Philadelphia has a history of TV dance shows

Dick Clark (upper left) hosted “American Bandstand,” a local show that was renamed when it went national. ASSOCIATED PRESS
Dick Clark (upper left) hosted “American Bandstand,” a local show that was renamed when it went national. ASSOCIATED PRESS
Posted: April 24, 2012

“PARTY ROCKERS” is the latest in a long line of produced-in-Philly TV dance-party shows (many of which ultimately gained national distribution) dating to the earliest days of commercial broadcasting. Here’s a look at some of the others that are part of the local (and in many cases, national) pop-culture fabric:

“Bandstand”

The granddaddy of all TV dance-fests was inspired by the popular afterschool radio show hosted by WPEN-AM disc jockeys Joe Grady and Ed Hurst. It debuted on what was then WFIL-TV (Channel 6) in the fall of 1952 with Bob Horn as emcee. In July 1956, Horn, who had already been tied (but eventually cleared) to a teen pornography ring, was arrested for drunken driving. Upon his arrest (a conviction followed), he was removed from the show, paving the way for Dick Clark, who died last week at 82, to assume hosting duties. A year later, the renamed “American Bandstand” went national over the ABC network but remained based in Philly until production moved to Los Angeles in 1964.

“Summertime on the Pier”

Channel 6 wanted Grady and Hurst to host the original “Bandstand,” but the pair couldn’t accept the offer because the owners of WPEN also owned the Sun Ray drugstore chain and threatened to withdraw ads from Channel 6 if the station hired the two DJs. In 1958, however, Hurst debuted his own teen dance show from Atlantic City’s famed Steel Pier. The Saturday-afternoon program first aired on what was then WRCV-TV, Channel 3. By the time the show’s run ended in 1978, it had also appeared on channels 6, 10 and 17.

“The Discophonic Scene”

Jerry Blavat transitioned from radio disc-spinner to local TV star when the afterschool show “The Discophonic Scene” premiered on WCAU-TV, Channel 10, in 1965. Its five-year stretch concluded on Channel 6. The program helped make the then-twentysomething “Geator With the Heater” a national force (so much so that he guest-starred on an episode of “The Monkees”).

“The Hy Lit Show”

From 1965-’71, DJ Hy Lit hosted a Saturday-evening show on WKBS-TV, Channel 48. Produced during rock’s “underground music” era, Lit wasn’t afraid to stretch the boundaries of pop programming. In May 1969, he aired the entire 18-minute video of Iron Butterfly’s epic of psychedelia, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.”

“Dancin’ On Air”

By 1982, the TV dance-party program had seemingly run its course thanks in large part to the year-old MTV cable channel, which offered pop music 24 hours a day. But Philadelphian Michael Nise saw a niche populated by the region’s teens and revived the format with “Dancin’ On Air,” broadcast on WPHL-TV, Channel 17. It quickly became a Generation-X totem, so fondly remembered that a series of specials that aired last year sparked a full-blown revival. A new version of the show now runs Saturdays at 10 a.m. on Channel 17. Bonus: It started South Jerseyan Kelly Ripa on her TV career. n

— Chuck Darrow

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