He majored in advertising at Syracuse University, where he also worked at the campus radio station. Soon after graduating in 1951, he was hired by the Philadelphia station WFIL, which operated a radio and TV outlet.
Mr. Clark said his boyish looks led him to flop at reading “world-shaking news” on the TV station’s evening newscast. Nor was he a success while moonlighting in New York doing beer commercials on TV; the brewery owner balked because he looked like an underage drinker.
He wound up emceeing the radio version of WFIL’s televised “Bandstand” teen dance program. When Bob Horn, the host of the TV “Bandstand” program, was arrested on drunken driving in 1956, Mr. Clark, who had long eyed Horn’s job, became the replacement. Mr. Clark’s youthful, clean-cut image had finally enhanced his appeal.
He also was a married man, although his first and second marriages, to the former Barbara Mallery and Loretta Martin, respectively, ended in divorce. Survivors include his third wife, Kari Wigton, whom he married in 1977; a son from his first marriage; and two children from his second marriage.
Although various cities across the country had their own versions of a bandstand program, Mr. Clark persuaded ABC to pick up his Philadelphia-based show for national broadcast in 1957. ABC aired “American Bandstand” every weekday afternoon until 1963, when it moved to a Saturday afternoon slot.
Mr. Clark used the show to reap a fortune and launch his production career. “I’m not gonna sit here and tell you I did this solely to keep music alive,” he once told Rolling Stone magazine. He added that his chief goal was to “perpetuate my own career, first and foremost, and secondly the music.”
Mr. Clark’s influence helped bolster his business dealings in the music industry, making him a target of congressional skepticism looking into payola, or bribes, paid to disc jockeys in exchange for play over the airwaves. The payola scandal had already broken the career of DJ Alan Freed by the time a U.S. House committee turned its attention to Mr. Clark in 1959.
Mr. Clark, who owned partial rights to about 150 songs and had business links to recording companies and music publishers, said he would divest himself of such conflicts of interest. He also went before Congress in 1960. News reports of his testimony remarked on his trademark unflappable demeanor, frustrating representatives with his consistent denial of engaging in illegal activities.
Rep. Steven B. Derounian (R-N.Y.) replied, “You got no payola, but you got an awful lot of royola.”
Mr. Clark admitted to receiving royalty payments from a friend who recorded a hit song, as well as a ring, fur stole and necklace from a record manufacturer. But he avoided prosecution. One of his business partners admitted to accepting payola and resigned, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Mr. Clark was a millionaire by 30, describing himself as having an interest in 33 businesses, ranging from music publishers to, as the New York Times reported, an operation that made and sold a stuffed kitten for sale on “American Bandstand” called the Platter-Puss.
His other enterprises included the book “Dick Clark’s Easygoing Guide to Good Grooming” (1986) and Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Grill, his dance-show-themed restaurant.
Mr. Clark made an unplanned appearance in Michael Moore’s Academy Award-winning documentary “Bowling for Columbine” (2002) when the filmmaker tried to approach him about the restaurant’s alleged policy in Michigan of employing welfare-to-work mothers at low wages, in return for which the business received tax breaks.
Although he ordered a car door slammed in Moore’s face, Mr. Clark later said he felt unfairly “ambushed. . . . He puts a camera in my face and asks me about something I have nothing to do with. I don’t work in the restaurant.”
The sheer scope of his business ventures did not allow it. In addition to his musical programs, Mr. Clark also hosted “The $10,000 Pyramid” (later versions offered $20,000 and $25,000) and a series of “blooper” shows that featured everyday people in mildly embarrassing situations.
He sniffed at those who called his professional work trivial. “I am in a commercial business,” he once said. “What is wrong with giving people what they want, what they enjoy?”