The Guy From American Bandstand

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During Casey Kasem’s years on American Top 40, his list of fill-in hosts was a who’s-who of radio stars: Robert W. Morgan, Charlie Tuna, Bob Eubanks, Wink Martindale, Humble Harv Miller, Charlie Van Dyke, Sonny Melendrez, and Gary Owens among them. His most famous substitute, however, was Dick Clark, who hosted the show on the weekend of March 25, 1972. Although Clark had started in radio as a teenager during the late 1940s, he’d been primarily a TV personality since the late 50s. And in 1972, he was best known as the guy from American Bandstand.

At the beginning of the show, Clark explains that Casey was delayed returning from a trip to Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and asked him to fill in. [jingle] Now on with the countdown!

40. “Do Your Thing”/Isaac Hayes
39. “Could It Be Forever”/David Cassidy
38. “The Day I Found Myself”/Honey Cone
37. “Give Ireland Back to the Irish”/Paul McCartney and Wings
36. “No One to Depend On”/Santana
35. “Every Day of My Life”/Bobby Vinton
34. “Glory Bound”/Grass Roots
33. “Take a Look Around”/Temptations
This chart doesn’t get Clark off to a flying start. “Every Day of My Life” would end up the #1 jukebox hit of 1972, so people liked it then, even if it sounds like something from the Jurassic Period today. “The Day I Found Myself” and “No One to Depend On” are terrific, but the show doesn’t generate much interest until:

EXTRA: “Me and Bobby McGee”/Janis Joplin
32. “Day Dreaming”/Aretha Franklin
31. “Taurus”/Dennis Coffey
30. “Don’t Say You Don’t Remember”/Beverly Bremers
29. “Sweet Seasons”/Carole King
Now we’re talkin’. Clark pays tribute to Janis one year after “Bobby McGee” hit #1, and tells the story of how Beverly Bremers went from sitting in the audience at a performance of Hair to a solo spot in the show to the lead role on Broadway, all within two years.

Clark does Casey-style bits and teases, and even uses some of Casey’s positioning liners for the show, but his energy is different. He’s kind of dry at the beginning, although he gets more comfortable as he goes. After this show, he would suggest to the producers that the talk segments could be pre-recorded and mixed with the music later (and presumably scripted too), so that a mistake wouldn’t ruin a whole segment being recorded in real time.

22. “American Pie”/Don McLean. Clark says that “American Pie” has been on AT40 longer than any other song in the nearly two-year history of the show, 17 weeks. This is its final week.

17. “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”/Roberta Flack
14. “Rockin’ Robin”/Michael Jackson
Roberta Flack has the highest-debuting record of the week, zooming in from #42 the week before. It would go to #10 and then to #3 before spending six straight weeks at #1, eventually becoming Billboard‘s #1 song for all of 1972. “Rockin’ Robin” makes the biggest move within the countdown, up from #33 the week before.

18. “Betcha By Golly Wow”/Stylistics
16. “Rock and Roll Lullaby”/B. J. Thomas
12. “Precious and Few”/Climax
9. “Everything I Own”/Bread
As an adjective describing music, the word “pretty” is loaded. It can be used to damn with faint praise, to suggest that something is decent if you like that kind of thing, but not worth serious attention. But consider this: classic AM Top 40 radio was, to a great degree, built on pretty songs, pleasing melodies earnestly performed, for people to sing along with and/or fall in love to, and this is a pack of songs that are just straight-up pretty. There’s probably an entire essay in the idea of “pretty music,” and I hope to get around to it next week.

4. “Puppy Love”/Donny Osmond. On March 15, 1972, at KHJ in Los Angeles, Robert W. Morgan played “Puppy Love” for 90 minutes straight one morning, hoping to burn it out for the teenyboppers who kept calling to request it. Concerned listeners called the police, fearing Morgan was the victim of some sort of bubblegum terrorism.

2. “Heart of Gold”/Neil Young
1. “A Horse With No Name”/America
This show began with a string of now-forgotten songs, but it finishes with two that people would still be listening to an unimaginable 49 years in the future.

Dick Clark would eventually become a radio fixture just as he was on TV, with his own weekly countdown show and the long-running oldies show Rock, Roll and Remember. His 1972 fill-in on American Top 40 is merely a footnote to his remarkable career—but we always read the footnotes.

(Note to Patrons: a new Sidepiece went out this morning. Check your spam filter. Your comments on it are welcome.) 

23 thoughts on “The Guy From American Bandstand

  1. mikehagerty

    Aretha’s “Day Dreaming” came up on one of my Spotify daily mixes just yesterday. I’d never forgotten it or how good it was, but I may have hit a new level of appreciation for it.

    “Rock and Roll Lullaby” is just plain remarkable. I think it was Dave Marsh of Rolling Stone, who, trying to get away with praise for B.J. Thomas, turned his review into a musing about how some people’s lives would have been unlivable without the music. Mine would be poorer, but probably not unlivable without this particular piece of music.

    I am so blessed to have grown up with Robert W. Morgan on the radio. Left out of most descriptions of the “Puppy Love” marathon is that Morgan front-or-back-announced every single play (probably 20) in those 90 minutes as a different record from that week’s KHJ Thirty—or a Golden he was supposed to be playing. And, on the anniversary six years later, when he was at KMPC, and a listener called to remind him, Morgan promptly broke format, played “Puppy Love” and back-announced it as Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Cryin’ In The Rain”.

    (PS: EXCELLENT Sidepiece today, JB)

    1. One year on April Fool’s Day, the morning show at one of my stations did something similar to the Puppy Love stunt with “Viva Las Vegas,” playing it over and over while front- and back-announcing it as if it was a different regular format record each time. When people started calling in, they said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, we just played Amy Grant,” and so on. They kept it up all morning, and the listeners lost their minds.

      1. There’s probably an entire column on great radio tricks.

        There exists tape of Phil Hendrie at WIOD in Miami in the early-mid 90s. Phil recorded an endless loop cart of his voice, saying very softly and very monotone “You son of a bitch” over and over….then rolled it under himself as he came out of the news. Phil went to whatever topic he did and just waited—and sure enough, the calls came.

        One was from an elderly woman. Phil pretended to transfer her to the Chief Engineer (Phil himself) who asked where she lived, told her she might be getting interference because of her plumbing, and gave her detailed instructions on how to dismantle her bathroom sink.

        And that was the half-hour.

  2. Leo Edelstein

    Fun radio format trick of 1994: Oshkosh/Appleton WI CHR Magic 104 WMGV switches to Oldies 103.9 WVBO (Valley’s Best Oldies. So…over the weekend prior to switch, we became All Louie Louie All The Time! Found about 30 covers of Louie Louie, plus The Kingsmen version, complete with All Louie Louie All The Time bumpers all weekend. My 11 year old daughter and friends steamed at me! Fun hoax!

  3. Gary Omaha

    Sometimes the comments are nearly as good as the column itself. Thanks, guys.

    The mention of Beverly Bremers reminds me that, at the time, a certain Eastern Iowa station played “Don’t Say You Don’t Remember” with some jocks pronouncing her name “Breh-merz” and others pronouncing it “Bree-merz” (and to this day I still don’t know which is correct).

    1. Gary Omaha: To be pertinent to this blog, Casey pronounced her name “bree-merz”. While the proper procedure is to take Wikipedia with the ol’ grain of salt, it, too, uses that pronunciation.

      1. mikehagerty

        Not that it proves anything, but the interviews on YouTube of Beverly all have her introduced as “Breh-mers”:

  4. Alvaro Leos

    I’ve always have a soft spot for “Give Ireland Back To The Irish”, and suspect if John had done it instead of Paul it would be much better remembered and admired.
    So did AT40 play “American Pie” in full this week or other weeks? What did Top 40 and easy listening stations (it went No.1 on both charts) back in ’72 do: play in full, just play one side of the 45, or do a custom edit?

  5. mikehagerty

    Alvaro: It depended on the stations. In Los Angeles, KHJ tended to play the single (part one) until KLOS and KKDJ (at that time KHJ’s biggest competitors) pretty well made the LP cut the only way to go. Even then, KHJ took a toe-in-the-water approach, playing the LP cut at night, when there were more and longer stretches between commercial stopsets than there were in drive time.

    I don’t recall KMPC or KFI ever playing “American Pie”. If they did, it was probably side one of the single. Neither of them had clocks that would allow for a single 8:42 song. KIIS-AM may have, but I don’t recall.

  6. mikehagerty

    PS: The thing to remember about MOR stations of the time is that they may have played Top 40 hits, but not exclusively and in nowhere near the rotations of Top 40 stations. KMPC and KFI played between six and eight records an hour, compared to the 14 or so on KHJ, and had much larger playlists—so a “big” record on either KMPC or KFI might get played twice or three times in 24 hours, where a “power” record at KHJ was every 2 hours and 10 minutes.

  7. Wesley

    Dick Clark later hosted The Dick Clark National Music Survey from 1981-1985 and then Countdown America from 1985-1995. I think I heard the show once or twice and just wasn’t impressed as compared to AT40. Even during the 4-hour 1980s shows (weaker than the 3-hour 70s ones), Casey and crew usually had a great take of coming up with some compelling information to introduce each of the songs. Dick’s shows never seemed to do that. I could be wrong, as memories can be, and I haven’t listened to Dick’s shows since then, and I may have been prejudiced as a longtime AT40 listener. But I think it’s telling there’s nowhere near as much interest online or even on terrestrial radio stations on those shows as Casey’s AT40 ones

    As great a communicator as Clark was on TV, he seemed to come off more superficial on his radio shows. I can definitely tell he recorded his bits one time with a minimum of effort in an hour session or less every week. Casey was doing the same thing, but he put more of himself into telling stories and helping the show flow easily. A lot of that is due to a great research team, but Casey’s delivery was key as well. Which is probably why despite both men working a lot in both media, Casey will be more associated with radio and Dick more associated with TV.

    P.S. Another great sidepiece, jb.

    1. Having written for both Dick and Casey (for Dick on Countdown America and Casey’s Top 40), I’ll point out that Casey okayed every long story before they went into the script, working with the writer on changes if he thought the item could be saved. Dick didn’t look at his radio scripts beforehand and didn’t like the intros to be too long. Everyone on staff knew that Dick’s time was valuable because he always had so many projects going on, so we got him out of the studio (which was located on the second floor of his office building) as fast as possible. He still would read the intros until he got them right and as always in his work, he was going for a casual talking to a friend delivery.

      1. mackdaddyg

        Really interesting tidbit, Brian. Thanks for sharing.

        Reading this about Dick Clark reminds me (for you Simpsons fans) of Krusty the Clown coming into the recording studio and knocking out his voiceovers in a few seconds and leaving before the engineer has the tape ready to go. Of course Dick Clark was more professional than that, but it still amuses me.

        Speaking of voiceovers, I recently started watching a British show called Toast of London. The main character is a struggling actor who periodically does voice work, and the nonsense he endures in the studio is pretty funny as well. If you like absured situational humor, it’s an entertaining show.

  8. Thank you all for commenting here. I’d add this: some radio stations received a short radio version of “American Pie” that was a different take of the vocal. It omitted all of the slow verses and one of the fast ones, and I presume that’s what AT40 played regularly, although I haven’t been through the cue sheets to check. The single I bought was part 1 on one side and part 2 on the other. I don’t remember hearing the full-length version on the radio anywhere in 1972, and not until later in the decade.

    To keep this post from getting too long I left out what I wanted to say about “Give Ireland Back to the Irish”: it’s Paul’s iteration of CSNY’s “Ohio,” recorded two days after the Bloody Sunday massacre in January 1972, but it tries to have things both ways, saying that Ireland should be free but the British are great too. As Alvaro pointed out, John would have done a lot better with it, because he wouldn’t have pulled his punches.

    1. Lennon took two shots at the subject — “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “The Luck of the Irish” from 1972’s hyper-political Some Time in New York City album.
      There are very valid reasons why we all know “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” and we don’t know either of Lennon’s songs: Macca did it better.

  9. JP

    What I want to know, as a fan of the music recorded at Muscle Shoals studios, is: what was Casey Kasem doing there? Was he taping a special segment on the music and the musicians from that scene?

  10. John Gallagher

    Forgive my foggy memory, but wasn’t Dick Clark the guest host that prompted Casey to pre-record his vocal portion (early version of voicetracking)?

    Also, there was a 4:08 mono promo edit of American Pie that contained unique audio not found in the commercial 45 or LP version. I would imagine many stations (especially AM stations) played that promo edit, maybe even AT40.

  11. Here’s another interesting story about Dick Clark’s countdown. Every so often, Dick would be away from his Los Angeles home base for more than a week, perhaps on a foreign vacation or working on a show somewhere. But because he didn’t like having guest hosts, we would do what we called a fake show. That meant having Dick read various stories and all the numbers needed before he left L.A., so while he was away and we got that week’s chart, the engineer could cut the show together.

    1. Wesley

      Ingenious. I wonder how many under 50 years old realize that having a guest host was a real broadcasting trend until Letterman and Leno’s refusal to do so on their talk shows in the early 1990s pretty much ended the concept’s prevalence.

  12. Pingback: Work Ethic of a Hobo – The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

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