I believe that I watched American Bandstand only a half-dozen times when I was a teenager, and I watched it on those occasions at the home of one of my buddies who loved the show.
As I have mentioned in past stories, I was never much on dancing. In fact, I had, and still have, two left feet and far from neat, so why would I be enticed into becoming a fan of American Bandstand?
My buddies would watch the show, study the dancers, try to imitate the dance steps and eventually go to Tunis Records and buy the recordings of the music played on the show.
The show originated in Philadelphia and was hosted by Dick Clark, a clean-cut guy with an Ipana smile.
As far as the music on the show was concerned, it didn’t appeal to me because in my home I was accustomed to hearing either classical music played by my grandmother on the piano, or listening to my mother’s recordings of music from the 1940s.
The young people who appeared on the show had to conform to a dress code that was prevalent in the 1950s. The guys had short hair and wore jackets and ties, wearing also dress shoes and dress pants.
The girls wore dresses that ended below the knee, and they also wore dress shoes. The music played was either slow waltz or rock and roll.
The slow music was fine, but some of the rock-and-roll lyrics were unintelligible to me, and the beat was too loud and repetitive.
The mother of one of my friends was convinced that rock-and-roll was the devil’s music.
I did not think her belief was true, but I did believe that rock-and-roll music and dancing to this music was a form of minor protest by teenagers to the adult norms of the 1950s. In the ’50s, kids were supposed to listen to their parents and not disagree with parental decisions.
I believe that some parents felt they would lose control over their kids if, as some believed, rock and roll gave kids too much freedom.
I am one of the guys of that era who never went to a school dance even though some of my pals tried to persuade me to go. I knew that I would make a fool out of myself because I had not learned how to dance by watching American Bandstand or by identifying with the dancers on the show.
Like many teenagers in the ’50s, I did want to learn things beyond the schoolhouse, and I did this by learning about tools by working with my Uncle Gene, doing repair jobs, building gasoline-powered model planes, and reading in areas of interest.
I also learned the finer points of baseball by watching the pros and by asking questions of those who had played the game.
Even though I wasn’t “with it” as some of my buddies would say to me, I survived without being a fan of American Bandstand.