American Bandstand was the most popular of the live music shows. It started as a local program in Philadelphia where it was originally called Bob Horn’s Bandstand. From 1952 until July 1956, Bob Horn was the host until he was fired after a drunk driving conviction and Dick Clark took over.
The ABC network picked up the show in August 1957, changed the name to American Bandstand, and broadcast it nationally. At first, it was bradcast daily, then starting in 1963 it was aired weekly until 1989. During it’s 32 year run, American Bandstand was Rock music’s showcase of good behavior. The dancers were always clean and well dressed, there was no profanity, and performers were on their best behavior.
Shows typically featured the latest hit music, a performance by a popular musician or group, and ratings of songs from the audience, but the biggest attraction was usually the dancers. Each program featured a studio full of teens doing the latest dances. These were all local kids and were unpaid, but they knew all of the latest dances and may have even invented a few on their own. American Bandstand is also noted as being probably the first of it’s kind to show blacks and whites on the same stage, and have mixed seating in the audience.
American Bandstand made Dick Clark a national star but his ties to the music publishing business almost got him in trouble with the US Senate subcommittee investigating payola. A play on American Bandstand could give a new song an immediate boost, and it was noticed that songs from local companies which Clark had investments in were played more often than others. In the end, the Senate didn’t find any illegal activity from Dick Clark, but ABC forced him to sell his outside investments in music publishing.