In honour of "America's Oldest Teenager," a look at his brief stint as a Toronto radio DJ...sort of.
During a May 1963 interview with the Star, while on trip to Toronto to finalize plans for a weeknight radio show on CHUM, Dick Clark smiled when the reporter complimented his youthful appearance. “I must be America’s oldest teenager,” the host of American Bandstand joked. For Clark, who passed away yesterday, it was a line that stuck to him throughout his career.
Clark’s production company decided to capitalize on that appeal by offering a radio show to stations across North America in early 1963. The concept: to create the illusion that Clark was hosting a live show, tapes of song introductions and minor banter would be delivered to participating stations, where a local DJ would interact with the recordings as if Clark shared the same booth. When CHUM received a copy of the demo reel, station owner Allan Slaight, promo director Allen Farrell, and production man Claude Deschamps took a listen and determined that while Clark sounded good, the overall effect was amateurish. Deschamps pestered Clark’s company to provide more personalized bits—asides, personal stories about the artists, and more “interaction” with co-host Dave Johnson. His persistence worked, though we wonder if it didn’t hurt that Clark’s second wife Loretta, who he married the year before, was a Toronto native.
To reinforce the illusion of a live program, Clark was required to tape the time for every single minute of the two-hour show, which was scheduled to run at 7 p.m Monday to Friday. He reportedly never turned down requests to record bits referring to other CHUM personalities and promotions, or Toronto events in general. Clark was so impressed with the station’s editing that he offered Deschamps a production job, but bureaucratic and immigration problems scuttled that idea.
The first show to air didn’t require elaborate editing, as it actually was recorded live in Toronto. On May 27, 1963 Clark and Johnson, along with other CHUM jocks, broadcast from the Terrace roller rink on Mutual Street. The evening was like a live episode of American Bandstand, complete with signing-in ritual for artists like Freddie Cannon and Ronnie Hawkins. After the show, Clark headed to Slaight’s home, where a tape of the show was available. With a huge grin, Clark listened to the intro over and over again, noting it was “Just like the old days, only bigger. Let’s hear it again!”
While the canned Clark remained on CHUM for a year, he returned to Toronto in person with his “Parade of Stars” package tour for a July 1963 date at Maple Leaf Gardens. “There’s no question that this handsome emcee has the measure of his audience,” noted Globe and Mail reviewer Ralph Hicklin. As for the demographic of that audience, “America’s oldest teenager” thought they got a bad rap. “I’m sick of hearing teenagers slammed,” Clark told the Star. “They are much more mature and world-minded than my generation was. Look at the postwar mess we handed them. I feel very confident about our future, because most of today’s teenagers will grow up to be very serious, competent adults.”
Additional material from The CHUM Story by Allen Farrell (Toronto: Stoddart, 2001), the July 20, 1963 edition of the Globe and Mail, and the May 3, 1963 edition of the Toronto Star.