#tbt - Something to sing about: Middletown's rich music history, a local who was always "Wright" and the inimitable Dick Clark
Early rock’n’roll showman and famous TV host, the late Dick Clark, was no stranger to the Middletown, Ohio, area.
With the instincts of a detective, the star of the decades-long hit series “American Bandstand” could spot real talent a mile away.
He found it here.
Clark’s musical relationship with Southwest Ohio is recalled in the engaging book, “The Cincinnati Sound,” by Randy McNutt. (*) It’s a veritable music time capsule.
McNutt’s paean to local music features vintage photos of homegrown artists performing at the gone-but-not-forgotten LeSourdsville Lake Amusement Park in Middletown as well as other venues.
According to McNutt, one of the locals with whom Dick Clark had a working relationship was Middletown native Dale Wright. Wright “recorded in Cincinnati and performed there regularly” and “participated in many of Clark’s traveling rock-and-roll shows” during the 1960s…..” (*)
Dick Clark wasn’t the only big name to introduce hometown performers like Dale Wright and the “Wright Guys” to local teen audiences. Popular Cincinnati Disc Jockey Dusty Rhodes of radio station WSAI is also pictured in McNutt’s book presenting the Wright band to a LeSourdsville audience in the park’s “Stardust Gardens” sometime around 1965. (*)
Wright, whose real name was Harlan Riffe, was the subject of a September 1973 interview published in the Middletown Journal in which he looked back on his musical career. (**)
He had returned to Middletown to visit his mother, Mrs. Martha Riffe of Manchester Road, and was interviewed by Journal Staff Writer Dorothy Damele. At the time, she reported, Wright was “emcee of a radio talk show on WNVL-Radio near Lexington, Ky.” (**)
The article recalled some of Wright’s career highlights to date:
Writing the song titled “She’s Neat” “which sold three-quarters of a million discs when he was only 18…” (**) (***)
“...working for Dick Clark as backstage road manager on ‘American Bandstand’...and “emceeing the road shows when [Clark] was absent…” (**)
Regularly appearing on Cincinnati TV entertainment programs (**)
Working in promotions and as ‘special talent’ at Cincinnati TV station WKRC (**)
Wright’s “personal seven-year management contract” with Chuck Conners, then-star of the TV western series, “The Rifleman,” which called for using Wright’s talents “in the show.” Not long after the signing the show was canceled “although Wright did appear in the next-to-last episode...” (**)
Dale Wright passed away in Lexington, Kentucky, on April 15, 2007.**** To his contemporaries and local music historians he’ll be remembered as one of the many who brightened daily life with the sound of music.
With Southwest Ohio home to many entertainers, and Cincinnati’s role in TV and radio history, it’s no wonder books like “The Cincinnati Sound” are a favorite of local music and media lovers!
That’s why for the remainder of April we’ll continue to salute local performers of the past, using “The Cincinnati Sound” as our guide.
In the meantime, may your days be filled with the sounds of music, old and new!
*”The Cincinnati Sound” by Randy McNutt. Published in 2007 by Arcadia Publishing. Available for checkout at MidPointe Library.
**”Wright’s still talking, this time on own show” by Dorothy Damele, Staff Writer for the Middletown Journal. Published September 8, 1973. Available for viewing on microfilm at MidPointe Library’s Middletown location or online at:
www.midpointelibrary.org > eLibrary > Research Databases > Magazines and newspapers > Newspaper archive > Middletown Journal.
Readers can find an image of the record, “She’s Neat” by Dale Wright with the Rock-Its on tps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFG1l2hs2Ck
An image of the record, “Dale Wright -- She’s Neat : The Fraternity Sides” can be viewed at:
**** Dale Wright’s obituary can be accessed at: https://www.revolvy.com/page/Dale-Wright
About the Photos:
Four photos accompanying this article can be found in “The Cincinnati Sound” :
Cover: Dale Wright and the Wright Guys performing in a Cincinnati-area school auditorium