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American Bandstand

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American Bandstand, Showtime Archives (Toronto)/Pictoral Press


Televised locally and nationally for thirty-seven years, American Bandstand brought dance into living rooms throughout the United States and, with "perpetual teenager" Dick Clark, spurred viewer participation to record levels. A late-afternoon television dance party, the 1952 show originated as Bandstand in Philadelphia with Bob Horn. Clark subsequently joined as host and on August 5, 1957, ABC-TV began national Monday-through-Friday broadcasts that were viewed by millions of teenagers and housewives, who instantly assimilated the latest fads in dance and music. Coast-to-coast fervor was created for the Twist in the early 1960s, and the show gave widespread exposure to disco during the 1970s. Throughout the glory years of the sixties, American Bandstand was the hot venue for presenting young singers and initiating the newest dance crazes. In 1987 the program entered the Guinness Book of World Records as television's longest running variety show, but was off the air by September 1989. A changed pace had been set by MTV, which began broadcasting on August 1, 1981.

Pictured left: American Bandstand popularized numerous dances throughout its run, many-like the one pictured here-derived from Swing dancing, which allowed both partners freedom to improvise, and led ultimately to styles involving no contact between partners. (Photograph © Showtime Archives (Toronto)/Pictoral Press)



This excerpt from a December 17, 1957 episode of American Bandstand illustrates the show's wholesome tone, which presented rock-and-roll music and dancing within an unthreatening atmosphere, helping white America to embrace social dances of African-American origin.



Read an essay by Julie Malnig -- Books & other materials