Edward J. Yates, who directed “American Bandstand” for 17 years, from a fledgling local TV show to a national institution that made Dick Clark a star, died Friday in Media, Penn. He was 87.
In October 1952, Yates volunteered to direct “Bandstand,” a new show on Philadelphia’s WFIL-TV. The show, featuring local teens dancing to the latest hits, debuted with Bob Horn as announcer and took off after Dick Clark, already a radio veteran at age 26, took over in 1956.
It was broadcast live in its early years, even after it became part of the ABC network’s weekday afternoon lineup in 1957 as “American Bandstand.” Yates pulled records, directed the cameras, queued the commercials and communicated with Clark.
“Ed was an extraordinary director. … He managed to grab every exciting moment on ‘American Bandstand,'” Clark told The Philadelphia Inquirer in a telephone interview Monday. “The pictures he created influenced a whole generation of young people across America.”
As the show became a national hit, Clark became a household name and the mostly working-class teens who were regulars on the show were bombarded with fan mail.
Fans jammed the sidewalks outside the West Philadelphia studio to win a spot in the bleachers. Once inside, they hoped to catch the eye of a regular and get to dance on the show.
In 1964, Clark moved the show to Los Angeles, taking Yates with him.
Yates retired from “American Bandstand” in 1969, and moved his family to West Chester in the Philadelphia suburbs.
Yates became a still photographer after graduating from high school in 1936. After serving in World War II, he got a job as a boom operator at WFIL. He was later promoted to cameraman and earned a bachelor’s degree in communications in 1950 from the University of Pennsylvania.