Dick Clark, the music industry maverick, longtime TV host and powerhouse producer who changed the way we listened to pop music with "American Bandstand," and whose trademark "Rockin' Eve" became a fixture of New Year's celebrations, died today at the age of 82.
Clark's agent Paul Shefrin said in statement that the veteran host died this morning following a "massive heart attack."
Born in Mount Vernon, N.Y., on Nov. 30, 1929, Richard Wagstaff Clark began his lifelong career in show business began before he was even out of high school. He started working in the mailroom of WRUN, a radio station in upstate New York run by his father and uncle. It wasn't long before the teenager was on the air, filling in for the weatherman and the announcer.
Clark pursued his passion at Syracuse University, working as a disc jockey at the student-run radio station while studying for his degree in business. After graduating in 1951, Clark went back to his family's radio station, but within a year, a bigger city and bigger shows were calling.
Clark landed a gig as a DJ at WFIL in Philadelphia in 1952, spinning records for a show he called "Dick Clark's Caravan of Music." There he broke into the big time, hosting Bandstand, an afternoon dance show for teenagers.
Within five years, the whole country was watching. ABC took the show national, and "American Bandstand" was born.
Blazing a New Trail in Pop Music
"American Bandstand's" formula was simple. Clean-cut boys and girls danced to the hottest hits and the newest singles. In between, Clark chatted with the teens, who helped "rate-a-record," turning songs into sensations. Everyone showed up on "American Bandstand," from Elvis Presley to Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry to Chubby Checker.
When Dick Clark moved to Hollywood in 1963, "American Bandstand" moved with him. He started Dick Clark Productions, and began cranking out one hit show after another; his name became synonymous with everything from the $25,000 "Pyramid" to "TV's Bloopers & Practical Jokes" to the "American Music Awards." In 1972, Dick Clark became synonymous with one of the biggest nights of the year.
New Year's Rockin' Eve
"Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" on ABC became a Dec. 31 tradition, with Clark hosting the festivities for more than three decades, introducing the entertainment acts and, of course, counting down to midnight as the ball dropped in New York's Times Square.
But the traditional celebration saw a temporary stop in 2004, when Clark suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and struggling to speak. Regis Philbin stepped in. But by the next New Year's Eve, Dick Clark was back, his speech still impaired. In halting words, he told the audience, "I had to teach myself how to walk and talk again. It's been a long, hard fight. My speech is not perfect but I'm getting there."
But that didn't stop him: he returned each year, and recently he was joined by Ryan Seacrest.