The first network show dedicated exclusively to rock and roll, American Bandstand started as a local show in Philadelphia in 1952 under the name Bandstand. Bob Horn hosted on a set that looked like a record store, showing film clips of musicians as a live audience of teenagers danced to the latest tunes.
In 1956, local DJ Dick Clark took over as host. The following year, the show was picked up by 67 ABC affiliates, some for the full 90 minutes and others for just 60 or 30 minutes. The show was broadcast weekday afternoons and was given a primetime slot for 13 weeks in the fall of 1957. Clark preferred a simple set of bleachers and a podium over the original record store concept.
Aside from the kids dancing, Clark would introduce guests who lip-synced to their own songs and would play “Rate a Record” with a few teens chosen from the audience, giving the kids an opportunity to pass judgement on the latest single. Other features on the show included a weekly top ten and a yearly dance contest.
Frequent guest artists included Frankie Avalon, Chubby Checker, and Fabian. Oddly, neither Elvis Presley nor The Beatles appeared on the show.
The show was moved to Saturday afternoons in 1963. The following spring, the show move to Los Angeles, where Clark established Dick Clark Productions to promote concerts and develop the TV shows Where the Action Is and It’s Happening (later titled Happening ’68).
Clark and ABC parted ways in 1987 when the network wanted the show cut to 30 minutes. Wanting to keep the 60-minute format, Clark took American Bandstand to syndication for a year and a half, then moved the show to the USA network, where he handed over the hosting reins to 26-year-old David Hirsch.
The show lasted for another 26 weeks, drawing to a close one of the most successful and best loved programs ever to light up the small screen. It was hip, you could dance to it, and for over 35 years, American Bandstand proved that rock and roll was, indeed, here to stay.
USA / ABC – Dick Clark Productions / Broadcast 5 August 1957 – 5 September 1987 (ABC) and 1987-1989 (syndicated) and 8 April – 7 October 1989 (USA)
Bob Horn as Host (1952-56)
Dick Clark as Host (1957-87)
David Hirsch as Host (1987-89)