Saturday, September 09, 2017

The Elgarts, Bob Horn, Dick Clark & BANDSTAND BOOGIE

    In 1954 Larry and Les Elgart recorded “Bandstand Boogie,” a tune by Larry’s pal Charles Albertine. The record label's credit is Les Elgart and his Orchestra. It became famous as the theme for “American Bandstand,” which Dick Clark began to host in 1956.

    Why was it called “Bandstand Boogie” and not “American Bandstand Boogie?” The TV show’s original title was “Bandstand.” It was just a local program in Philadelphia.  The format of watching kids dance seemed to evolve in October of 1952 with the arrival of radio disc jockey Bob Horn as the new host. Back then, the theme song was Artie Shaw’s “High Society.” A few years later, “Bandstand Boogie” was the replacement.

    In July of 1956, Bob Horn was arrested for drunk driving, and that put an end to his hosting duties. Angered at being tossed for one mistake, he filed a breach of contract suit. Things got worse when he was then accused of consorting with an underage prostitute. Jerry Blavat, in his book “You Only Rock Once,” recalled that the scandal may have been perpetrated by Walter Annenberg, owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who also owned “Bandstand” and was out to blacken Horn’s name and get Bob’s lawsuit thrown out.

    Jerry Blavat knew a mother-daughter hooker team that worked out of their home. One of their friends was a slutty number named Rickie: “Rickie…blew me. Later, when I found out that he was a transvestite, I was embarrassed. I was street-wise, but at the time I had no idea.” He was much more attracted to the teen daughter, but so were a lot of guys. Among the accused: Bob Horn. The District Attorney’s office arrested the girl’s mother, and, coincidentally, they were willing to go easy on the lady if the daughter testified about having had sex with Horn.

    “The fact that the District Attorney’s office was pressing charges against Bob Horn - I knew the case was bullshit...I also knew that Bob was in for the fight of his life. His reputation was hanging by a thread, but now his freedom was at stake as well….Before it was all over, Bob would be forced to endure two trials on the same charge of statutory rape, with the first trial ending in a hung jury and the second ending in acquittal….the legal system made his life a living hell…with his career in tatters, Bob continued to drink heavily.” One DWI in July of 1956 wasn’t enough. In January of 1957, Horn got plastered and drove the wrong way down a one-way street, nearly killing a carload of people. He ended up spending six months in jail. He changed his name and helmed the successful Bob Adams Advertising agency in Houston, but died of a heart attack while mowing his lawn, July 31, 1966. He was only 50 years old. Meanwhile...replacing Horn on "Bandstand..."

    Dick Clark knew Bob Horn. They both worked at radio station WFIL. The young, photogenic Mr. Clark became the new permanent host of “Bandstand,” and he took it national. From merely a local Philly phenomenon, “American Bandstand” debuted on ABC,  the American Broadcasting Company.  And yes, in 1957 Chuck Berry saluted the successful show when he sang “they'll be rocking on Bandstand in Philadelphia, PA." Dick Clark was the first youthful disc jockey in a business strangely dominated by guys who looked 40 or 50. That included Alan Freed, and Murray Kaufman, who once covered The Treniers' oddball jazz-R&B song "Out of the Bushes" and dared to refer to his late night WINS radio show as the "Swingin' Soiree." Swingin'? Somehow that Sinatra word didn't bother the kids.

    It’s kind of puzzling why a show that featured teenagers dancing, and the top pop-rock acts of the day, would want a Big Band theme song. Yes, early rock owed a debt to jazz stars such as Louis Jordan, and hybrid jazz-R&B acts including Fats Domino and Little Richard, but as “American Bandstand” music became more and more dominated by greasy white kids like Frankie Valli, Bobby Rydell and Frankie Avalon, and the team of Tom and Jerry (later Simon and Garfunkel), it seemed pretty ludicrous to have a big band song for a theme. 

    Even when “the kids” stopped dancing to the kind of music that required holding onto your partner, the groovy “Bandstand Boogie” remained, even if it conjured up images of sock hops and bobby socks, and not bell bottoms or hippie beads. Ultimately, in 1969, the corniness of “Bandstand Boogie” gave way to “The Bandstand Theme,” written by Mike Curb. In 1974, “Bandstand Boogie” came back, and in 1977, till the show ended its run in 1987, a vocal version recorded by Barry Manilow was heard. Aside from the changes in theme songs, “American Bandstand” wobbled and danced through various changes in air time, from afternoons to evenings, and from live to tape in order for Dick Clark to handle his many other TV hosting chores. Dick also hosted “Rockin’ New Year’s Eve.” For many, the enduring New Year’s Eve song is “Auld Lang Syne.” For for many more, the epitome of dance music remains “Bandstand Boogie.”

  BANDSTAND BOOGIE    Instant download or listen on line. No Zinfart passwords where you have to humiliate yourself by typing in some talentless egotist’s name, and no malware or spyware anywhere.

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