Cars with tail fins cruising down the streets by day or drag racing under the cover of darkness; Cousin Brucie, Murray The K, Wildman Steve Gallon, Mike Lawless, Rocky The Jockey – the DJ’s who brought life to our radios; the infancy of Rock ‘n Roll; cardigan sweaters, bobby socks; pony tails, pageboys, pompadours: all of these things defined the year 1958. Amidst all the ways we found to entertain ourselves one seems to stand out above the others; a television show that would last for decades and become a national favorite: American Bandstand hosted by Dick Clark.
For those who don’t remember American Bandstand, I’ll explain. The show originated in Philadelphia as Bandstand. Each day local teenagers would come to the studio dressed in their nicest clothes, sit on a short set of bleachers, and were allowed to dance on camera to popular music. Recording artists would make guest appearances to plug their records; there would be dance contests, tune dedications, and a favorite feature called “Rate-A-Record” where two couples would listen to a new record and give it a rating based on things like, “easy to dance to”, “good sound”, or “I just like it”. In time, the major network moved the show to California along with Dick Clark and took the show national – renaming it American Bandstand.
I remember coming home each day, rushing up the street from the school bus stop, and getting ready to watch American Bandstand. As I recall it would come on at four in the afternoon, time enough for us young folks to get home from school, do a bit of homework, and provide a form of wholesome entertainment while our moms made dinner. Both of my parents loved music and mom would often sing or hum along with the songs. My dad usually arrived home around the time that American Bandstand came on and sometimes he would “shake a leg” with me in the parlor.
But we Valleyites were also lucky to have our own version of the show: Connecticut Bandstand. This show was hosted originally by DJ Jim Gallant (1956-early 1960), Diggie Nevins (March 1960), and finally Jim Sapack (through late 1962). The show aired on WNHC-TV Channel 8 on weekdays in the time slot just before Dick Clark and his American Bandstand. The format was similar to American Bandstand but the difference was that Connecticut Bandstand played more than just rock ‘n roll; there was a mix of the more established artists and even some of the ‘big bands’.
Around that time we also had dances known as record-hops or sock hops. Originally held in school gyms they grew in popularity and many civic organizations sponsored these informal dances for teens and pre-teens. I had the good fortune to attend several of these hops and clearly remember the exhilaration of being asked to dance by a cute boy. Sometimes the boys didn’t feel like dancing. Not to worry, we girls were self-reliant and more often than not a couple of us would pair off and dance to tunes like Lollipop by the Chordettes, Book of Love by the Monotones, Let the Bells Keep Ringing by Paul Anka, Maybe Baby by the Crickets, and Rock and Roll is Here to Stay by Danny & The Juniors.
More Top Hits of 1958: Volare by Domenico Modugno, It’s All In The Game by Tommy Edwards, The Purple People Eater by Sheb Wooley, Twilight Time by The Platters, At The Hop by Danny & The Juniors, Wear My Ring Around Your Neck by Elvis Presley, Poor Little Fool by Ricky Nelson, Sweet Little Sixteen by Chuck Berry, Tears On My Pillow by Little Anthony & The Imperials, Splish Splash by Bobby Darin, and Who’s Sorry Now by Connie Francis (she was my dad’s favorite songstress).
Here we are, fifty-four years later, and I’m so happy to say, Rock and Roll is Still Here and Rock ‘n Roll Will Never Die!
In Memory of that Eternal Teenager, Dick Clark.
Marion Marchetto is a Valley native; she is the author of three novels set in Connecticut. She is currently working on a new series entitled The Bridgewater Chronicles, also set in Connecticut. Please visit her website: www.marionmarchetto.com to sign her guestbook, sign up for her newsletter, or leave her a message.