Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dick Clark - Part 4

Not ALL of the Dick Clark press has been positive ... there's still a world of controversy swirling around a recently produced documentary "Wages Of Spin", exposing some of Dick Clark's early involvement with The Philly Music Scene of the late '50's and early '60's ... as well as his role in the payola scandal of this era.  Earlier this week, footage of some of Clark's behind-the-scenes dealings ran on "Entertainment Tonight" ... and The Philadelphia Inquirer had quite a few "less than flattering" words to say about Clark this week as well, and his reluctance to give back to the city where he first made his name (and fame and fortune.)

FH Reader Clark Besch tells us that while most of the media played up all of the pluses of Clark's long and successful career, a few did delve into the controversy raised by this film. (FH Reader Howard Kaylan of The Turtles posted a note on his Facebook page warning that he wouldn't tolerate any "Dick Clark Haters" posting to his site ... and that's all very well and good ... but Forgotten Hits has ALWAYS prided itself on showing BOTH sides of the story when they exist ... and letting the readers and the fans draw their own conclusions.)

Today's comments talk a little bit about the other side of Clark's reputation ... (he once proudly proclaimed "I'm a whore for a buck"!!!) ... as well as sharing a few more personal one-on-one memories and reflections.

On the other hand, there is NO denying Dick Clark's success in diversifying his career beyond the scope of hosting a nationally televised teenage dance hop!  At one point in time, Clark's production company had television series running on all three major networks ... and a few more in syndication!  He seemed to have the touch of gold when it came to music and television franchises.  It's probably fair to say that some of the disparaging remarks may hold just a hint of jealousy, too, by some of his less-successful peers.

Charlie Gracie, Jr. (whose Dad had his own run in with Dick Clark back in the '50's ... and ultimately had to sue Cameo Records ... with whom Clark had some "silent partner" holdings ... over back royalties due him ... only to then find himself "blacklisted" from radio and television) asked that I present a fair and accurate, unbiased account when talking about Dick Clark's career ... and we have certainly attempted to do this.  (Otherwise, what would be the point of today's piece?!?!)

In addition, tomorrow we'll take a look at the dee-jay side of Dick Clark's career ... we heard from a number of jocks who have either interviewed Clark over the years ... or been helped by him in some capacity ... simply put, most have nothing but the utmost admiration for all that he accomplished and acknowledge that he was ALWAYS willing to lend a helping hand to some young disc jockey just starting out trying to make a name for himself.  I think you'll find it all fascinating reading ... as our special Forgotten Hits Tribute to Dick Clark continues.  (We'll be winding things down by the weekend ... so if you have any additional comments, stories or memories to share, get them in to me PRONTO!!!)  kk

Monday's edition of Entertainment Tonight promised to feature BOTH sides of Dick clark, no doubt delving into the "Wages of Spin" issues.  You might want to clue people in to watch.  The hour weekend episode was a great tribute to him.  Monday brings the other side.
Unfortunately, I didn't see either ... but again we leave it to our readers to draw their own conclusions.  Meanwhile, "Wages Of Spin" has been airing quite regularly of late on PBS outlets across the country ... and the film is now available for home video purchase, too.  This controversial documentary was produced several years ago by our FH Buddies Shawn Swords and Paul Russo and spent the better part of four years making the rounds on the film festival circuit.  It shows (in pretty good detail) the OTHER side of The Bandstand Era, exploring Dick Clark's involvement with other companies in the Philly area ... as well as presents an overview of the infamous payola scandal and how Dick Clark walked away from the controversy virtually unscathed.  Well worth watching, Forgotten Hits has been helping to promote this film since 2008.  In fact, here are links to two earlier reviews we ran on our website way back when):
You can purchase the film here: ...
Or check out other links provided by Character Films ...
"Wages of Spin" Cast: 
"Wages of Spin" Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Archives:

SHARING SOME PICS WITH DICK CLARK -- who amassed a fortune through his tenure as host of American Bandstand ... which began with his association with CAMEO (later Cameo - Parkway) RECORDS and CHARLIE GRACIE! Mr. Clark's passing truly marks the end of an era!  As an on-air talent, he probably had few equals in his field for half a century. 
First, from 1957: CHARLIE GRACIE (left), Philadelphia's first R&R star with DICK CLARK (Center) and songstress, JODIE SANDS (right), at the premiere of the Warner Bros. R&R movie, JAMBOREE! at the Stanton Theater in Philly (Nov. 1957).  Clark and a slew of well known djs from around the U.S. Canada and Europe appeared in the film -- which also starred Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Charlie Gracie. 
Clark was a 'silent' producer of the film ... in fact, he was a 'silent partner' in numerous recording industry ventures including the Cameo - Parkway, Chancellor, Jamie and Swan record labels. Those facts were brought to light in the Congressional Payola Hearings of 1959 - 1960.  I, Charlie Jr., gave a copy of this pic to Clark in 1997 -- as it was one that he did not have in his collection. He signed my copy "To the two Charlie's:" (Sr. and Jr.) when my dad appeared at the 40th anniversary of American Bandstand that year.   
ALSO seen in this pic are: Kal Mann (songwriter and co-boss at Cameo), Bob Marcucci (owner of Chancellor Records) and Peter De Angelis (co-boss and A&R man for Chancellor), both of whom managed Frankie Avalon and Fabian.

THE SECOND PIC show DICK CLARK and CHARLIE GRACIE at the 40th Anniversary of American Bandstand in 1997.  Charlie's hits on the Cameo (later Cameo - Parkway) label included Butterfly (#1), Ninety-Nine Ways (#11) and Fabulous (#16) in 1957, and these were the label's first successes. As a result of his tenure as host of American Bandstand, Clark amassed a fortune in subsequent years ("vertically and horizontally" Clark ) as a 'silent partner" with many labels. One of his early windfalls came through collecting royalties on BUTTERFLY, a million-selling #1 song for Charlie Gracie along with a cover version recorded by Andy Williams. The song was actually written by Bernie Lowe and Kal Mann, with a few lyrical changes by Charlie Gracie.
The documentary WAGES OF SPIN is a must watch for music buffs and those interested in the Bandstand Era. Many Public Television channels around the USA will begin airing it again in  mid-May ... along with the newly updated edition of CHARLIE GRACIE: FABULOUS!  Home DVD versions (with additional footage not shown on PBS) are available through the PBS website.
Charlie Gracie, Jr.

I'd been thinking about Dick Clark's contribution to the music we call rock and roll since I heard the news Wednesday afternoon. The cynic in me says if there was a buck to made, he went after it. However, the music lover in me says that he loved the music, too. He made sure that popular music of ALL genres was played on Bandstand. I can recall seeing Merle Haggard on the show. Moreover the show wasn't about Dick Clark. He was the messenger. Some of us may not like an act or a song, but Dick made sure we at least heard it. He gave the performer their shot at the brass ring. So for the time being I'm putting the cynic in me back into his little cubby hole and say an era has past with both Don Cornelius and now Dick Clark having spun their last record. It's kinda sad that a piece of our youth is gone.

I was just reading comments on Both Sides Now chat line about how Dick Clark could be known to fire people on a production just for being in the wrong spot, but also could edit live shows on the fly without problem.  It reminded me of when he hosted Farm Aid III here in Lincoln in the 80's and the show looked to run long and he made Joe Walsh cut a song or two so that they could get the "This Land is Your Land" group sing-along in at the end of the national broadcast at 10 PM.  This, of course, infuriated Joe Walsh and he made some comment onstage after the event and came back to perform AFTER the show had left the air!  Still, when looking at the video tape later, Dick made a seamless production.  Somewhere I have an audience tape of the Walsh post-concert!!  As Billy Joel once sang in the "Entertainer", "If you're gonna have a hit, ya gotta make it fit, so they cut it down to 3:05".
Clark Besch  

Many years ago ... when Forgotten Hits was brand new ... somewhere between 2001 and 2002 if I had to guess ... I began to put together a series on Dick Clark for the newsletter.  This predates the release of "Wages Of Spin" by at least four or five years ... in fact, I had absolutely no idea that anyone else was working on a similar project at the time.  My purpose was more of a historical mission to gather the facts about the early days and continued success of "American Bandstand".  As such, I gathered statements from a number of people and dee jays who had worked with Dick Clark over the years and started to assemble something that I hoped would ultimately lead me to an interview with the man himself.
After a couple of months, I started to get letters from some of the folks who had shared their stories with me, advising me to just "put this on the shelf" ... while nobody flat out retracted anything they said, they all advised against my ever publishing it, hinting that there were some "very powerful people" around who could make my life pretty miserable if any of this stuff ever got out.
While I hesitate to call ANY of these communications outright "threats" or "warnings", I will admit that it was made pretty clear to me that it would be in my best interests to just abandon this project all together.
Naturally I had mixed emotions ... on the one hand, I felt that I must have really been on to something ... something not necessarily "for public knowledge", perhaps ... but something nevertheless.  On the other hand, the last thing I needed then (or now!) was somebody (anybody!) coming after me for something that I was putting together simply as a labor of love of this music.  Needless to say, I put the series away for awhile (it was unfinished anyway) in an effort to think about it again at a later date ... and with a clearer head!
I never had to worry about revisiting it ... three subsequent computer crashes saw to that ... and anything (and EVERYTHING) I had ever complied has long been lost to the Cyberspace Gods that control lost and damaged hard drives for all eternity.
My guess is that now that Dick Clark is gone ... and now that "Wages Of Spin" has proven that you CAN expose some of this stuff (as long as you've got your facts straight) ... SOMEBODY out there will write the definitive book on the comings and goings of Mr. Dick Clark.  (In fact, I'll bet several are already in the works as I type this!!!)
It won't be me ... but, quite honestly, I can't wait to read it!!!  (kk)