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Local TV star turned NYC celeb dies at 72

Tuesday, December 21, 2010



Clay Cole, a Hubbard native who hosted a popular music program on television in the late '50s and '60s, died in Oak Island, N.C., Saturday of a heart attack. He was 72.

Born Albert Rucker Jr. in Youngstown in 1938, he got his start at age 15 by hosting 'Rucker's Rumpus Room,' a local teen music show, in 1953. The show aired first on WKBN-27 and then on 21 WFMJ-TV. At the time, Rucker was a student at Hubbard High School.

After graduating in 1955, he moved to New York and got a job as a page at NBC. By the time he was 21, he had changed his name to Clay Cole and was the host of 'The Clay Cole Show,' a Saturday-night pop music TV show. With a format similar to 'American Bandstand,' the show (1959-68) hosted the top acts of the day. One episode had both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones on stage. Other guests included Neil Diamond, the Rascals, the Four Seasons, Dionne Warwick and Tony Orlando.

'The Clay Cole Show' also helped launch the careers of stand-up comedians George Carlin and Richard Pryor. He left the show in 1968 at age 30 to become a TV writer and producer, eventually winning two Emmys. Cole also starred in the film 'Twist Around the Clock' (1961), with Chubby Checker and Dion.

In 2009, Cole published 'Sh-Boom! The Explosion of Rock'n'Roll, 1953-1968' as his memoirs. The book offered a first-person account of the early days of live TV and the birth of rock'n'roll.