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So long to Dick Clark, who brought rock to our homes
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My parents came along a little too late for the rock ‘n’ roll era. They were much more comfortable with the likes of Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

I remember turning the TV over to Channel 5, which was CBS in those days, to catch a little glimpse of the rock groups appearing on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Even the network censors on Ed’s show made the rock groups tone it down a little. The Rolling Stones had to sing, “Let’s Spend Some Time Together,” instead of “Let’s Spend The Night Together.”

This is the time on TV when married couples slept in twin beds.

On Saturdays, after the morning cartoons had gone off, was my only chance to hear the latest music and see the latest dances.

It was “American Bandstand” with Dick Clark.

Clark died last week at the age of 82, but not before giving many rock stars a big break by playing their song to a national TV audience.

I’m not sure how you really debut a song today. Teens don’t listen to traditional radio, like they did in my day. Now, a debut involves downloading a song on iTunes.

There were many TV hosts who launched stars who are now legends.

Ted Mack, who spent most of his time hawking Geritol as a cure for iron-poor, tired blood, gave a number of stars a shot on his national amateur hour.

In 1952, a 7-year-old girl named Gladys Knight, belted out a great arrangement of “Too Young,” and was that week’s national winner of a $2,000 prize on the amateur hour.

Others discovered by Mack included Ann-Margret and Pat Boone.

The Osmond Brothers didn’t impress bandleader Lawrence Welk, but Williams saw their talent and began featuring them on his network TV show. The rest, as they say, is history.

Closer to home, local shows like Freddie Miller’s “Stars of Tomorrow” gave a debut to future national stars like Brenda Mae Tarpley. You know her now as Brenda Lee.

Regional country music shows also gave a platform to future stars. Porter Wagoner introduced us to “a little gal singer” named Dolly Parton.

In the 1980s, “Star Search,” hosted by Ed McMahon, gave us the first look at a number of today’s stars, including Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake.

The earliest shows were simple and the future stars had not honed the presence and confidence that would propel them to national stature.

We were too mesmerized to know that some of the singers appearing on “American Bandstand” were moving their lips to their record, we were just glad to watch and wanted to pick up on the latest dances.

We also tuned over to watch “Soul Train” and its baritone-voiced host, Don Cornelius. Each week, he took us on the “hippest trip in America” and would wish us “love, peace ... and soul.”

But the guy we knew best was Dick Clark. While he was the age of our parents, he was cool and everybody in music wanted to be on his show.

At the end of each visit, Dick would look at the camera; give us a little salute and say, “For now, Dick Clark ... so long.”

We have said so long to the many of the others, and now we offer a farewell to you.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.

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