In July of 1957, when I was four years old, Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue" was released as a single on Coral Records. I am not sure how old I was when I actually first heard the song on the radio, but I do remember a couple of years later--on May 15, 1959, although thanks to Google and the Net I know the date with certainty--seeing Dave Baby Cortez play his hit tune "The Happy Organ" on Dick Clark's American Bandstand.
That means I was six years old, not to be seven until late that October. But, clearly, music, and rock'n'roll, were already in my young bones.
Bandstand became a daily staple, for during the week Dick Clark and his show were broadcast from Philadelphia, and on Saturday, from New York.
Since I loved music as much as baseball--in fact Holly and "Peggy Sue" got into my bloodstream before baseball by about a year--suddenly Bandstand was a regimen for my brother Peter and me.
That is where we first saw Little Eva (who sang "The Locomotion," written by Carole King) and Simon and Garfunkle. We saw Bobby Rydell and Bobby Darin and Fabian and the Four Seasons. The Castaways. The Supremes (which is what they were before the were Diana Ross and...) and Marvin Gaye and The Miracles and the wonderful Motown groups.
In fact though it never occurred to me then, music and Clark, and his show had as much a part in the integration of the Boomer generation as did Jackie Robinson, for there were always African American teens dancing in the studio and sitting in the audience when Clark would introduce bands and singers. And, they also participated in Clark's now iconic, "Rate a Record."
Now, that last part might be lost on you, but if you have ever heard anyone comment on a home run, for example, saying, "I give it an 87," that is a direct reference to "Rate a Record," just as surely as "I like the words, but you cannot dance to it" is.
Bandstand was a daily staple, just like The Ed Sullivan Show was a Sunday one: one worth sitting through dancing bears and jugglers and opera singers to watch The Stones or comedians we liked.
But, in 1965, Clark added another afternoon show called "Where the Action is."
So, Peter and I watched that one every day after school too. "Action" was cooler and newer and had hipper acts, like The Byrds and The Kinks and especially Del Shannon, who sang "Runaway," which would remain an all-time favorite for years.
Of course by the late 60's Peter and I were grown up, living in the Bay Area, not much interested in watching much on TV any more. And, Bandstand sort of fell by the wayside for us, much like Casey Kasem had on the radio (the latter being replaced by free form FM radio, pioneered in San Francisco at KMPX, which then became KSAN).
By that time, too, I was old enough to go to concerts, and again by that time, the idea of a rock concert had changed a lot, largely thanks to Bill Graham, although Graham took his original cue from Clark and others who had indeed promoted tours of the groups who performed on their shows.
So, I lost as much touch with Bandstand as I did with Ed Sullivan and Where the Action is and another later comer to the party, Lloyd Thaxton.
I have to admit I never watched Clark's year-end Times Square broadcasts, though I never minded his doing them, for thinking of Clark always brought me back to Dave Baby Cortez, and then the mental tape that ran from there.
And, that was good.
As we all know, Clark passed away on Wednesday, which interestingly is my brother Peter's birthday.
As with so many folks, all I can do is thank Dick Clark for doing what he did. For, that allowed me to actually see many of the idols of my youth, something I probably could not have imagined, along with playing the music of my youth that I loved so much.
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While I am at it, on Thursday, Band drummer Levon Helm passed away, and again, it is impossible to stress the influence and joy the great percussionist and singer had.
The Band were simply that: THE BAND.
They played, and when we talk about roots music, their merger of folk and blues and rock and bluegrass and country was arguably the best synthesis of the genre.
Any musician will tell you a drummer is everything in a band, for a steady beat takes care of so many things, and Levon was timely and smooth, and had a great voice. He also followed up his time with The Band his ever changing ensemble The Midnight Ramble.
As I have written many times, one of my great regrets in life was deciding not to attend The Last Waltz, the Thanksgiving final performance of The Band that became a Martin Scorcese film of the same name.
So much wonderful music Clark and Helm provided. All I can do is thank them in awe.