Thursday, September 18, 2014

Throwback Thursday - American Bandstand 1958

Me at 15 years old the summer (August 1958) I went to American Bandstand

In 1958 I, along with several other teenagers from Downingtown, Pennsylvania won an essay contest.  The essay was on "Why we would like to appear on American Bandstand to promote Downingtown's bicentennial celebration."  I won! I won!  Not quite the same as winning the lottery but pretty exciting for a 16 year old kid from a small town in Pennsylvania.  Going to the big city to appear on TV!

The local newspapers clippings announcing the winners of the essay contest to appear on American Bandstand - my name is mentioned last (of course)

Unfortunately I do not have any pictures of me or my fellow winners attending American Bandstand.  Back then, I had NO MONEY to buy film for a camera.  I had quite my paper boy job a year earlier and I received no allowance from my parents.  It is a shame that the adults who organized the trip didn't think to take a picture of our group either. Not everyone thinks the way I do, "take a picture!"  But, be that as it may.  The experience of being taken down to Philadelphia to actually appear on the MOST POPULAR program of the day has been indelibly imprinted on my mind forever.  

We "teens" were picked up in a station wagon by two adults (whose names are lost to history).  I do remember it was a very hot August (6th, 1958) day.  I was 16 years old.  The picture at the top of this blog, which I'm sure I've posted before, is of me at the grand and glorious (and most self conscious and shy) age of 15 years old.  Check out the pompadour.  I'm with our family dog "Nancy."   An interesting story on how we got Nancy.  She was a Mail Order Dog.  Yep, we ordered her through the Montgomery Ward catalogue.  Can you believe it?  At least I think it was the Montgomery Ward catalogue.  I did an Internet search and I can't find anything on mail order dogs but we did order Nancy through the mail and I picked her up at the Post Office.  Can you imagine such a thing today?  

Anyway, back to our original programming of my first and last trip to "American Bandstand."  Ah, I remember it well.  

Our station wagon (I rode backwards all the way to Philadelphia by the way, not fun) pulled up to the garage in west Philadelphia that was the studio for "American Bandstand."  I remember a long line of teenagers standing outside the garage.  I thought "I hope we don't have to stand in that line."  We didn't.  After unloading from the station wagon, we were ushered to another, much shorter line for "Special Guests."  This line also had the American Bandstand regulars.  We felt privileged.  

Inside the garage/studio, I was immediately taken aback at how small it was.  On TV it seemed much bigger.  The day we were there Dick Clark wasn't.  Julius LaRosa was subbing for Dick Clark (you'll see him briefly on the You Tube kinescope video below). 

The popular singing group "The Royal Teens" were the guest.  Whoopee!  Their hit song was "Short Shorts."  Below is a video of the day they were there and we were there, although you can't see me.  At least I can't see me. If you see me in this video, let me know because this has been 56 years coming.

I was excited to see the Royal Teens (I had a crush on all the guys, especially the tall one playing that sexy sax). However, I was disappointed that they lip-synched the song. They didn't play for real.  And I didn't get to meet any of my 15 year old school boy emerging raging hormones crushes.  Oh sure, the other guys were looking at the gal in the short shorts but I was looking at those skinny guys with the greasy hair.  Man oh man, eye candy for this teenager.

The Royal Teens on American Bandstand August 1958

The studio had bleachers where we teens could sit.  When the music began (all piped in, and not even stereo), most everyone got up and danced.  One thing I found very interesting was how clusters of dancers would follow the camera with the green light on.  There were three live TV cameras broadcasting the dancers, I found it amazing how the "regulars" knew which camera was on and they would move en masse to that camera.  A lot of peripheral vision was being employed that day.

The dance floor at American Bandstand - very small and in a garage

All too soon the adventure was over and we loaded in the station wagon and I was driven back home to Downingtown, backwards.

So there you go folks,my "Throwback Thursday" memory for this week.  Sorry I didn't have a more appropriate picture.  How many times I have wished I could go back in time with my now ever present iPhone with my digital pictures and videos!  Just think of what "yon teens" will have to show 56 years from now.  Oh well, I'll be long gone then and perhaps, someone will pull this blog posting from the dusty archives and read about this shy, gangly 15 year old who had a thrill of his lifetime in August of 1958 by appearing on "American Bandstand." The "American Bandstand" theme. I give it a 98. It's got a good beat and you can dance to it!


anne marie in philly said...

HELL YEAH! when this show was OURS! and the barry manilow version of the AB theme song sucked ass!

WARPed said...

Looks like fun times!

And that version of the theme you posted is really a good arrangement, althought I think the original was an instrumental by the Les Elgar Orchestra.

And the dancers are lily-white all.

I stumbled across this article about the integrating of American Bandstand:



(ps, did you wear your short shorts?)

nitewrit said...


The Royal Teens appeared on bandstand on August 6, 1958, to be exact. Now to be more exact, on that date you were 16 years old, not 15. I think you are trying to shave years off your real age these days, you keep making your age younger in your reminiscences.

The Mary Brown that was in the group with you may have been my 1st Cousin.


Jack said...

OMG the memories you have. I remember Julius LaRosa, had a crush on him (I was always into the Latin lover type). I was surprised to see that he is still alive at 80 years old. I had to google him as I don't remember hearing about him for ages. Band Stand was definitely ours in Philly. I don't think I would go to 46th & Market and stand in line for anything these days, the studio of course is long gone as is the Arena that lasted much longer.
Keep the memories coming,

wcs said...

Very cool! So, when did you appear on Soul Train? ;)

Ron said...


Great question! No, I never appeared on Soul Train. Two reasons, one of which that Soul Train was telecast from California and and other reason . . . well that's fairly obvious.

Ron said...

Remember Julius LaRosa from the Arthur Godfrey Show? I'm surprised that he's still alive too! And "only" 80? You're right about American Bandstand being "Philly" all the way. Dick Clark sold out when he moved the show to California. Greedy Dick Clark. The show lost all of it's uniqueness once the professional dancers took over the show from California. Reminds me of the time Roland sold out and moved his nightly "Creep Fest" to New York. And Roland (John Zacherle) is still alive, believe it or not.
I have a lot of memories. I wish I could share some of the X-rated ones but I can't on my family friendly blog here. Maybe I'll write a book.

Ron said...

I knew the date was in August because the weather was hot and humid. And I did think I was 16 years old. I was going to put that as my age until I read the newspaper clipping. Nope, I'm not trying to shave my age in my reminiscences. Maybe subconsciously I am. :)

Ron said...

I loved this version of the "American Bandstand" theme. Barry Manilow did the worst but then he always horned in with his schmaltzy version of well loved songs. And yes, the dancers were all lily-white. Funny thing, we never gave it a thought at that time back in the Eisenhower days of lily-white America. And uh . . . . no, I didn't wear shorts. Actually back then it was considered something of a fashion faux pas for men, especially 16 year old boys to wear shorts except if they were in gym class or playing on the basketball team. Very strict fashion rules in those days, The Fifties.

Ron said...

Again, you're soooo right Anne Marie. Barry Suck Ass Manilow version of the AB theme song sucked, big time.

pat888 said...

Ron - I loved American Bandstand. A chance to see chart topping artists live - even if lip-sync. What a way out prize to win back then. My hearty belated congrats. To win with so many entries. And they had to include more winners. Must have been crazy exciting.

Also loved Shindig when it came along. There was another from the west coast called Lloyd Thaxton Show. I digress. Great blog. Thanks.


Ron said...

American Bandstand came 3:30 PM live, five days a week. I used to rush home every day and watch it if I could. It was such a thrill to actually be on the show, if only for one day. It was everything I expected it to be except maybe the small studio and the absence of Dick Clark. However, as to my "win", I have a hunch that not that many kids wrote an essay. I can't imagine them turning away anyone but then I always did like to write. I wish I had kept a copy of the essay I sent in.

I liked "Shindig" too but I don't remember the Lloyd Thaxton Show but American Bandstand was unique because it was broadcast out of Philadelphia with real teenagers, not the Hollywood professional "teenagers" (most of whom weren't even teenagers but in their early twenties or older).
Thanks again for your alway generous comments.

nitewrit said...


I'm kinda wondering about the Julius La Rosa thing. La Rosa was on Bandstand twice, but not during August of 1958. In '57-'58 the guy who usually filled in as host if Dick Clark wasn't there was Tony Mammorella, who was Clark's friend, business partner and Bandstand producer. Are you sure it was La Rosa?


Ron said...

I think you're right Lar!