Do you remember cliques from your high school days? At Southwest High School in Kansas City, MO, where I grew up, the two main groups were the popular kids–athletes and cheerleaders and the cool kids–and the smart group. I was part of the latter. I was president of my literary society and feature editor of the school newspaper. Sweet and nerdy.
This is why when the faculty sponsor of the school newspaper asked me and my friend Betty to interview Dick Clark, I didn’t even know who he was. I’d heard of American Bandstand but didn’t watch it. For one thing, I didn’t find watching others dance very entertaining. For another, I didn’t dance well at all. Today I realize that’s because of my dyslexia–but I blame everything on my dyslexia.
Undaunted by a total lack of who the man was and what to ask him, Betty and I trotted off to a studio in uptown Kansas City. Oh, Mr. Clark wasn’t going to be there in person. They had an office set up with about twenty phone lines and two students from each high school in the area got to talk on a sort of party line. Way back then, conferences calls hadn’t been invented. The interview lasted about fifteen minutes. I didn’t ask a single question nor did Betty. Fortunately, the other students were far more hip than we were and had plenty of questions. We took notes and wrote a nice story about the conversation that we’d listened to.
After that, I watched his dance show a few times. I couldn’t pick up most of the dances but I did learn two. If any dances required less talent or ability than The Stroll or The Bristol Stomp, I don’t know what they could be, but I really grooved to those two.
As I got older, I saw clips of the artists Clark introduced on American Bandstand. The list is amazing, from Chubby Checker and Aretha Franklin to Jan and Dean. Mr. Clark’s influence on American music is amazing and wide. And, for fifteen minutes that afternoon, I was a tiny part of Americana.
What do you remember from your youth? Have you met a celebrity? What groups do you remember from Bandstand? Can you name the three rock icons–groups or solos–that didn’t appear?