Cole (left) with The Isley Brothers in 1962
|Birth name||Albert Franklin Rucker|
January 1, 1938|
Youngstown, Ohio, U.S.
|Died||December 18, 2010
Oak Island, North Carolina, U.S.
The Enchanted Forest
Rucker's Rumpus Room
Al Ricker and the Seven Teens
Rate the Records
The Record Wagon
The Clay Cole Show
Clay Cole's Discotek
Clay Cole (January 1, 1938 – December 18, 2010) was an American host and disk jockey, best known for his eponymous television dance program, The Clay Cole Show, which aired in New York City on WNTA-TV and WPIX-TV from 1959 to 1968.
Clay Cole was born Albert Rucker, Jr. on January 1, 1938, in Youngstown, Ohio. He became a juvenile stage and radio actor; then in 1953, at age 15, became the television host and producer of his own Saturday night teen music show, Rucker's Rumpus Room, first on WKBN-TV, then, until 1957, on WFMJ. Arriving in Manhattan in 1957, he worked first as an NBC page, then as a production assistant on the troubled quiz show Twenty One, the events at which were recreated in the 1994 film Quiz Show, directed by Robert Redford.
Early television and film career
In 1958, he continued his Saturday night television legacy, launching Al Rucker and the Seven Teens program on WJAR-TV, Providence, Rhode Island. In New York City in 1959, when asked to change his name, he chose that of a distant cousin, Clay Cole. Clay's 1960 all-star ten-day Christmas show at the Brooklyn Paramount Theater broke the all-time house box office record. Clay was among the few white performers invited to appear at Harlem's Apollo Theater; he headlined three week-long revues, starring Fats Domino, Gladys Knight & the Pips and Chubby Checker. In 1961, he appeared as himself in the film Twist Around the Clock. When WNTA-TV was sold in 1963, Cole's program was picked up by New York City television station WPIX-TV, where the program became known as Clay Cole's Discotek by 1965. During the 1960s "British Invasion", musical acts arriving from the UK often appeared on Cole's television show before doing network shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show. The Rolling Stones and The Who were among those who first appeared on Cole's television show. Cole's show differed from American Bandstand in a few ways: while both Cole and Dick Clark had an interest in young people and their music, Cole did not hesitate to join in on his show's dance floor. He was also more confident about booking lesser-known performers and comedians for his show.
In the mid 1970s Clay and his longtime friend, Thomas John Butrim created the TV show, People. Although the TV show was short lived it has been called the stepping stone for television stations such as MTV and television shows such as Entertainment Tonight. Some of the guests that Clay and Thomas had on the show included The Village People, Diana Ross, Donna Summers, Bette Middler, and Barbra Streisand. Thomas John Butrim was the executive producer of the TV series and was a lifelong friend, brother, and confidant to Clay Cole. Mr. Cole would spend time with Thomas, his wife Mary, daughters Deborah and Erica at their home in Old Forge, Pennsylvania and they would spend time with Mr. Cole in his New York City residence. In September 1988, Thomas John Butrim succumbed to lung cancer after a very short battle with the disease but will forever be remembered dancing in the front room with his daughters, his wife, and his best friend to the disco music Mr. Cole and Mr. Butrim promoted through their television show.
Writing, producing and directing career
Leaving the Clay Cole Show in 1967, Clay became a television writer - producer, involved in the production of over 3500 broadcast television shows. He is twice winner of the Emmy Award (NATAS) as "producer of outstanding television programming" in 1981 and 1982 for the Joel Siegel Academy Awards special. He producedThe Discovery of Marilyn Monroe, Play Bridge with Omar Sharif and 365 This Day In Hollywood segments. Along with David Susskind and Raysa Bonow, he created and produced the first primetime entertainment magazine People for CBS in 1979. Cole also hosted A. M. New York. He returned briefly in 1974 as the star of the first HBO-produced music special Clay Cole's 20 Years of Rock and Roll, a two-hour event taped at Rockland Community College, and as co-host of the WABC-TV weekday program, AM New York. His final professional assignment was as writer/producer/director of the television special, the 2002 Sanremo Music Festival in Italy, featuring Britney Spears, Destiny's Child, Alicia Keys, Shakira, Kylie Minogue and other international pop divas.
Retirement and death
Cole retired and had been living on Oak Island since 2007, off the Cape Fear River on the North Carolina coastline. His pop culture memoir, Sh-Boom! The Explosion of Rock 'n' Roll (1953-1968), has been published by Morgan James. It has been nominated for the 2010 Association for Recorded Sound Collections Awards for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research. Cole made a personal appearance at the annual Long Island Radio & TV Day in April 2010, and also at the New Jersey Rock Con later that year. Clay appeared at the Friends of Old Time Radio Convention in Newark, New Jersey in October 2010.
In addition, Cole was a member of the nominating committee of the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.
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- "WPIX Celebrates 60 Years". Chicago Tribune. 5 June 2008. Retrieved 10 February 2011.
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- Hinckley, David (3 December 2009). "City traffic reports are cutting through the gridlock". New York Daily News. Retrieved 27 December 2010.
- Cole, Clay; Hinckley, David, eds. (2009). Sh-Boom!:The Explosion of Rock 'n' Roll (1953-1968). Morgan James. p. 318. ISBN 1-60037-639-8. Retrieved 27 December 2010.
- Hinckley, David (15 April 2010). "WXRP declares "Record Store Day" in campaign to support independent stores". New York Daily News. Retrieved 27 December 2010.
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- Steelman, Ben (20 December 2010). "Clay Cole Passes". StarNewsOnline. Retrieved 27 December 2010.