American Bandstand

According to “The History of American Bandstand” by Michael Shore with Dick Clark, Neil appeared on “American Bandstand” on Saturday, June 25, 1966, and sang “Solitary Man”. The book notes that it was not only his “American Bandstand” debut but his TV debut. Now, I had seen him on a similar local show in Washington 17 days earlier, so I think they mean national TV debut.

— Regina Litman

Still a Vivid Memory after 40 Years

June 8, 1966. It was less than three weeks before my 14th birthday, and I was just finishing up 8th grade. I listened to the radio just about every night, and I had a lot of favorite groups, singers, and songs.

There was one song that the station I listened to had been playing that I didn’t really like that much because it was such a sad song. Not because someone died or was dying. He just couldn’t hold onto a girlfriend. Sometimes he even caught her with another guy. I usually tuned out the song when it came on, and as a result, I didn’t even remember the name of the guy who sang it.

On Wednesday, June 8, some kids from my junior high (the popular ones, not the ones like me who hadn’t taken an interest in the opposite sex yet) went on a local dance show that was like “American Bandstand”. I didn’t always watch this show because I had a lot of after school activities, but I made sure that I saw it that day. The minimum age to be on the show was 15, so since most of them were still only 13 or 14, they lied about their ages when the show’s host asked them to come up and introduce themselves.

Like “American Bandstand”, this show had guest acts. I don’t know if that day’s guest was actually in the studio (with my classmates) or if he pre-taped his segment. Anyway, the guest that day was the guy who sang that sad song I had been tuning out on the radio. I didn’t tune him out that day as he lip-synched to his song because I wanted to continue to watch my friends. And as a result, I have a quite vivid memory of him.

He played an acoustic guitar, but him most memorable prop was a big stetson hat. I wondered if he was a so-called country crossover artist. I still couldn’t remember his name, and I don’t think I caught it when the show host introduced him. The host then briefly interviewed the singer after he finished his song. The first question he asked was, “What state are you from?” With a hat like that, I had already guessed that he was from a place like Texas or Oklahoma. So I was a bit surprised when he said that he was from the “state of Brooklyn”. But he admitted that they hadn’t gotten around to making it a state yet.

I don’t remember why I kept this memory of a singer whose song I didn’t even like in my mind for such a long time. Sometimes I wonder whatever happened to him. I heard a rumor that he has spent much of the last 30 years performing in sold out arenas around the world wearing glittery shirts instead of a cowboy hat. And that Johnny Cash got a Grammy Award for doing his own version of that same sad song.

— Regina Litman

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