During July of 1960, Chubby Checker's song, "The Twist," was first introduced on television on The Clay
Cole Show, a monster tune that in 2008 was named the biggest chart hit of all time by Billboard magazine
(including all singles that made the charts between 1958 and 2008)!
Clay was the first in America to bring to the small screen the Rolling Stones, Tony Orlando, Dionne Warwick,
Neil Diamond, Bobby Vinton, the Reascals, the Ronettes, Four Seasons, Dion and dozens more.
Anyone who was anybody, from Elvis Presley to Ray Charles and the Beatles, was interviewed by "the Rock
`n Roll Ringmaster."
Clay had the first rock and roll show that introduced rising stand-up comedians such as Richard Pryor,
George Carlin, and Fannie Flagg. The Clay Cole Show also led the way with music video clips, discotheque
and go-go girls.
His comedic sidekick was Chuck McCann, known to a generation of children who grew up watching his
children's shows in the New York metropolitan area during the 1960s, even better known afterward for his
roles in such films as The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and regular appearances on The Garry Moore Show, and
immortalized as the zany voices of numerous cartoon characters, including Sonny the Cuckoo Bird ("I'm
cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!").
Literally in the eye of the showbiz hurricane during the turbulent Sixties, Clay Cole became an icon to an
entire city of hip young people who idolized his suave, breezy manner.
Then, almost without warning, in 1968 the 30-year-old host simply walked away from the Big Apple's top-
rated rock `n' roll television show. Few understood why. There were rumors that he died. Others spread
mysterious stories of intrigue.
Now, more than a half-century after The Clay Cole Show premiered, the true story of what really happened
has now been told by Clay himself in Sh-Boom! The Explosion of Rock `n' Roll (1953-1968). The account of the
man who has been called "the missing link to the Sixties" reveals what really happened behind the scenes
of the explosion of rock `n' roll, seen vividly and up-close through his eyes.
Following is the exclusive MyBestYears.com interview with Clay Cole, one of the last he gave before he
passed away on December 18, 2010. He would have been 72 on his next birthday, New Years Day 2011.
MBY: Tell a little about your childhood as Albert Rucker, Jr. in Hubbard, Ohio.
CC: Hubbard was close to Youngstown, where I would spend part of my childhood years. In both places, it was an idyllic
life in so many ways. Doors went unlocked. Bikes were left in the yard or driveway, unchained. Even teenagers
hitchhiked without fear. My Mom, Dad and I shared a seven-bedroom house at 122 Mackey Street with my mother's
parents and her two brothers, Sherm and Bud. We always had lots of people around, including aunts and uncles and
cousins who loved to come for picnics. I remember Grandpa Nash doing big barbeques on the red brick grill that he had
built. There was always music around. Dad worked at General Fireproofing Company, his first and only employer. Mom
was a homemaker.
MBY: Did that big bustling family have a lot to do with your career?
CC: Definitely. Grandpa Nash was an executive with Republic Rubber, and on Saturday nights he would host big
shindigs that featured his secret-recipe spaghetti and meatballs and a show put on by different members of the family
and friends. Uncle Sherm played his prized mother-of-pearl drums. There would be music, skits, impressions and send-
ups of all the popular radio shows. It was a scream from beginning to end. In fact, one of my earliest memories is
Grandpa Nash laughing so hard that his full set of dentures came out and flew across the dining room.
MBY: How did World War II affect your family's gatherings?
CC: A lot. Uncles Sherm and Bud both joined the Army. Dad was deferred from the draft because he involved in making
fighter planes for the war department, but as part of the trade-off, the factory where he worked was converted to war
production, working around the clock, in three eight-hour shifts. I seldom saw him for the next few years.
MBY: How did this affect your family?
CC: In some ways we continued as before. Our life revolved around the Baptist Church. Grandpa Nash was a deacon
there. I was baptized there at 13 and later was president of the Baptist Young Peoples Union, as well as singing in the
choir. But in other ways everything began changing. There was a lot of tension between my mother and father. I didn't
understand it, but I did sense the unhappiness.
MBY: In your book, Sh-Boom! you describe that fateful day when you came home from kindergarten...
CC: My Mom was sobbing. She ran upstairs to her bedroom and I followed her, wanting to know what was wrong. She
had thrown herself across the bed, and through her tears she said, "Some day you and your father will come home and
find me gone! Maybe then you'll appreciate me!"
MBY: How devastating that must have been.
CC: Years later my "shrink" would have a field day with that one. Abandonment is one of a child's worst fears, and my
fear level jumped off the chart. I didn't have a great relationship with my father, mainly because he wasn't there much, so
much of my life for the next few years centered around placating her. That and escaping the sadness by going to
movies at the nearby Palace Theater.
MBY: Tell about the Mickey Rooney quote and how it became part of your life.
CC: In his movies with Judy Garland, it seemed like the answer to any of her problems were solved when he said, "I
know! Let's put on a show!" That became my solution, too. I would put on lots of backyard productions with some of my
neighborhood friends. When we moved for awhile to Youngstown so Dad could be closer to work, that allowed me to
expand my horizons and provided new talent.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
MBY: So many people know you as Clay Cole. Do you feel more like Al Rucker or Clay Cole?
CC: I’ve been Clay Cole longer than I was Al Rucker. When they change your name and you go on
television, you are suddenly introduced to hundreds and thousands of new people. They instantly
believe that you are that new name. Everyone just accepted the name.
MBY: How did the name change come about?
CC: The producer in New York pointed out that Rucker rhymed with…well, you get the picture. My
competition at the time was Allan Freed, so the producer didn’t want another Al. They wanted
something short and snappy, something that will fit in TV Guide and look good on the marquee.
MBY: Where did Clay Cole come from?
CC: I chose the name of my distant cousin who had taken me under his wing many years before. It
sounded like a cowboy matinee idol or something, and I thought it would honor him. No one ever
MBY: How did your family accept the name change?
CC: It was just one of those showbiz things. From that point, my Dad, brothers and sisters all called
me Clay Cole. My friends, too. So, in answer to your question, I'm probably more Clay Cole than Al
MBY: Let’s go back to the beginning, long before there was a Clay Cole. What made the difference between the other
kids and you that propelled you to become an entertainer?
CC: There were lots of kids with talent and motivation. I was very, very lucky because I absolutely knew what I wanted to
do when I grew up. Most of the other classmates or friends had any idea what they wanted to become. Most stayed in
Hubbard, Ohio, got married, had children, worked and never ventured far from home. There’s certainly nothing wrong
with that. I was just never like that. I knew at a very early age that I wanted to be a performer.
MBY: You got started early, too…
CC: I was a juvenile stage actor at the Playhouse, which led to the lead in an afternoon adventure radio show called The
Enchanted Forest. I would go to the studio every day and do this dramatic show where my character Tommy and a girl
named Nancy got involved in all these adventures. I was working with professional radio actors, sound men, producers,
the directors…it was an exciting life that felt like home to me. I enjoyed it all—acting, comedy, song and dance, drama,
everything. From those beginnings, I just knew that I was going to grow up to be in show business.
MBY: Did you also have leanings toward producing and directing even back then?
CC: I really did. I when I was about 13 that I was also writing for the Hubbard News, and I remember that I was asked to
put together a skit for the newspaper. The editor was putting on a charity show for polio. I gathered up four gals, the
cutest girls in my class, of course, called ourselves The Baby Sitters, and lip-synched records.
MBY: Do you remember what songs?
CC: We did a Modernaires record and a Rusty Draper tune.
MBY: How did it go over?
CC: We were huge hits.
MBY: What happened to your career as a result?
CC: Two things. My voice changed, so I no longer sounded like a little boy or froggy-voiced pre-teen on the radio. And
television opened up to me. It was 1953, so when it first came to Youngstown, Ohio, I went there with the Baby Sitters act
as a guest on all the local shows. Then one of the hosts took a vacation, so they asked me to fill in for him for his 15-
minute nightly show. By the second or third day, the program director called and said, “How would you like to have your
own Saturday night teen show?”
CC: It was. The timing was perfect. We went on the air with the show in 1953 and it lasted four years. So by then I was
producing, hosting and staging an ambitious half-hour show, Rucker’s Rumpus Room, every Saturday night.
MBY: And undoubtedly too young to realize that you weren’t supposed to do all those things at your age!
CC: Oh, absolutely! I didn’t have time to be overwhelmed by it all.
MBY: What a time of changes from 1953 to 1956…
CC: Definitely. We went from playing Patti Page, the McGuire Sistes, Eddie Fisher, the Ames Brothers and the
Hilltoppers, then suddenly “Sh-Boom” by the Crew Cuts, “Maybelline” by Chuck Berry and “Blueberry Hill” by Fats
Domino came along. Before I knew it, we were doing a rock and roll show.
MBY: So much has been written by historians, musicologists and social scientists about that the transition our society
went through during the mid-Fifties, and how those changes affected young people, but you were actually going through
it as a teenager on television.
CC: It was an amazing time as an entirely new music was born and a new group of stars came out of nowhere to
revolutionize the industry.
MBY: Do you remember some of the interviews that you did during that time?
CC: We had all kinds of people coming through Youngstown.
MBY: Do you remember the very first interview that you did?
CC: I do. Some things are indelibly imprinted in your memory. It was a French actress, Denise Darcel, and she had a big
hit movie, The Battleground, co-starring with people like Van Johnson, Ricardo Montalban, George Murphy, James
Whitmore, and James Arness. She was the first big star that I ever met, and I’ll never forget it. She was appearing in a
local night club in Youngstown, and she walked into the interview with gorgeous clothes, surrounded by her entourage. I
was awestruck. Somehow I got through the interview, but it was something I would never forget.
MBY: Who else do you remember from those early years?
CC: Helen O`Connell and Bob Eberly came along soon after I started doing Rucker’s Rumpus Room. The husband and
wife team were best known, of course, as featured singers for the Tommy Dorsey Band, and for hits such as "Green
Eyes", "Amapola," "Tangerine" and "Yours." They had been flown in from New York to do the local segments for a huge
telethon for cerebral palsy. Again, somehow I made it through the interview without choking.
MBY: Who were the first big rock and roll-type singers that you interviewed?
CC: I remember having the Poni-Tails—Toni Cistone, Karen Topinka and Patti McCabe—on the show. They were from
Cleveland and already getting pretty well known. Their biggest chart hit wouldn’t come until 1958 with “Born Too Late.”
And I remember during those early years interviewing the Del-Vikings who were all in the Air Force and stationed in
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, so they came down and did the show. Their biggest hit would be “Come Go with Me.”
Needless to say, I was pretty impressed to be sitting and talking with them.
MBY: The McGuire Sisters were on your Youngstown show a lot. How did that happen?
CC: Partly because the three girls with me who lip-synched songs often did McGuire Sisters tunes. The audience loved
it when they would perform “Goodnight Sweetheart,” “Sincerely” and all their big hits. The McGuire sisters had grown up
in nearby Middletown and still came back home often, so everybody in the area loved them and loved it when our trio
would lip-synch their songs. We even did one half-hour show that was exclusively McGuire Sisters’ hits and it was a
huge success. The “real” sisters heard about what we were doing and eventually ended up coming on the show a
number of times.
FROM OHIO TO THE BIG APPLE
MBY: You were barely a teenager and already rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest stars. Especially after your
move to the Big Apple, you would eventually interviewed everyone who was anyone. Was it a huge leap to take on New
York City after all the initial success, or was it an entirely new world?
CC: It was a big risk, I suppose. I definitely went from being a big fish in Youngstown to being a very little fish in the huge
pond in New York. I was scared, but when I decided to make the move after high school, I came up with a ten year plan. I
said, “If I don’t make it in a decade, I’ll go back home and work at the local newspaper or television station, get married,
and live the rest of my life in Hubbard, Ohio.”
MBY: How was it at first?
CC: There were two very rough years. I know that won’t get much sympathy from people who try and try for much longer
times, but I was so determined to do whatever it took, and that made the trying times a lot easier. I took singing, dancing
and acting lessons all the time. I got a job working as a page at NBC, which was a great opportunity to go into any studio
I wanted, watch rehearsals and see how shows are done. I was awestruck watching Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall
program at the Ziegfeld Theatre.
MBY: All of these people were huge idols. Do you remember specific ones that stand out?
CC: I guess because I fancied myself as both an interviewer and performer, it was natural that I would love Steve Allen. I
always enjoyed going to his rehearsals to watch him doing things so effortlessly and flawlessly. That was so impressive
MBY: What an education!
CC: Truly. I got to see firsthand how the “big shots” did it.
MBY: Yet during this exciting time with so many opportunities to grow, you went through some bad times, too, that you
describe in your book, Sh-Boom.
CC: I did. There was one time that I especially remember during those first years in New York City. I was badly
depressed. I lost an enormous amount of weight. I was totally in a funk. It lasted about ten months. I think it had to do
with the fact that I had no outlet for my creativity. I was working hard as an NBC page and studying diligently, but I wasn’t
performing, which was my greatest desires.
MBY: Many people reading your book might not understand that, but that lack of spotlight obviously left a huge blank in
CC: It is hard to understand. It was such an exciting time, but an actor’s gotta act. A singer’s gotta sing. If you know what
you want to do but can’t, it becomes very frustrating. It became overwhelming.
BACK ON THE AIR
MBY: Yet surviving that frustration seems to be a requirement for making it in show business, certainly in New York City.
How did you make it through those horrible times?
CC: Just by coincidence, one of the pages with whom I worked at NBC was fascinated by the Rucker’s Rumpus Room
show that I had done back in Ohio. He would ask lots of questions. He wanted to be a producer, so he said, “Would you
mind if I see if I could sell that show idea somewhere?” He was from a wealthy background in Rhode Island, and he took
it back home to a television station in Providence, and they bought the idea!
MBY: So just like that you were back on the air?
CC: I hired a new group of actors. In New York that wasn’t hard to do. Suddenly we were rehearsing in different
apartments, putting together a half-hour show, then driving up together each Saturday to do dress rehearsals, then
went live. It did well and quickly got the attention of people in New York City, where I eventually did a live show, Rate the
Records, six days a week. It literally took off that quickly!
MBY: When did you sleep?
CC: It was a whirlwind, but I thrived on it.
MBY: Where did you get the boldness? Doing half of what you
did during those early years would have terrified most people.
CC: I really don’t know. It was just always something that came
MBY: What was it like to be a hit on New York television, smack
dab in the middle of the showbiz maelstrom?
CC: It was intoxicating. When you are a hit in New York City,
everybody wants you at the right parties, the right social
events, the right banquets. They are happy to see you when
you arrive. They can’t wait to see you again when you leave.
You get caught up in this whirlwind, and I was no different.
MBY: The rock and roll revolution was continuing, but you were
in both worlds—hosting both older movie and music stars along
with the new breed of singers that appealed to the younger
generation. How confusing was that?
CC: It was strange. I’ll never forget sitting with Barbara Stanwyck at a big event in Hollywood, and all she wanted to do
was ask questions about what was happening back at the Peppermint Lounge. She wanted to know every detail of the
new dance crazes. I remember having a similar conversation with Jack Benny. It was a glorious time and so easy to get
caught up in the craziness of all that was happening.
MBY: How did it feel, so soon after arriving from Ohio, to be a part of such heady success?
CC: It blew my mind to be so accepted.
MBY: You must have had a lot of the “wait-`til-my-friends-back-home-hear-about-this” moments.
CC: So many. I remember watching television as a boy and seeing Faye Emerson. She was a film actress and television
interviewer known as "The First Lady of Television." She had been in a number of Warner Brothers films and been
featured on shows such as The Chevrolet Tele-Theatre, The Philco Television Playhouse, Goodyear Television
Playhouse and The Faye Emerson Show. She had been married to Elliott Roosevelt, FDR’s son, and later to
bandleader Skitch Henderson. She actually became a close friend because she had a regular slot an hour before mine.
She used to walk into the studio, dance with me and invite me over to parties. I couldn’t believe this was happening to
MBY: Your book Sh-Boom definitely allows the reader to go through a lot of those amazing moments with you. But one
thing stands out in the book—during both the great and horrible times, there weren’t any maps. Nobody had charted out
what you were doing since you were cutting a new swath in both television and rock and roll.
CC: Even though television was pretty well established by then, the move into mixing television and rock and roll was
definitely uncharted territory.
NAMES, PLACES, PEOPLE
MBY: Definitely uncharted territory. You saw so much history being made, and you were a vital part of it. Let's talk about
some of the people and events. How about Annette Funicello?
CC: She was every boy’s teenage fantasy. When I was thirteen or fourteen watching the Mickey Mouse Club, she was
the one! She came to New York to do a very unusual thing. Radio City Music Hall doesn’t usually use stars. They put on
essentially a vaudeville show. But Annette was booked for six weeks and during that period I saw a lot of her. She
became part of our gang and was such a terrific, sweet girl.
MBY: Have you stayed in contact with her?
CC: I have. As you know she has Muscular Sclerosis. I got a card from her this past Christmas, but what impressed me
was that she wrote it with a very shaky hand, yet she refuses to have a secretary write notes like that. I treasure it, not
because it is sad, but because she did it herself. What an amazing person!
MBY: Twist Around the Clock?
CC: My one movie. It was quite an experience. When you go to Hollywood, you can’t imagine how they treat you. I had
my own trailer, make-up people, hair people, costume people clean and press your clothes every day. It was a lot of fun!
Friends like Dion and Chubby Checker were there. Imagine a kid from Hubbard and six years later I’m in Hollywood to
make a movie. There is nothing to prepare you for things like that. It was like a dream.
MBY: Did you think, “Gee, I’d like to do this a lot?”
CC: Oh, yeah. I loved being in the middle of the excitement. Count me in! The executives were
telling me I was headed for even greater things. I auditioned for Marlo Thomas’ new program,
That Girl, for the role that eventually went to Ted Bissell. There were other roles that were
coming up. They were trying their best to get me into something great while I was there three
or four weeks making Twist Around the Clock. But frankly, at that time, I felt like I had such a
good thing going with Channel 13 in New York City, and I also felt like I had an obligation to
them because they treated me so well. I didn’t slam the door shut in Hollywood, but I really felt
like I wanted to honor my contract in New York. Joyce Selsner, the talent scout for Columbia
Pictures, became a good friend and gave me great advice. She said, “Stick with what you do
best and what you’re known best for, and then other opportunities will come to you.”
MBY: Good advice!
BACK TO THE BIG APPLE
CC: In the end that’s the main reason why I went back to New York after wrapping my part in
MBY: Then the hammer dropped.
CC: Not long after I got back, they called a big meeting. There were thousands of us. They
announced that the station was being sold to public television.
MBY: A major shock?
CC: Absolutely. I was spoiled in a way by Channel 13. They had given me so many
opportunities and respect. They nurtured and treated me with such dignity. So when
everything ended there and I went to Channel 11, it was just the opposite. It was such a
negative situation, yet on the other hand, the show we did was a tremendous success. We
went through the roof with ratings.
MBY: Through all the tweaking and interference, it eventually became Clay Cole’s Discoteque. How did that change
CC: It gave a new energy and image. All the English groups were arriving on the scene by the mid-Sixties. Even though
the station management kept things in such turmoil, I just didn’t feel like I should leave a hit show. I decided to endure
the negatives. Management simply didn’t know how to deal with what was happening. I had the signature show at the
time, the highest rated for the station, and the only locally-produced show that they did besides the kiddie programs and
MBY: It had to help that you were at the top of the market, yet others always seemed to get the breaks.
CC: They kept dangling national syndication in front of me to keep me from leaving, but it never seemed to actually
happen. And frankly I had mixed feelings about going national. Our show was so New York oriented. It wasn’t American
Bandstand that kids in Dallas or Dubuque could watch, even though it was taped in Philadelphia. Everything about our
show had such a New York stamp on it. We prided ourselves on being very hip. I felt that would be diluted if we had to
play to the entire United States we would lose the edginess. What made it work in the Big Apple would have probably not
gone over well other places.
MBY: You did a lot of inventive things that other shows later embraced.
CC: We tried. For instance, stand-up comics on rock and roll shows were unheard of back then, but
we loved bringing on all the up-and-comers like Richard Pryor, Fannie Flagg and George Carlin. We
had impressionists like John Byner who later became so famous for doing Ed Sulllivan, Stevie
Wonder, LBJ and Johnny Mathis. We only paid the minimum $175. Most of these comics were not
only starving and needed the money, but they liked the hipness and exposure of being on TV. Later,
nearly all television rock and roll programs would include comedy, but ours was a bit ahead of our
time. There was so much about our show that was so different that syndication may have ruined it
and made it into just another Shindig or Hullabaloo.
MBY: Let’s talk about the conversation with Jerry Lewis. What did that mean to you then and now.
CC: It was a life-changing moment, I must tell you. He had been on the show a couple of times, but in leave for another gig. They were adamant about this. He came in, and an hour and a half later he was still there getting
1967 when he agreed to be on, we were told that we would only have 10 minutes before he had to
into my guts and soul about my childhood and life. It turns out that he was talking about himself. He had a terrible
relationship with his father and no approval from his family. Nobody in Hollywood respected him, even though he had
written, produced and directed over 20 hit movies. He told me that he was never invited to any of the “in” parties. In the
midst of relating all of this to me, he said, “Don’t feel unloved because you are a rock and roll disc jockey. I’m a slapstick
comedian.” It took my breath away. And when he left the studio after the hour and half, the whole crew sat there stunned
at what had just taken place. It was the greatest moments, though most of the time was so personal that we couldn’t put
it on the air. We used all we could, of course. From then on Jerry and I became friends. I was one of the first who
replaced him on the March of Dimes Telethon. I remember it was 1969 because during our interview we talked about
Woodstock and whether I had been there. He kept saying, “Stick around…stick around.” About 2 A.M., Bob Schanks,
the producer of the telethon, called me over and told me, “Jerry’s going to take a nap and wants you to take over the
telethon.” So for an hour and a half I tried to do what he does so well for so many hours. I was told later that I was the
only one who had replaced him up to that point.
People say different things about it—he’s too brash, he’s using this or that cause—but all I can say is what I’ve seen with
my own eyes. He’s the most gentle and passionate man I’ve ever met.
SHOW BUSINESS SURVIVOR
MBY: You survived so many different genres and phases of showbiz. What kept you going? Your Midwestern
CC: I’m not sure. I was one of the most insecure, troubled people I knew. I put on a happy face every Saturday night at
six o`clock, but my life at the time was pretty tragic. My Mother died at a very early age. I married a young lady I hardly
knew only six weeks after my Mother died. I made so many mistakes. I lost my apartment so I was living in a hotel. I had
to work clubs to earn extra money so I could pay the alimony. I was going through tragic periods myself. The show was
the only thing that gave me purpose in life. Even the show was uncomfortable, with the studio management and all, but I
just wouldn’t accept their rules and kept going. I did what I believed to be true.
MBY: What part did your faith play through this time?
CC: I do have a very deep faith. I was brought up a Christian and have very strong ties to the church. There were some
rocky times, but thankfully God was faithful, even when I wasn't.
MBY: What made Clay Cole different from so many other interviewers?
CC: I think it came down to the fact that I was always rooting for the
young guy or girl or the new group. The greatest thrill for me was to
present somebody on television for the first time, to boost their record,
to see the song climb on the charts, and to see that person or group
have some great success. Having established stars is fairly easy,
especially when they need publicity, and it was wonderful for ratings,
but my personal thrill was helping out the young kids with a dream
and hopefully helping them to make the dream come true.
MBY: You are definitely a survivor...
CC: I signed on the air September 10, 1959. That’s more than fifty
years. Still, I get emails and letters everyday from people who describe
in detail some moment in their life associated with a show or event—“I
saw you in Palisades Park the night Chubby Checker sang `The Twist’
for the first time and you were wearing…” or “Do you remember the
show at Staten Island with Bobby Vee and Tony Orlando?” The very
fact that I’m remembered like that as part of people’s lives still blows
my mind and staggers my imagination.
MBY: It is amazing.
CC: I think we were all so young and impressionable back then, and because the music we loved so much was involved
with it all, that’s why it remains so important today. Still, it astounds me.
RETIREMENT AND REMEMBRANCES
MBY: People are still amazed that you eventually walked away, moved to one of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and
even though you've continued doing some showbiz things from time to time, you never really went back full-time.
CC: The primary reason was mainly that I could no longer relate to the groups that were walking in lifetime of memories, to know that your really did trade in a whirlwind, glitzy life in the Big Apple for a place on the beach?
the door. I was from such a different era where people wanted to dress up and be elegant. The guys
wore nice suits and the girls wore beautiful dresses. Then it quickly changed. The groups started
walking in with dirty hair, sticking clothes, torn T-shirts and no shoes. Many had never been
introduced to deodorant yet. Their attitudes often matched. There were some still making great
music, but so much was psychedelic acid rock and heavy metal. Suddenly, at least on radio, artists
like Little Anthony and the Imperials, Connie Francis, Dion and Jimmy Clanton couldn’t get their
records played anymore. Those were the people that I loved interviewing and laughing with. They
made for good television. But trying to interview a lot of the people who rose to the top of the heap
during the late Sixties was like trying to relate to people from Mars. I simply had nothing in common
with many of them. Suddenly I was doing something that I had envisioned myself doing in show
business. That’s when I decided to leave.
MBY: Everyone who works in New York City, it seems, dreams of having that place in the mountains
or on the beach where they can leave it all behind. You actually did it at what many saw at the height
of your career. Is that surreal, especially as you were writing Sh-Boom and going back through a
CC: It is definitely different. For many years, especially when the television program was at the top of the ratings, I could
never walk 10 feet on the streets without being recognized. There was hardly a meal that people didn’t come over to ask
for autographs and talk. I thought of myself as a fairly normal, every day guy, so that part of being a celebrity in New
York City was not easy. Then, as the years went on and I stayed more behind the scenes, nobody treated me like that
anymore. I had been a huge celebrity, but only in the Big Apple. Unlike Dick Clark or Alan Freed or some of the others, I
wasn’t that well known in other parts of the country. So when I moved to North Carolina, I was just another guy.
MBY: Sounds like a great place to be.
CC: I absolutely love it. I’m on a south-facing beach in a quiet, family-oriented island. The trouble is that I had nothing in
common with the people here. I don’t kayak. I don’t yacht. I don’t fish or hunt. The plus side is that no one knew who I
was, so I could live a very private life. People here accepted me for who I am right now, not for the one-word claycole I
was in the past.
MBY: How does a very private guy who doesn’t like living in the past decide to write a book like Sh-Boom?
CC: When I finally got a computer and started learning how to buzz around on the Internet, I do the same thing everyone
else does. I googled myself. When I typed my name and hit the search icon, there were all kinds of articles and blogs
and references to me. I was amazed that there was still any interest in me. Then I read on one blog a guy named Dave
wrote, “I heard that Clay Cole died 10 years ago.” Somebody else wrote, “I heard he got busted for marijuana and was
banned from television.” Neither was true, of course. I said, “All these things are incredible. Anybody could write
MBY: What a difference the Internet makes…
CC: In both and good ways. In fact, I’ve seen lots of research in places like the Geriatric-Pediatric Journal that pointed to
the fact that the area of the brain that controls decision making is enhanced among seniors by using the computer.
When you are surfing the Web, you have to keep making choices, and as it happens, it actually reverses brain atrophy.
It’s a great tool for people our age, and I definitely recommend the Internet for anyone, but especially for people over
50. It’s fabulous. It brings the whole world into your house!
MBY: Is that what led to doing your Website, claycole.com? It is awesome, by the way, and chock-filled with memorable
CC: Seeing what people wrote about me eventually did lead to the Website. Eventually it also led to doing the book,
since I discovered how many people were out there who actually remembered me and the show.
MBY: You created a job for yourself…
CC: It’s true. I'd get up in the morning, have my coffee, check my emails, then I work on stories for the Website. When I
was a kid, one of the things I wanted to do was to be a Milton Glazer-type (co-founder of New York Magazine) and
create my own magazine.
MBY: So you began doing it online!
MBY: How would you like to be remembered?
CC: As a genuinely caring person, as a door-opener for a
lot of wonderful people, and for my faith in both people and
God. If I could be remembered that way, I would be happy.
Judging by all the wonderful tributes from some of
the biggest stars and everyday people have said
about him both before and after his passing, it is
evident that Clay Cole was a one-of-a-kind performer,
interviewer, personality and friend.
In September 1959, Rate the Records, a new television show, began on
New York City's Channel 13 WNTA. The show featured Clay Cole, a relative
newcomer to the Big Apple, a young entertainer originally named Al
Rucker from Hubbard and Youngstown, Ohio.
Within two months the show was re-named and the format changed to an
hour-long Saturday night show, then expanded during the summer of
1960 to an hour, six nights a week, live from Palisades Amusement Park.
CLAY COLE (1938-2010)
…At New York City's Epicenter of Rock and Roll's Explosion
Few could have known that during the next decade, The Clay Cole Show
(1959-1968) would become the biggest rock and roll television show in
New York City, or that the energetic host with the big smile would help
change the music and showbiz world forever.
|All contents © 2011 MyBestYears.com. No portion may be used in print, for
broadcast or on the Internet without prior permission.
|"Back in the day,
everybody in New York
watched Clay Cole."
(Four Seasons, "Sherry,"
"Big Girls Don't Cry,"
"My Eyes Adored You"
|"Clay Cole. Saturday
Night. Rock 'n Roll. New
York City. Glue to the
tube. I should know; I
(Belmonts, "The Wonderer,"
"Abraham, Martin and John")
|"Such wonderful and
Clay Cole lit up our
("Who's Sorry Now?"
"Where the Boys Are,"
|"I remember watching
and loving The Clay Cole
Show with my girlfriends
and talking about what a
cool and handsome guy
he was. Today's young
ladies would call him
("I Will Survive,"
"Never Can Say Goodbye")
|"I was always jealous of
that head of hair and tall,
skinny body! What great
memories of The Clay
Cole Show and the
("Breaking Up Is Hard to
Do," "Happy Birthday,
Sweet Sixteen," "Bad Blood")
|"Clay Cole was an
unsung hero for too
long. He was a true
friend to all of us."
(Little Anthony & Imperials,
"Tears on My Pillow,"
"Goin' Out of My Head")
|"When we came to
America we were told we
should do Ed Sullivan
and Clay Cole. Trouble is,
we didn't know which
was which. So we did
Clay then then Ed came
"Mrs. Brown, You've Got a
"I'm Henry the Eighth")
|"What made The Clay
Cole Show so special was
Clay Cole. Clay was
professional and fun!
His personal interest in
presenting the artist in
the best possible light
made it a great show
("Poetry in Motion,"
"It Keeps Right On a-Hurtin")
|"Clay gave me my very
first shot on TV and I will
be forever grateful. Clay
is a legend in music
television and should be
in the Rock & Roll Hall
(Archies, Detergents, Cuff
Links; Record Producer for
|"The Clay Cole Show was
much more than a
Saturday Night TV dance
party. It was a New York
City family—a family with
talent, kindness and
charisma that came from
our friend Clay. Linda
Scott, Annette, Tony
Orlando, Little Anthony
and Lesley Gore were all
lucky to have hits and
were proud and excited
to perform with the `Rock
and Roll Ringmaster,'
"Rhapsody in the Rain")
|"One of the best
television rock `n roll
hosts in the `50s and
`60s, Clay Cole was loved
by the press and adored
by the thousands of fans
that flocked to all
(Editor, Cashbox Magazine,
|"My experience with
Clay was always
delightful. He's in my
good golden memory
bank—a great talent!
(Hit Producer and
Songwriter for The Four
Seasons, Mitch Ryder and
the Detroit Wheels, Freddy
Cannon, Lesley Gore,
Oliver, Michael Jackson,
Bobby Darin, Roberta Flack,
Peabo Bryson, Patti LaBelle
and his own The Bob Crewe
|"Clay Cole was about the
personality that I ever
had the pleasure of
working with and one of
the coolest people I've
(Original Member of the
Four Seasons, "Sherry,"
Rock and Roll Hall of
|"I found Clay to be one of
the most talented men in
the gusiness and also
one of the nicest. Talent
is usually a given; being
nice is an option. With
Clay Cole, you got the
feeling it was a given. I
was fortunate to be
asked to appear on The
Clay Cole Show several
times and always found
him to be gracious and
|"What I remember most
about The Clay Cole Show
was that it was a fun
show to do because
("Seven Little Girls Sitting in
the Back Seat)" "Midnight
Special" and "Happy-Go-
Lucky Me"; Songwriter for
Elvis Presley, Jimmy Dean,
Pat Boone and Bobby
Vinton, for which he wrote
"Roses Are Red, My Love")
|"I get the biggest kick
watching our old movies
on TCM. When I see Clay,
I always start laughting
and remember with joy all
the good times we
shared tripping around
New York City like
whirlwinds. What a great
talent and wry sense of
humor. It seems like only
("I've Told Every Little Star,"
"I Don't Know Why," and Co-
host of the Rock Music TV
Show, Where the Action Is)
|Clay Cole was one of the
best! He loved Rock `n
Roll, and he was loyal to
those who helped him
climb up the ladder. He
was a true friend!
|Clay Cole was a prince
of a guy. I always
considered him more of a
friend than the host of a
hit TV show. He was gold,
and when he featured
you on his show, it meant
gold, not just in New
York City, but people
heard about it
There will never be
another time like the late
Fifties and early Sixties,
and there will never be
another star-maker like
my friend Clay Cole.
"Just a Dream,"
"Venus in Blue Jeans,"
"Go Jimmy Go"
|Clay Cole...the only television host to feature both
the Beatles and the Rolling Stones (pictured
above) on the same broadcast!
|Tony Bennett, one of
Clay Cole's favorite guests