After a legendary payola scandal destroyed the career of rock and roll factotum Alan Freed in 1958, Clay Cole stepped into the void as one of New York's most recognizable musical ambassadors. Described as a more urbane version of American Bandstand and the Buddy Deane Show (the inspiration for Hairspray), the Clay Cole Show introduced audiences to Chubby Checker (who first performed "The Twist" on the program), Brooklyn's own Neil Diamond, and late comedians George Carlin & Richard Pryor in their pre-countercultural incarnations. Cole also took over promotional duties at the Paramount, with his ten-day 1960 Christmas spectacular breaking the venue's all-time box office record. It would not be an understatement to say that Cole played an integral role in keeping the nascent flames of rock and soul alive when so many of their initial exponents had been neutralized.
Disenchanted with psychedelia, Cole left the music business in 1968 to pursue a behind-the-scenes career as an Emmy-winning director of television specials. Although he has retired to North Carolina, Cole returned to Brooklyn this past March for a symposium and revival show honoring the Paramount Theater at Long Island University (while the theater now functions as the university's gymnasium, enough of the original structure -- including the cherished Wurlitzer organ -- has been preserved to allow for occasional concerts featuring many of the same performers who played there 50 years ago). And, most intriguingly of all, the former impresario is releasing his memoir -- Sh-Boom! The Explosion of Rock 'n' Roll (1953-1968) -- this October. If the accompanying publicity is any indication, local fans can expect plenty of Paramount stories in this essential addition to the body of rock literature.