Clark was born and raised in Mount Vernon, New York, on November 30, 1929, to Julia Fuller and Richard Augustus Clark. He had one older brother, Bradley, who was killed in World War II. At the age of 16, Clark got his first job in the mailroom of WRUN, a radio station in Utica, New York, which was owned by his uncle and managed by his father. He worked his way up the ranks and was promoted to weatherman before becoming a radio announcer.
After graduating from Syracuse University with a degree in business administration, Clark began working at several radio and television stations before landing at WFIL radio in 1952. While working at the station, Clark became a substitute host for Bob Horn's Bandstand, an afternoon program where teenagers danced to popular music, broadcast by WFIL's affiliated television station. In 1956, Horn was arrested for drunk driving, giving Clark the perfect opportunity to step in as the full-time host.
After acquiring nationwide distribution the newly reformatted program, now titled "American Bandstand", premiered on ABC on August 5, 1957. In addition to the name change, Clark added interviews with artists (starting with Elvis Presley), lip-sync performances, and "Rate-a-Record," allowing teens to judge the songs on the show -- and giving birth to the popular phrase, "It's got a good beat and you can dance to it." Clark also established a formal dress code, mandating dresses and skirts for the women and a coat and tie for the men. But perhaps the most impactful change that Clark made to the show was ending "American Bandstand's" all-white policy, allowing African American artists to perform on the show.
Under Clark's influence, "Bandstand" became one of the most successful and longest-running musical programs, featuring artists including Chuck Berry, the Doors, the Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, and Smokey Robinson. Sonny and Cher, The Jackson 5, Prince, and Aerosmith were among the influential artists and bands that made their TV debuts on "Bandstand," which is also credited with helping to make America more accepting of rock 'n roll.
With the success of "American Bandstand," Clark became more invested in the music publishing and recording businesses, and began managing artists, hosting live sock hops, and arranging concert tours. But in 1960, when the United States Senate began investigating "payola," the practice in which music producing companies paid broadcasting companies to favor their products, Clark became caught up in the scandal. The investigation found he had partial copyrights to over 150 songs, many of which were featured on his show. Clark denied he was involved in any way, but admitted to accepting a fur and jewelry from a record company president. In the end, the Senate could not find any illegal actions by Clark, but ABC asked Clark to either sell his shares in these companies or leave the network so there was no conflict of interest. He chose to sell and continue on as host of American Bandstand, which was unaffected by the scandal.
In 1964, Clark moved Bandstand from Philadelphia to Los Angeles and became more involved in television production. Under his company Dick Clark Productions, he produced such shows as "Where the Action Is," "TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes," and more recently, "So You Think You Can Dance," as well as made-for-television movies including Elvis, The Birth of the Beatles, Wild Streets, and The Savage Seven. Clark also hosted TV's $10,000 Pyramid, TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes (with co-host Ed McMahon), Scattergories, and The Other Half. Clark also had several radio programs, including "The Dick Clark National Music Survey", "Countdown America", and "Rock, Roll & Remember."
In 1972, he produced and hosted the very first edition of "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve," a musical program where Clark counted down until the New Year ball dropped in Times Square, featuring taped performances from musical artists. "New Year's Rockin' Eve" soon became a cultural tradition, airing on ABC every year with Clark as host (except in 1999 when ABC aired "ABC 2000Today," a news milestone program hosted by Peter Jennings). In December of 2004, Clark suffered a minor stroke and was unable to host, so Regis Philbin stepped in as a substitute. The following year, Clark returned as co-host alongside primary host Ryan Seacrest. Many were worried about Clark due to his slurred and breathless speech, and he admitted on-air he was still recovering but that he wouldn't have missed the broadcast for the world. The following year, Seacrest became "New Year's Rockin' Eve's" primary host, but Clark always returned for the countdown.
Clark has received several notable awards including four Emmy Awards, the Daytime Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1994, and the Peabody Award in 1999. He was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1976, The Radio Hall of Fame in 1990, Broadcasting Magazine Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame.
Clark is survived by his wife, Kari Wigton, to whom he was married since 1977, and three children from two previous marriages: daughter Cindy and son Duane from his marriage to Loretta Martin, which lasted from 1962 until 1971, and another son, Richard Augustus, from his first marriage to his high school sweetheart Barbara Mallery, which lasted from 1952 until 1961.