Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Friday, September 26, 2014

Poppin' the Philadelphia Way and Hot August Days

I decided to coattail on a post written by my friend, Ronald Tipton, recently. He told the tale of his winning a trip to Bandstand in 1958, when the show was still coming live each afternoon out of Philadelphia.

So you may be wondering why there is a photo of Charles Albertine. Albertine was the composer of the Bandstand Boogie, the most familiar theme music for the program, although not the first.

Apparently at sometime in the very early days of the show "High Society" by Artie Shaw was utilized, but between 1952 and 1954 the main theme was called "Leap Frog", written by Leo Corday and Joseph C. Garland, possibly a Les Brown recording was used.

During the period 1969-74 "Bandstand Theme" was the tune used, something by Mike Charles and Jerry Styner, and no known publisher. The real publisher, or at least the one who probably commissioned it, was Dick Clark. But both before and after the "Bandstand Theme", Charles Albertine's "Bandstand Boogie" was the one and it is what most people associate with the show.

It was originally composed by Albertine, who was the arranger for the Les and Larry Elgart Big Band; the Elgart's taking a writers credit, as did Bob Horn, who was hosting Bandstand at the time. The lyrics were written by Bruce Howard Sussman.  Some years later additional lyrics were added to the song by Barry Pincus (Better known as Barry Manilow).

Bob Horn was the first host of Bandstand. "Bandstand" was a local show at first and Bob Horn (whose
real name was Donald Lloyd Horn) was basically a local boy, not born and raised in Philadelphia, put in Pine Grove, Pa., located out northwest of Reading, north of Lebanon, out there a way, but still counts as in the Philadelphia area. Besides he came to the big city and made an early career there as a radio personality on WIP's "C'mon and Dance". WFIL-AM lured him to their station and he created a daytime show called, "Bob Horn's Bandstand"

On that show, between guest stars, he showed musical short films, kind of a forerunner of MTV and the Music Videos. That was in 1952 and television was still something of the new kid on the block, and WFIL Channel 6 was the even newer kid among the stations serving the Philadelphia viewing area. Even so, replacing old movies in the afternoon with short musical films wasn't eventful enough to draw much attention and it was a format Bob Horn wasn't happy with, thus it didn't last long. One month later the little film clips were cut and the floor was thrown open to local teenagers who wanted to Jitterbug on camera. It sounds like a pretty dull concept on paper, but Horn was quickly the master of the afternoon drawing more than 60% of daytime viewers and lining his pockets as a star performer.

The idea wasn't his, really. He horned into a concept being used by two guys DJ-ing popular music on a competing radio station, WPEN. Joe Grady and Ed Hurst were doing a show called The 950 Club and although it was a radio broadcast they had a live audience of teenagers dancing in the studio.

Horn had taken note.

He had also taken their idea and now his show was the darling of the afternoon airwaves and something kids rushed home from school every afternoon to watch.

Not only watch, but dream of appearing on boppin' their way across the floor along with a number of South Philly teens who were fast becoming regulars and stars in their own right. But getting in wasn't a piece of cake. Every teen in the tri-state sound of that show was feeling the same way and the block between 48th and Market Streets was lined with hopefuls (pictured on right).

This phenomenon during the Clark years would mimic another feature of nightclubs -- the velvet rope and bouncer at the door. You might be first in line, but a guy with a clipboard would determine if you met the criteria for getting inside.

The regulars didn't have this worry, of course. They had their own entrance.

Horn had it made, but he started running into troubles, probably as early as 1953 when he became involved with a regular to the studio named Lois Gardner. She alleged right after meeting Horn that they began an affair and had sex a couple times a week until almost 1956. Gardner was only 13 when this alleged affair began. Horn denied all this, claiming she was just a groupie. Gardner was later to become a suspect in a vice ring that led teenagers into orgies with claims of making them models.

June 21 was my mother's birthday and also her wedding anniversary. In 1956 while we celebrated those milestones, Bob Horn apparently did some celebrating of his own, had a bit too much to drink and ran a red light. It was the beginning of the end of his Bandstand days. He was suspended by WILM, who's owner was also the owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer, a paper that had been running an anti-drunk driving campaign at the time. Tony Mammaralla, the show's producer took over hosting duties until Horn was to come back. (Pictured left are Tony Mammarella and Dick Clark in 1957, friends and business partners.)

Five months later, however, Horn was indicted on four charges of statutory rape and corruption of a minor. These sexual incidences are what many people think got Horn fired, but this isn't the case and he was found not guilty after two trials. The indictment did have an indirect effect on Horn's Philadelphia career. On the day of the indictment Horn had an auto accident resulting in serious injuries to a young girl. He hit her family's car as he drove the wrong way down a one-way street and was arrested for drunk driving. This was the straw that broke Bob Horn's back and sent him packing to Houston, Texas. He got a job at a radio station there and used the name Bob Adams.

Horn died on July 31, 1966. He got heat stroke while mowing his lawn on a hot Texas day leading to heart failure. He was 50 years old.

With Horn's departure from Bandstand in 1956 the studio gave on-air tryouts to various DJs. In July the job went to a 26 year-old former New Yorker, then living in Drexel Hill, Pa. (where my future wife lived at that time) and working as a radio DJ for WILM. His name was Richard Augustus Wagstaff Clark, Jr. He went by Dick.  A year and month after Clark's debut, on August 5, 1957, the local afternoon teen dance show went national on ABC renamed "American Bandstand".

And a year after that, on August 6, 1958, my pal Ronald Tipton made his one day debut on that small dance floor after winning a contest.  His visit occurred on a day Dick Clark was elsewhere and so he never got to see the man in person.

I never went to Bandstand, but I did see the man in person and more than once.

Ronald and I were living in different places by 1958; he still in Downingtown and I further north near
Pottstown. We went to different high schools, but we were still friends. I had other friends near where I lived and we were more fans of Grady and Hurst than Bandstand, at least during the summer. The veteran DJs, who actually did the bandstand thing before Bandstand, now hosted a TV show called "Summertime on the Pier", which had debuted that summer, live from Atlantic City's Steel Pier. Ray Ayres, another close friend, and I became DJs for high school dances beginning in the fall of that year. We played the records and did so-called "snappy patter" between the platters and we billed ourselves as "Gravely and Hearse".

I never got on the show in Atlantic City nor did I ever see Grady or Hurst in person, but I did see Dick Clark. Clark seemed to be everywhere in those days. Besides doing the daily Bandstand gig and a Saturday Night "Dick Clark Show" on ABC, he hosted a number of dances around the area, such as the Starlight Ballroom in Wildwood, NJ, where he started appearing in 1957, which was the summer I first saw him.

My parents rented a place at the shore and surprisingly took me along on this vacation and also my
friend Richard. We didn't spend much time with my folks during that week. We were on the beach during the day and the boardwalk well into the night (actually early morning). On the first day, Richard being Richard wandered away for a bit. When he returned he had a girl on each arm. They were sisters, Jeannette and Marilyn. Rich wanted Jeannette, but she liked me and he was left with the younger sister, Marilyn. We spent most of our time with these two girls. It was my first Summer Romance, but I continued to be in touch with Jeannette for at least another year. (Pictured right is Richard with Marilyn on his shoulders and Jeannette in his right arm.

We went to the Dick Clark Show at the Starlight Ballroom. It was similar in format to the Bandstand show. Clark introduced the records and they had some novelty dances. One was the Spotlight Dance. If the spotlight fell on you, you had to leave the floor. The last couple dancing won some kind of prize. Jeannette and I lasted until the last five and then we got hit by the light.

One mystery to me was every one was given two pictures, something like a baseball bubblegum card. One was a photo of Dick Clark, which made sense, but the other was of Pat Boone. Why Pat Boone? Boone was a pretty big star by then, second to Elvis, but he wasn't appearing at Dick Clark's show. Clark always had a couple live acts at his shows. I don't remember who was there that night, but it wasn't Pat Boone.

The Starlight Ballroom is no more. It burnt down on another August eve in 1981.

That wasn't the only time I saw Dick Clark live. He used to appear at venues around the area. The closest was at the Sunnybrook Ballroom in Pottstown, where oddly I never attended his dances, although I took dates there on other occasions. Probably just as well I didn't see him there since there was a riot in the parking lot during one of his gigs and about four teens got stabbed in the melee. It was quite the scandal for a while and some guys from my school class were allegedly involved.

He also hosted sock hops at the Berwyn Roller
Rink and that was where I again attended a couple of his shows. (Right: Berwyn Theater/Roller Rink.)

Sock Hops came about as a way to protect floors in gyms and rinks from scuffing during a dance. You checked your shoes upon entering and be-bopped in your socks. They were very prevalent in my teenage years.

As stated earlier, Dick Clark always had a couple live acts where he appeared. These were usually a
singer or band plugging their latest release or a new comer Clark was helping to promote. They appeared live on stage, but they didn't perform their songs live. They lip synced to their record.

I don't remember any of these performers except for Danny and the Juniors. (Recording at the time on Dick Clark and Tony Mammarella's Swam Record label.) They appeared at the Berwyn Roller Rink. The group was very big for awhile in 1957-58. They had hits with "Twistin' USA" and "Rock 'n' Roll is here to Stay", but their biggest seller was "At the Hop" (original title, "Do the Bop").

They were a local group. Danny Rapp, the founder and lead singer, was born and raised in Philadelphia. He came to a sad end. Danny and the Juniors faded some after "Twistin' USA", but continued to perform on and on into the nostalgia tour circuits. It came to an end in 1983. Danny was confronted by a night club owner in Phoenix about some altercations he had with a female performer on stage. Danny stormed out. A few days later he bought a gun and on April 5 was found dead with a self-inflicted wound to the head.  He was 41, just over a month shy of his birthday.

So it is all kind of gone now. Bandstand is gone. Charles Albertine, Tony Mammarella, Bob Horn, Danny Rapp and Dick Clark are all dead. The Starlight Ballroom burnt down. Joe Grady died in 2000, but Ed Hurst may still be hosting a radio show from the Steel Pier on Saturday nights at age 86 or 87. The Diving Horses are gone.  My friend Richard passed away in 1994, at age 53.  I have no idea where Jeannette and Marilyn are today. But Ronald is still here and I am still here and we are still poppin' and bopping', and I can say that Ronald never got to see Dick Clark live, but I did.


Ron said...

Fabulous Larry, just fabulous! And wouldn't you know you got to see Dick Clark and I didn't? Now just for that you get a free ticket to the CN Tower in Toronto to do the Edge Walk.

anne marie in philly said...

1968 - my cousin tom was dancing on "the steel pier" show. ed spoke to tom on camera - "who is this pretty lady"? tom replied "this is my wife". that's how the family found out about cousin tom's marriage.

tom was barely 18 and had married a girl from costa rica.

our family has no idea where tom is today.

LUCKY YOU to have done all these things; I was waaay too young (age 10) to even be considered tv dance show material.

pat888 said...

Hey Larry - if I had to learn material like this in class as a teenager I would have done way better in history class. I only knew of Dick Clark. It was a terrific experience for kids to see famous American acts perform on TV. And I remember the Dick Clark Show - once with the Everly Bros. appearing. Later of course I enjoyed Shindig and similar broadcasts.

This was a really interesting piece for me Larry - I don't read much on the internet. I'm glad Ron pointed this out.


pat888 said...

Hey Larry - I just wrote a comment and it disappeared so pardon me if I'm duplicating as I try to repeat my thoughts. This was a very interesting piece for me as I loved American Bandstand and The Dick Clark show - an opportunity to see popular American acts live tho lip-synced. I didn't know the history of American Bandstand - so thanks for all the info. I was only familiar with Dick Clark - who of course went on for decades spanning generations.

I try to keep up with Ron's blog - not much of a reader on the internet. But I'm very glad he pointed this one out. Really nicely written and interesting.