Mitteager: Hello, Mr. Clark?
Clark: Yes, who am I speaking to?
Mitteager: Ahhh, Jim Mitteager.
Clark: All right, Jim. My name is Dick. Carry on from there.
Mitteager: Great, well I just got to say, it’s an honor to talk to you…
Clark: Are you from Philadelphia?
Mitteager: No, I’m from New York. In fact…
Clark: Now, wait a minute, where did you pick up that accent?
Mitteager: Ahhh, all over the country… Traveling and what not.
Clark: Well, you really sound like you’re Pennsylvanian.
Mitteager: Well, we have something in common. You lived in Utica for a while.
Clark: [Laughing] Oh yes, yes.
Mitteager: I moved to Cooperstown not too long ago and Utica is very close. And you’ve been inducted into a comparable Hall of Fame.
Clark: Yeah, I think so.
Mitteager: I really appreciate the interview two days before Christmas. Did you ever suspect at the beginning of American Bandstand that rock and roll would become so mainstream? What I mean is, as a parent now and someone who grew up with rock and roll, I share the music with my kids. And when I was a kid, watching Bandstand, nobody shared it with their parents.
Clark: Well, you remember, it was a rebellious period of time when kids found something that was theirs and older people said, “Good God, what is it that you’re doing?” It’s sort of gone on like that for years and years. I don’t think predicting that rock and roll would last forever was any big deal because it embraced so many different kinds of music. It’s a misnomer to call all the stuff that’s out there these days rock and roll because it really is every conceivable kind of music there is. The public has gotten so finicky and its tastes so divided, it’s going to last forever.
Mitteager: It sure is. Did your parents like rock and roll?
Clark: Oh, they were too old to worry about it.
Mitteager: Who has won the most American Music Awards to date?
Clark: Well, we just did a 20-year anniversary and we talked about Kenny Rogers winning the most. It’s got to be him without a doubt.
Mitteager: Did he ever appear on Bandstand?
Clark: Oh, yes… When he was with The First Edition and when he was Kenneth Rogers as a teenager.
Mitteager: So you were instrumental in the early part of his career?
Clark: Yeah. The only thing about it is we don’t have any film or tape on him when he was Kenneth Rogers as a teenager. But The First Edition stuff…
Mitteager: Was he on your show as Kenneth Rogers?
Clark: Oh yeah.
Mitteager: Oh, wow.
Clark: What I loved about him is he was always one of the great talkers. As a performer, a lot of the musicians were not necessarily great conversationalists. With Kenny, you could ask him any questions. He was easy to talk too. So you enjoyed having him on shows. And years later he turned out to be a great actor.
Mitteager: What common denominators do you see that set some of the [American Music Award] winners apart from so many other singers and singing groups? Is it work ethic? Is it background?
Clark: I don’t know what the answer to that question is, or if you could bottle what’s the secret of superstars.
Mitteager: Well, some superstars burn themselves out for a variety of reasons. Too much too soon… Groups breakup… Some groups stay together for a very long time.. Some break up in disharmony. I was wondering if there is some common denominator with some people and some groups that keep them working when in fact they lose the need. They lose the hunger for the money after a certain amount of time and then there is something else that keeps propelling them.
Clark: Well, we were talking about Kenny [Rogers]. He’s moved from career to career into other things and became an actor along the way in the hopes… He’s just a recognizable icon. Then you take somebody like Michael Jackson or Prince, or the Beatles, although that precedes all the American Music Awards. I mean they had hot, hot, hot, hot periods. Jackson, up until recently, with all the latest developments… Goodness knows what the future will bring for him, but he adapted along the way. Prince has suddenly stopped everything. He’s taken stuff he’s recorded and he’s repackaging it and releasing it. He’s got a name now that is a symbol. Alabama has been consistent every year. Let’s see when did they first win? 1983 to 93… They never miss. They won over the last ten years, ten consecutive years.
Mitteager: Going back to the Bandstand days, did anybody ever show up on your front door and press you to put them on your show?
Clark: You know, normal bookings that happened on that show were because they were selling records. I mean as soon as they made a move to come on television we’d chase after them. It didn’t happen in the reverse.
Mitteager: There’s a wonderful statistic here that 84% of current Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees were first introduced on Bandstand. I find that rather astounding.
Clark: Oh, yes, I’m very proud of that fact. There was a little girl who was the sister of a famous guy. And she came on and did a Mae West impression with a feather boa… It was Janet Jackson. She was a little teeny kid. And Michael was on the show and introduced his sister, and, for years they wouldn’t let me show that because she became a very famous and sexy star. And now, they let us show it.
Mitteager: Oh, you mean her [Janet Jackson] representation of…
Clark: It didn’t work with the image she was projecting. Now we show it. We showed it on the [20th American Music Awards] anniversary show.[Photos of Clark, Rogers with their wives: Featureflash/Shutterstock.com]