Category Archives: Roots of rock

American Bandstand Dick Clark

American Bandstand Dick Clark

August 5, 1957
First ABC broadcast of “American Bandstand”

American Bandstand Dick Clark

American Bandstand Dick Clark

First Bandstand

In March 1950 WFIL-TV in Philadelphia broadcast Bandstand. Bob Horn, also a radio DJ, hosted the show. It was not a dance show. It featured short musical films and only occasionally had guests. Think black and white MTV.

It was a time when television, the new media kid on the block, selected a successful radio show and literally visualized it.

By the way, I’ve placed the more familiar music theme, “Bandstand Boogie,” by Larry Elgart over this blog, but the first theme song for the original Bandstand was Artie Shaw’s “High Society.”

Dancing Bandstand

The Bandstand show that Boomers remember today, with teenagers dancing to hit records, came into being on October 7, 1952. Bob Horn continued as host with Lee Stewart. Stewart left as co-host in 1955.  The short music films continued to be part of the show.


In July, 1956, WFIL and The Philadelphia Inquirer were doing a series on drunk driving.  In July, 1956, police arrested Horn for drunk-driving.

On July 9, 1956, Dick Clark took over as the host

American Bandstand Dick Clark

ABC’s American Bandstand

Broadcast companies are always searching for the next hit.  A year after he became host of Bandstand, Dick Clark pitched his show to ABC. The network did not say “Yes” immediately, but eventually did. I’m sure they were happy they did.

August 5, 1957

On this date, ABC did the first national broadcast. Since it was now a nationally televised show, the name changed to American Bandstand. Duh!

The  more popular Mickey Mouse Club interrupted the for half an hour in the middle. The first guest was the Chordettes and the first record danced to on the show was Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be the Day.”

The show  moved to Los Angeles in 1964. It had already switched from a daily to a weekly Saturday show in which it continued as until 1987.

y101radio dot com article

American Bandstand Dick Clark

WOR-FM Rocks

WOR-FM Rocks

Sunday 31 July 1966
[The audio is NOT July 31, but Oct 8, 1966, the first day of DJs]

WOR-FM Rocks

WOR-FM Rocks

Federal intervention

In July 1964, the federal government, via the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), adopted a non-duplication rule prohibiting FM radio stations in cities of more than 100,000 people from merely running a simulcast of the programming from their AM counterparts. Stations fought the rule and delayed implementation.

WOR-FM Rocks

Writing on the wall

Station owners did not succeed in their fight and many decided to experiment with the still new but growing rock genre. Soon rock FM stations dotted the land.

On June 16, 1966  WOR-FM announced it would be first New York City FM station to play rock and roll music on a “regular basis.”

WOR-FM Rocks

Finally rocks

WOR-FM rocks

And so on July 31, 1966 New York City’s WOR-FM began running a freeform-based progressive rock format for most of its broadcast day. Management was unable to come to an agreement with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (the union that represented on air talent). As a result, the DJ’s did not start until October 8.

WOR-FM Rocks

Not quite underground

Listening to the sample above from the first day of DJs playing (not particularly different from the previous months’ playlists), the listener will realize that the playlist was not particularly different from the AM pop radio playlists.

That difference would not happen until the FM DJs began to experiment play more album cuts of their own choice.

It was that difference, the question of choice versus the handing down from on high of a playlist, that soon separated FM “pop” stations using the Drake method of programming from the stations like WNEW-FM (also in NYC). WNEW-FM gave its DJs much more leeway when choosing what to play.

WOR-FM Rocks


After hardly more than a year of the new format with DJs, many of the original group left. Bill Mercer, or simply Rosko, was one of the more popular of WOR’s DJs. He brought a unique free style he brought to his shows. Fans loved him and it, but he realized that management did not want that style.

On October 2, 1967, less than a year after starting, Rosko announced his departure on the air. Click below to listen to a piece of it…

Rosko joined WNEW-FM shortly afterwards and the rest is another much more enjoyable history. NYT article

WOR-FM Rocks

Elvis Presley Album Elvis

Elvis Presley Album Elvis

Hits #1 on May 5, 1956
Happy Anniversary
Elvis Presley album Elvis
album cover photo by William V. “Red” Robertson
Elvis Presley album Elvis

Elvis on the cusp

In early 1956, Elvis’s popularity was, like the Beatles seven years later, about to run wild. No one had coined a term like Elvis-mania, but it could have been that.

Elvis’s 1955 singles (“Baby Let’s Play House” and “I Forgot to Remember to Forget”) with Sam Phillips Sun Records had done well on the country charts.

Elvis Presley album Elvis


Colonel Tom Parker, Presley’s new manager, had grand plans and the chutzpah to carry them out. His first move was to have RCA records buy Elvis’s contract from Phillips. It cost RCA $35,000 and with the omniscience of retrospect, we might say that that was quite a good deal for RCA. At the time it was an expensive risk.

Rock and Roll, derived some many sources, was just beginning to make mainstream headway despite mainstream suspicions.  Editorials suggested that the music was immoral, that the music turned teenagers into juvenile delinquents, and that the music was simply devil music. These phobic fears did more to entice than dissuade young people.

On September 9, 1956, Elvis appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. The appearance marked, as the Beatles in 1964, a huge step in Elvis’s success. It was on that show that the cameras kept the image above Elvis’s swaying waist.

Elvis Presley album Elvis

Elvis Presley

RCA had released his first album, Elvis, on March 23, 1956. The album had 12 songs, some that Elvis had done with Sun Records before moving to RCA as well as with RCA after the move. Elvis composed none of the songs. In fact, a different person or group wrote each song.

The album hit #1 on May 5, 1956, the first rock and roll album ever to make it to the top of the charts.

Side one:

  1. Blue Suede Shoes
  2. 2. I’m Counting on You
  3. 3. I Got a Woman
  4. 4. One-Sided Love Affair
  5. 5. I Love You Because
  6. 6. Just Because
Side 2:

  1. Tutti Frutti
  2. Tryin’ to Get to You
  3. I’m Gona Sit Right Down and Cry (Over You)
  4. I’ll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin’)
  5. Blue Moon
  6. Money Honey

The entire album clocked in at 28:03 seconds (the Beatles “Meet the Beatles” album totaled 26:43). Unlike what the Beatles would begin to do with pop albums with their 1965 Rubber Soul, much more a unified album, Elvis Presley became a collection of singles. That’s where financial success was.

And the album was a success.

Elvis Presley album Elvis


             According to Wikipedia The album spent ten weeks at number 1 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart in 1956, the first rock and roll album ever to make it to the top of the charts and the first million-selling album of that genre. In 2003, it was ranked number 56 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.  

Elvis Presley album Elvis