cut young singers in the 1950s starred in movies, too. One baby boomer was so clean-cut, he refused to kiss a leading lady on screen because she was married in real life.

Frankie Avalon
Pat Boone
Tab Hunter
Ricky Nelson

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is located in:

San Francisco
Memphis
Cleveland
New York City

What’s the next line of this 1950s hit?

Take out the paper and the trash
Or you don’t get no spending cash
And tell your gangster friends outside
That you ain’t time to take a ride…

 

Answers at end of post

 

A few of first season live guests on American Bandstand

 

Answers to Baby Boomer Trivia Questions

 

Handsome and devoutly religious Pat Boone refused to give an on-screen movie kiss to his love interest Shirley Jones in April Love because she was a married woman.

Why, you may ask, put the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in “no-wheresville” Cleveland, Ohio. Because it was there that the man who coined the term “rock n’ roll” had the first big radio show devoted to the music. Alan Freed also organized what is regarded as the first rock n’ roll concert in the Cleveland Arena in 1952, which drew enormous crowds, near riots, and plenty of publicity.

The next line:

Take out the paper and the trash
Or you don’t get no spending cash
And tell your gangster friends outside
That you ain’t time to take a ride
Yakety, Yak, don’t talk back.


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