The music universe is reeling due to the passing this week of Dick Clark at 82. Between his numerous television and radio credits, Clark enjoyed one of the longest entertainment careers of all time. While many obituaries today will (and should) focus on his ties to the world of rock and roll, there were many ties to country music that Clark enjoyed.
"My heart goes out to Dick Clark's family," country superstar Brad Paisley wrote on Twitter. "What a life. Thank you for all you did, and your friendship. Now go get the music rockin' in heaven."
Starting his radio career after graduating high school in 1947, one of the first jobs Clark had was at WOLF while attending Syracuse. Though he would later become internationally known as the host of "American Bandstand," his first job in television was hosting "Cactus Dick and the Santa Fe Riders," a country music show broadcast on WKTV in Utica.
Though he would interview and host just about every major pop act of the time on "Bandstand," Clark always kept an eye out at what was going on with country music. Whenever an artist had a breakout success in the genre, a "Bandstand" invitation was issued. Jim Reeves guested on the show during the chart run of "He'll Have To Go" in 1960, as did Crystal Gayle during her peak crossover years of the late 1970s. Even into the 1980s, country acts were sprinkled into the show, as Sawyer Brown made an appearance on the show in 1985.
There was also a country tie to some of the famous "Bandstand" dancers. One of the originals, Philadelphia native Joe Bonsall, would go on to gain fame as one of the legendary Oak Ridge Boys. Upon hearing of Clark's passing yesterday, Bonsall recalled his friend.
"The Oak Ridge Boys mourn the passing of a true American icon. Dick Clark embraced ALL genres of music and took it all on out there to the masses, from 'American Bandstand' in Philadelphia to huge award shows and rocking the new year for all of us! Dick was a loved presence and respected by the hitmakers as well as the fans. I think in his heart he just loved young people. As one who was there with him from the early days I think he just lit up when those talented kids made and /or enjoyed the music being made! It didn't matter if it was Rock or R&B or Country... Dick was our first video DJ. He was a dear friend to The Oak Ridge Boys and we remember his family today in our prayers."
Over the years, Clark appeared on many country related specials featuring such legends as Conway Twitty and Merle Haggard and in the mid 1990s, he collaborated on a well-received special on The Nashville Network where he and Ralph Emery - Clark's country music counterpart - interviewed each other. He admitted to Emery that he had been a workaholic - particularly in the early part of his career.
Clark's production company also was responsible for TNN's 1990s talk show "Prime Time Country," and also has produced the American Music Awards as well as the Academy of Country Music Awards for many years. This year's ACMs host Reba McEntire sent her regard on Twitter, saying, "I will truly miss Dick Clark. My thoughts and prayers go out to Rac, Kari and the whole Clark family. Rest in peace, Dick. You deserve it."
One of the most awarded performers on the Clark-produced programs, Kenny Rogers, also issued this statement yesterday.
"I'm one of the lucky people who can say that I knew Dick Clark personally. Dick produced almost every awards show I was on during the 80's, and he constantly encouraged me toward success. He will be missed by everyone - especially by those who knew him well."