I had a new Journal column all written and ready for posting yesterday when I received both some good news and some sad news.
That column, which was silly more than anything else, will now have to wait.
The sad news came in the form of the announcement that Dick Clark had passed away out in California. Often called America’s Oldest Teenager, he was 82-years old.
Dick made his name and his fortune in the field of rock ‘n roll music mostly, but he had some very strong connections to country music as well. His company has produced the Academy of Country Music awards show on television for many years. In the heyday of American Bandstand, he often welcomed country artists to the airwaves when they had recordings that “crossed over” into the pop field. In the summer of 1963, one of those guests was an excited kid from Nashville named Bill Anderson.
I have recounted many times Dick Clark’s kindness and professionalism when my first appearance on his show turned into what could have been a disaster.
We were on the air poolside from a big hotel on Miami Beach, and I was about to close the show by lip synching my recording of “Still.” Dick gave me a great build-up and introduction, and I was about three lines into the song when the heavens opened up and the rain began coming down in torrents.
There was no way I could possibly continue to perform, and Dick knew it. But being the consummate professional that he was, he bailed me out. He signaled for the cameras to pan off of me and onto him. He began ripping off his shirt and tie, and running through the rain toward the ocean, waving his hands wildly in the air. When he reached the water’s edge, he turned back toward the cameras and signaled good night to the audience. And then he dove headfirst into the surf like a porpoise.
I stood in a drenched daze, my dreams of performing for the massive American Bandstand audience literally oozing down the drain. But Dick, bless his heart, walked back to me and apologized as if the storm had been his fault. “When your next record comes out,” he promised me, “you can come to Philadelphia to our studio and be on the show again.” Later that summer, he made good on his promise.
You don’t forget things or people like that.
Dick’s other connection to country music came in the nineties when his company produced a nightly music/talk show on The Nashville Network…TNN. The good news yesterday came in the form of an announcement that the TNN name and much of its country-friendly, family-oriented programming will be revived this summer and made available through some 200 television outlets across the country.
I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about this shortly, but that news is certainly welcome. I know from reading my mail every day how much many of you miss the traditional sounds of country music. Well, you may just be able to hear many of those sounds again. Stay tuned.
Meantime, my condolences to Dick Clark’s family and to his millions of fans and friends around the world.
May he rest in peace.
Only minutes after I wrote the words printed above, I received an e-mail from a longtime fan and friend of mine who had her own special memory of Dick Clark and his connection with me. I thought you might like to read what she wrote:
In hearing about Dick Clark’s death this morning, I remembered a big memory
about him. Years ago, you invited him and his wife, Kari to one of the
fabulous fan club dinners, and I was able to sit next to him and talk for
quite awhile. He was so articulate, intelligent, interesting, funny and so
full of life and it has always been one of my most treasured celebrity
meetings. Thanks to you I was able to do that. I and the world will miss
him, but 82 isn’t bad.