positive contributions to modern society. He
is was after all, an iconic figure, one of those instantly recognizable men that you couldn’t help but smile at when you saw him on American Bandstand, the game show Pyramid, TV’s Bloops and Bloopers, or Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve over the course of five plus decades in show business.
There was a time however when people weren’t exactly smiling when Dick Clark’s name was mentioned. There was a time when Dick Clark’s name, along with Alan Freed’s, became embroiled in a shocking controversy which was dubbed the Payola Scandal. This Payola Scandal was the main contributor to the death via uremia and cirrhosis brought on by alcoholism of Alan Freed in 1965 only a few miles from where I am right now as I write this….Palm Springs, California.
What happened as I understand it is the following: In the 1950’s, independent record labels finally had a breakthrough over the major record labels regarding airplay. Prior to the Payola Scandal becoming a major issue, there was a huge scandal over quiz shows and it involved collusion and a host of other unsavory characteristics. As a result of the quiz show scandal the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) suggested in a very convincing manner that House Oversight Subcommittee Chairman named Oren Harris needed to look into the practice of payola in the recording industry.
This practice had been around for many years of course but the ASPAC in light of the seemingly impossible breakup of the stranglehold held by major recording labels about airplay, mistakenly believed that the practice must have become rampant. It based this unfortunate conclusion on BMI”s recent success and on the fact that they believed that rock and roll was evil and terrible music and a fad that needed to be stamped out.
Alan Freed, the so called king of rock and roll and the person who actually is credited for coining “rock and roll” itself as a name for the ever evolving body of music saw this scandal define his career and eventually his life which is a very sad thing indeed.
Dick Clark and Alan Freed, at the time of this scandal were the two top dj’s in all the land.
One was able to separate himself from the scandal rather then fall victim to it. That one was Dick Clark. At the demand of his boss, ABC, Mr. Clark sold all of his interests in the record companies that had brought him so much fame and fortune. He did this before it was his turn to testify in front of the senate. When he did testify before the senate his charm, earnest sense of sincerity, good looks and grace under fire kept him out of harm’s way. He was absolved of all charges and went on to enjoy another 63 years or so of being in show business.
On the other hand, Alan Freed was fired and disgraced. He started drinking like a fish and he was dead at age 43 in 1965….a broken shell of his once brilliant self. You might say that Alan Freed was the first man to sell his soul for rock and roll. He was memorialized by iconic Long Beach punk rock legends The Humpers in the song “Peggy Sue Got Buried”. Now perhaps Dick Clark and Alan Freed can get together and talk about the hey day of rock and roll and the scandal that saw two good men head in entirely opposite directions.
Dick Clark, an American icon, sharp minded businessman, and one hell of a great guy is dead today, Wednesday April 18th, 2012 at the age of 82 years old. He died of a massive heart attack while preparing for his next instantly successful project, one that I unfortunately don’t have Mr. Clark’s permission to share with you good people today.
Rest Easy Dick Clark, and rock on brother.
From Palm Springs, California I remain your humble servant,
Anthony J. Mandich