Will New Year's Eve ever be the same without "Dick...

Will New Year's Eve ever be the same without "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve"? Credit: ABC

The last time hit singer Gary U.S. Bonds saw Dick Clark was more than two years ago in Los Angeles, where they dined for four hours.

"We kept talking about 'I like this wine better than that wine,' " said the singer, 72, whose real name is Gary Anderson and who lives in Wheatley Heights. "He was in good spirits. He looked good."

Even though Clark's speech had been affected by a stroke in 2004, he didn't say "one iota" about the problems, Anderson said.

"That's exactly the way he is," he said. "I've never heard him say anything bad about anybody or anything. Even people that I knew that he didn't particularly care for, I would bring up their names and he would say 'Oh yeah, he's doing great. He's got this.'

"He was such a nice guy. He was such an easy guy to know."

The two first met in 1960 when Anderson played his song "New Orleans" for Clark at his Philadelphia office.

It was a time when many radio stations weren't playing black performers' music. Anderson, who is black, got a gig singing the song on Clark's "American Bandstand" less than a week after meeting him.

Like many other acts, Gary U.S. Bonds became a hit after appearing on the show.

"If it hadn't been for Dick Clark playing that song on 'American Bandstand,' I'd probably be driving a truck or something," Anderson said. "He created my career for me."

Gary U.S. Bonds had several other hits. The year after he appeared on "American Bandstand," his "Quarter to Three" became a No. 1 single.

He credited Clark and "American Bandstand" with introducing TV audiences to black performers and bringing them to the forefront of rock and roll.

"He was adamant about it," Anderson said in an interview. "There was so much black music, but it was hidden."

Later, Anderson toured with Clark as part of his Cavalcade of Stars, in which performers traveled together on a bus to play in Mississippi, Alabama and other states in the South.

On the bus, Clark and Anderson would discuss two of their loves, wine and music.

When they reached their hotels, Anderson said, Clark and the white performers would get off in the front. As Clark signed the hotel guest book for Anderson, the bus would roll to the back of the hotel so he could get off, he said.

In those days, the performer recalled, blacks were often not allowed to order room service, so he'd sometimes call up Clark to ask "I'm hungry. Could you go get me a sandwich?" and he would.

Their friendship lasted over the decades. Toward the end, with Clark on the West Coast and Anderson on the East Coast, the phone conversations dwindled as Clark's speech deteriorated from the stroke.

In the past few years, Clark was just "sitting around the house"; hosting the New Year Eve countdown was one of the few functions he held on to, Anderson said.

But Clark's on-air time shrank after the stroke, and Anderson said that it saddened him.

"I said that's a shame," the musician said. "Here's the man who created this whole job for them and now they want to phase him out.

"Music was his life. Other than that, he never did anything else."

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