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St. Louis Regional history comes alive in this joint production by KDHX and the Missouri Historical Society. Stories of our past are connected with the present in these well researched and entertaining short presentations about the people, places, and events that have shaped who we are and who we are becoming. 

Apr 27, 2022

Riding the wave of popularity of national teen dance shows of the 1950’s, St. Louis Hop, hosted by Russ Carter would debut in 1958. More than 47,000 teen dancers would appear on the show regardless of their dance skills, and, it ignored color lines.  Just press play to hear the whole story. ———

Click on search links to see if there are episodes with related content: Andrew Wanko, Arts, Entertainment, and Culture, Television, Civil Rights, Music, Pastimes and Leisure, ———

Podcast Transcript: I’m Andrew Wanko, Public Historian of the Missouri Historical Society, and here’s history, on 88.1 KDHX. ———

In the 1950s, television would reshape the nation’s relationship with popular music. Shows like American Bandstand brought your favorite singers into your living room, and let you see the latest dances, clothing fashions, and attitudes that went along with their songs. Plenty of St. Louis teenagers were among American Bandstand’s 20 million weekly viewers, but many St. Louisans were probably much more excited about a different program. It was almost the exact same set up, but featured their friends and neighbors. ———

The teen dance show “St. Louis Hop” hit local television in January of 1958. The premise was simple – St. Louis teenagers danced around to the latest records, with popular recording stars dropping in for interviews and live performances.  ———

Replicating American Bandstand host Dick Clark’s youthful spunk was St. Louis Hop’s show host Russ Carter. He ran almost every aspect of the show’s production, down to writing his own cue cards. Carter hosted countless celebrity guests on St. Louis Hop, including the Smothers Brothers, Tony Bennett, Chubby Checker, Bobby Darin, and even John Denver. ———

Across its 15-year on-air run, more than 47,000 St. Louis teenagers appeared as dancers on St. Louis Hop. Teens wrote in requesting to be picked, sometimes more than a year in advance. Your dancing skills didn’t matter, so long as you adhered to the show’s coat-and-tie dress code. Another thing that didn’t matter was your race – St. Louis Hop was among the very first integrated shows on St. Louis television, and its producers insisted that the dancers reflect the city around them. ———

The constantly-growing show went through four location changes, filming at the Arena Roller Rink, Casa Loma Ballroom, Jefferson Hotel, and finally the KSD television studios. By the late 1960s, fads were changing and teen dance shows were losing their audiences to other entertainment. St. Louis Hop held on until 1973, when Pepsi pulled out as the show’s main advertiser, and the show was forced off the air. ———

Here’s History is a joint production of the Missouri Historical Society and KDHX. I’m Andrew Wanko, and this is 88.1 KDHX, St. Louis. ———