American Bandstand host Dick Clark dies at 82

Dick Clark, the American TV producer and host of long-running shows such as American Bandstand and New Year's Rockin' Eve, has died at 82 after a massive heart attack.

Remembering Dick Clark

11 years ago
Duration 1:04
Memorable moments from Dick Clark over the years

Dick Clark, the American TV producer and host of long-running shows such as American Bandstand and New Year's Rockin' Eve, has died. He was 82.

Clark suffered a massive heart attack Wednesday morning, spokesman Paul Shefrin said. He died at Saint John's Hospital in Santa Monica, Calif., where he had gone the day before for an outpatient procedure.

Clark had suffered a significant stroke in 2004, forcing him to retire from his hosting gig at New Years' Rockin' Eve, which he created in 1972. He appeared annually on the show, now hosted by Ryan Seacrest.

Seacrest said he was saddened by the loss. "I idolized him from the start, and I was graced early on in my career with his generous advice and counsel," Seacrest said. "He was a remarkable host and businessman and left a rich legacy to television audiences around the world. We will all miss him."

Clark was a successful businessman who created Dick Clark Productions. His company created the New Year's Eve special, game shows such as $25,000 Pyramid and TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes, which he hosted with his friend Ed McMahon, as well as music specials such as the American Music Awards.

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The original American Bandstand, which displayed a range of U.S. musicians in TV performances, was one of network TV's longest-running series as part of ABC's daytime lineup from 1957 to 1987.

Over the years, it introduced stars ranging from Buddy Holly to Michael Jackson and Madonna.

Clark was born Nov. 30, 1929, and raised in Mount Vernon, N.Y. His father owned a radio station in Utica, N.Y., where young Clark was a news announcer and weatherman.

After attending Syracuse University, he began his career in radio in Philadelphia at a station that also aired an afternoon teen dance show called Bandstand. Clark stepped in occasionally as host, doubling as host on country music TV program Cactus Dick and the Santa Fe Riders. He also continued as a radio DJ.

On July 9, 1956, Clark became full-time host of Bandstand and, when the show was picked up by ABC, it was renamed American Bandstand. On Aug.  5, 1957, the first day it was aired nationally, he interviewed Elvis Presley.

"I played records, the kids danced, and America watched," was how Clark once described the series' simplicity. In his 1958 hit Sweet Little Sixteen, Chuck Berry sang that "they'll be rocking on Bandstand, Philadelphia, PA." 

Pushed rock into mainstream

Dick Clark selects a record in his station library in Philadelphia on Feb. 3, 1959. He started hosting a show called Bandstand in that city. (Associated Press)

Clark was known for his smooth delivery, developed on radio, and for having an ear for a hit record. He also understood the challenge of presenting the artists kids loved, without alarming adult viewers. 

He has been widely credited with pushing rock into the mainstream by putting it before teens day after day. 

"So along with Little Richard and Chuck Berry and the Platters and the Crows and the Jayhawks ... the boys wore coats and ties and the girls combed their hair and they all looked like sweet little kids in a high school dance," he said. 

Clark would later be accused of white-washing rock and roll – black artists didn’t turn up on the screen until very late in the game – and of toning down the rock experience.  But when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted him in 1993, it defended Clark for promoting artistic freedom.

He helped give black artists their due by playing original R&B recordings instead of cover versions by white performers, and he condemned censorship, the Hall of Fame said.

Prodigious producer

As both a TV and radio producer, Clark had shows on all three networks and was listed among the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans. He was also a partner in the United Stations Radio Network, which provided programs to thousands of stations. 

Dick Clark Productions was behind the Academy of Country Music and Golden Globe awards, TV movies such as The Woman Who Willed a Miracle and the 1985 film Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.

Clark, called the "world's oldest teenager" because of his youthful appearance,  appeared on shows such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Perry Mason. He also brushes off Michael Moore in Bowling for Columbine.

In 1974, at ABC's request, Clark created the American Music Awards after the network lost the broadcast rights to the Grammy Awards.

"There's hardly any segment of the population that doesn't see what I do," Clark told The Associated Press in a 1985 interview. "It can be embarrassing. People come up to me and say, `I love your show,' and I have no idea which one they're talking about."

He was honoured at the Emmy Awards in 2006, telling the crowd: "I have accomplished my childhood dream, to be in show business. Everybody should be so lucky to have their dreams come true. I've been truly blessed."

Clark is survived by a son, Richard Augustus II, with first wife Barbara Mallery, and two children, Duane and Cindy, with second wife Loretta Martin. Twice divorced, he married Kari Wigton in 1977.

With files from The Associated Press