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Menomonee Falls music expert: Dick Clark probably 'most popular disc jockey'

Jay Sorgi

Menomonee Falls music expert: Dick Clark probably 'most popular disc jockey'

CREATED Apr. 19, 2012

MENOMONEE FALLS - A renowned expert on popular music from Menomonee Falls says that Dick Clark, who passed away Tuesday, will go down in the annals of modern music as the most noted player and purveyor of the popular art form.

"(Clark was probably, in history, the most popular disc jockey of American popular music," said Joel Whitburn, the founder and owner of Joel Whitburn's Record Research, on Newsradio 620 WTMJ's "Wisconsin's Morning News."

"Clark was probably the biggest."

Whitburn outlined how Clark climbed from a radio disc jockey in Philadelphia to becoming the leader among those who played and promoted pop music in America in the 50's.

"He had a great show on WFIL in Philadelphia.  Eventually, he launched his American Bandstand there in August of 1957.  The show took off," explained Whitburn.

"Teenagers across the country would rush home from school to watch the afternoon show where he would count down the top 10 records.  The kids would dance.  The country was fascinated with his show. Then he had a TV show on Saturday nights where he brought in the stars like Duane Eddy, Della Reese and Frankie Avalon and all of the great teen idols.  They would perform their hits. 

According to Whitburn, Clark also found his way into utilizing his connections in the music industry and profiting off it.

"Clark was a very astute businessman.  He was a very nice looking, young disc jockey, very successful.  He was probably the first multi-millionaire to come out of that era in radio, the first really big name....just his influence on young artists coming up that he would sign contracts with," said Whitburn.

"He was sharp as a tack when it came to that.  He learned that the real money is in the royalty rights.  They go forever and ever."

However, Clark got into legal trouble because of it, though Whitburn revealed how Clark received mercy from federal officials.

"He got involved in the payola scandal in '59 and '60.  He was called before Congress to testify," said Whitburn.

"They kind of slapped him on the wrist, made him divest of his publishing and record label interest and shares.  He had about a 27 percent interest in the music that he played over a 12-month period."

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