Paul Iorio's blog, The Daily Digression, covers pop culture and beyond...
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THE DAILY DIGRESSION
for April 19, 2012
The thing about guys like Dick Clark and Ed Sullivan is that it really wasn't about them. Kids didn't tune in to their shows for them; they tuned in for the musical guests who appeared on their shows.
Proof of that is that Sullivan's highest ratings in the 1950s came when he had a substitute host, Charles Laughton, for the episode in which Presley first appeared. And nobody bemoaned the fact tha...t Ed wasn't there to introduce Elvis. Anyone could have hosted that show that night and it would've been a blockbuster.
Nobody I knew -- and I mean, nobody -- was ever a fan of Dick Clark per se, Dick Clark the person. But a lot of people were fans of the fact that his TV show, whoever was hosting it, showcased some of the greatest pop artists of the past half century.
You can't say the same thing about Dick Cavett or Johnny Carson. Those two were hosts whose hosting was performance in itself -- and Cavett and Carson were the main reasons to tune in every night. Clark was never the reason to tune in.
By the way, it's telling that the Beatles never appeared on Bandstand. I mean, can you imagine the Beatles -- or The Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan -- appearing on such a square show? (To be fair, a number of epochal geniuses did appear on AB (e.g., David Bowie, Chuck Berry, etc.), so there are exceptions.) Give it to Sullivan; he had the sense to have his musical guests perform live.
Also, Bandstand had a flat affect visually. The dancing was unimaginative -- it looked like forced, self-conscious dancing (unlike, say, what you saw on "Soul Train").
Clark was no gatekeeper or starmaker when it came to artists of the stature of the Stones or the Beatles. It was the other way around; major acts like that were the starmakers for Clark and Sullivan.