Sunday, November 17, 2013

Dick Clark's Saturday Night Beech Nut Show (1958)

Nothing evokes memories of the 1950’s more than the tight harmony singing which was so popular then, or the appearance of Dick Clark introducing the public to music, as he does here on The Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show. This particular performance was introduced by a forever young Dick Clark in the balcony of the theater from which the show aired on February 22, 1958.

The Chordettes are an absolute mainstay of the late 50’s. From their gowns and hair, right down to the innocuous songs, they are emblematic of the era.  Both "Lollipop" and "Mr. Sandman” are songs which have appeared in many movies; and memories; over the years. 

American Bandstand went through many incarnations after its beginnings in Philadelphia. In February of 1958 Mr. Clark was cast as the host of The Dick Clark Saturday Night Beech Nut Show, which broadcast on Saturday nights at 7:30 from the old Little Theater in Manhattan. That theater is now the Helen Hayes Theater. The show aired until September of 1960. During the shows run, Mr. Clark was still hosting the American Bandstand in the afternoons in its usual dance format.

Although American Bandstand had been on the air in Philadelphia in some form or other for several years, it was not until 1957 when Dick Clark began hosting it that it began to make any traction. And even then, with a core audience of teenagers, it was being relegated to the rear in favor of other shows. The time allotted for each show was also changed several times over the years. At one point it was 90 minutes long; at other times it was cut to 60 and eventually even 30 minutes.

Dick Clark knew that this prime time show would fail simply because its core audience; teenagers and housewives; were engaged in other activities on Saturday evenings. But when it did, he simply went back to concentrating on American Bandstand, which, by 1960 had an audience of over 20 million viewers. In 1961 ABC shortened the show from 90 to 60 minutes, and by 1963 they were airing 30 minutes versions of the shows, which were now being taped 5 shows at a clip for the coming week. The airtime then was aimed at the after school crowd, broadcasting from 4-4:30 each weekday.

Just browse through You Tube and look at the many changes in American Bandstand over the years. They reflect the changes in our unique American culture. From the music to the way the audience dressed, these shows are time capsules of their era. 

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