"It's got a great beat, and you can dance to it." TV's first rock 'n' roll program--hosted by the charismatic and clean-cut Dick Clark, a disc jockey from Philadelphia--captured what was hip and the happenin' when it came to the teenage world of dance and music. American Bandstand is ABC-TV's longest-running afternoon show, and throughout its thirty year run the format stayed virtually the same (with the exception of moving the set from Philly to L.A.). There were the bleachers full of beaming teens waiting for their fave pop-star to come onstage, lip synch his or her latest hit, and then be interviewed by Clark. There were the roving camera shots capturing these trendy-dressed teens dancing to popular tunes. (Many home viewers learned how to dance by imitating the Bandstand regulars.) There were the "Rate-a-Record" segments that had four kids grading the "danceability" of a new song on a scale of 35 (bad) to 98 (good). There was the countdown of the week's Top Ten records, the Solo Spotlight couples dance, and the highly touted yearly Dance Contest, in which viewers wrote in to cast ballots for their favorite couple. Why, even Dick Clark stayed the same--perpetually youthful--earning him the label of "America's Oldest Teenager."
American Bandstand was the inspiration for every teen dance show since its first ariring in 1957--Hullabaloo, Shindig, Soul Train, Dance Party U.S.A., and MTV's Grind--and found itself spoofed by John Water's irresistible feature film Hairspray (1988). "Bandstand Boogie" was the instrumental theme of the series, performed by Les Elgart and his orchestra and later revamped with words by Barry Manilow.
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