Bill_Haley_&_His_Comets

Bill Haley & His Comets

This article is specifically about the rock and roll band. See Bill Haley for biographical information regarding Haley himself. For articles on albums with this title, see Bill Haley and His Comets (1960 album) and Bill Haley and the Comets (1963 album).

Bill Haley & His Comets was an American rock and roll band that was founded in 1952 and continued until Haley's death in 1981. The band, also known by the names Bill Haley and The Comets and Bill Haley's Comets (and variations thereof), was one of the earliest groups of white musicians to bring rock and roll to the attention of white America and the rest of the world. From the end of 1954 until the end of 1956 the group would place nine singles into the Top 20, one of those a number one and three more in the Top Ten.

Bandleader Bill Haley had previously been a country performer; after recording a country and western-styled version of "Rocket 88", a rhythm and blues song, he changed musical direction to a new sound which came to be called rock and roll.

Although several members of the Comets became famous, Bill Haley remained the star. With his spit curl and the band's matching plaid dinner jackets and energetic stage behaviour, many fans consider them to be as revolutionary in their time as The Beatles or the Rolling Stones were in theirs.

Following Haley's death, no fewer than six different groups have existed under the Comets name, all claiming (with varying degrees of authority) to be the official continuation of the group led by Haley. As of early 2008, three such groups are still actively performing in the United States and internationally.

Early history and Rocket 88

The band initially formed as Bill Haley and the Saddlemen c. 1949–1950, and performed mostly country and western songs, though occasionally with a bluesy feel. Many Saddlemen recordings would not be released until the 1970s and 1980s, and highlights included romantic ballads such as "Rose of My Heart" and western swing tunes such as "Yodel Your Blues Away". The original members of this group were Haley, pianist and accordion player Johnny Grande and steel guitarist Billy Williamson. Al Thompson was the group's first bass player, followed by Al Rex and Marshall Lytle. During the group's early years, it recorded under several other names, including Johnny Clifton and His String Band and Reno Browne and Her Buckaroos (although Browne, a female matinee idol of the time, did not actually appear on the record).

Haley began his rock and roll career with a cover of "Rocket 88" recorded for the Philadelphia-based Holiday Records label in 1951 which sold well and was followed up a cover of a 1940s rhythm and blues song called "Rock the Joint" in 1952 (this time for Holiday's sister company, Essex Records). Both songs were released under the increasingly incongruous Saddlemen name. It soon became apparent that a new name was needed to fit the music the band was now playing. A friend of Haley's, making note of the common alternative pronunciation of the name Halley's Comet to rhyme with Bailey, suggested that Haley call his band The Comets. (This event is cited in the Haley biographies Sound and Glory by John Haley and John von Hoelle, and Bill Haley by John Swenson.)

The new name was adopted in the fall of 1952. At that time, the members were Haley, Grande, Williamson, and Lytle. Grande usually played piano on record, but switched to accordion for live shows as it was more portable than a piano and easier to deal with during musical numbers that involved a lot of dancing around. Soon after renaming the band, Haley hired his first drummer, Charlie Higler, though Higler was soon replaced by Dick Boccelli (a.k.a Dick Richards). During this time (and indeed, as late as the fall of 1955), Haley did not have a permanent lead guitar player, choosing to use session musicians on record and either playing lead guitar himself or having Williamson play steel solos, instead.

National success and Rock Around the Clock

In 1953, Haley scored his first national success with an original song called "Crazy Man, Crazy", a phrase Haley said he heard from his teenaged audience. Haley later claimed it sold a million copies, but this is considered an exaggeration. "Crazy Man, Crazy" was the first rock and roll song to be televised nationally when it was used on the soundtrack for a 1953 television play starring James Dean.

In early 1954, Haley added Joey Ambrose on tenor sax, and soon after this the band left Essex Records for the larger Decca Records label of New York City. For their first recording session on April 12, 1954, with session musicians Danny Cedrone on electric guitar and Billy Gussak on drums (standing in for Boccelli), Bill Haley and His Comets recorded "Rock Around the Clock". Haley's biggest hit, and one of the most important records in rock and roll history, sales of "Rock Around the Clock" started slow but eventually sold an estimated 25 million copies (per the Guinness Book of World Records) and marked the arrival of a cultural shift.

Initially, "Rock Around the Clock" was only a modest success. Much more impressive was the no seller, "Shake, Rattle and Roll", a somewhat bowdlerized cover version of the Big Joe Turner recording of earlier in 1954. Although Haley's "Shake, Rattle and Roll" never achieved the same level of historical importance as "Rock Around the Clock", it actually predated it as the first major international rock and roll hit, although it did not attain the Number 1 position in the American charts, but became his first Gold Record. When Elvis Presley recorded the song in 1956, he combined Haley's arrangement with Turner's original lyrics but failed to score a substantial hit. Late in 1954, Haley also recorded another hit, "Dim, Dim The Lights", which was significant as the first R&B song recorded by a white artist to cross over to the R&B charts.

The (belated) success of "Rock Around the Clock" is attributed to its use in the soundtrack of the film Blackboard Jungle, which was released in March 1955. The song, which was re-released to coincide with the film, rose to the top of the American musical charts that summer and stayed there for eight weeks, the first rock and roll record to do so.

Ambrose's acrobatic saxophone playing, along with Lytle on the double bass -literally on it, riding it like a pony, and holding it over his head- were highlights of the band's live performances during this time. Their music and their act were part of a tradition in jazz and rhythm and blues, but it all came like a thunderclap to most of their audience. In late 1954, Haley and His Comets appeared in a short subject entitled Round Up of Rhythm, performing three songs. This was the earliest known theatrical rock and roll film release.

In 1955, Lytle, Richards and Ambrose quit the Comets in a salary dispute and formed their own group, The Jodimars. Haley hired several new musicians to take their place: Rudy Pompilli on sax, Al Rex (a former member of the Saddlemen) on double bass, and Ralph Jones on drums; in addition, lead guitarist Franny Beecher, who had been a session musician for Haley since Cedrone's death in the fall of 1954, became a full-time Comet and Haley's first performing lead guitarist. This version of the band became even more popular than the earlier manifestation, and appeared in several motion pictures over the next few years.

Other hits recorded by the band included "See You Later, Alligator" in which Haley's frantic delivery contrasted with the Louisiana languor of the original by Bobby Charles, "Don't Knock the Rock", "Rock-a-Beatin' Boogie", "Rudy's Rock" (the first instrumental hit of the rock and roll era) and "Skinny Minnie".

In 1956, Bill Haley and His Comets appeared in two of the earliest full-length rock and roll movies: Rock Around the Clock, and Don't Knock the Rock.

Decline in popularity

The band's popularity in the United States began to wane in 1956–57 as sexier, wilder acts such as Elvis and Little Richard began to dominate the record charts (although Haley's cover version of Little Richard's "Rip It Up" - which was released in direct competition - actually outsold the original). After "Skinny Minnie" hit the charts in 1958, Haley found it difficult to score further successes Stateside, although a spin-off group made up of Comets musicians dubbed The Kingsmen (no relation to the later group of "Louie, Louie" fame) did score a hit with the instrumental, "Weekend" that same year.

Overseas, however, Haley and his band continued to be extremely popular, touring the United Kingdom in February 1957, during which Haley and his crew were mobbed by thousands of fans at Waterloo Station in London at an incident dubbed the Second Battle of Waterloo by media. That same year, the Comets toured Australia and in 1958 enjoyed a successful (if riot-dominated) tour of the European mainland. Bill Haley & His Comets were the first major American rock and roll act to tour the world in this way. Elvis who was on duty in Germany visited them backstage at some shows. During an off day in Berlin they performed two songs in the Catarina Valente movie "Hier Bin ich Hier Bleib Ich" (Here I Am Here I Stay).

Back in the U.S., Haley attempted to start his own record label, Clymax, and establish his own stable of performers, most notably Sally Starr TV Hostess (a children's show hostess) and the Matys Brothers. Members of The Comets were commissioned to work as session musicians on many of these recordings, many of which were written or co-written by Haley and/or members of The Comets. The Clymax experiment only lasted about a year. In 1959, Haley's relationship with Decca collapsed and after a final set of instrumental-only recordings in the fall, Haley announced he was leaving Decca for the new Warner Bros. Records label.

In 1960, the band enjoyed its last new hit in the United States with an instrumental version of "Skokiaan" on Decca, although another instrumental for Warner Bros. that same year called "Tamiami" almost became a hit. Meanwhile, Haley and the Comets began recording for Warner Bros. in January, creating a series of critically acclaimed, but commercially unsuccessful songs over the next 13–14 months, many in the country and western style. From 1961 to 1969, Haley and His Comets recorded unsuccessful singles for a number of small labels in America such as Newtown Records, Guest Star Records, APT Records, as well as for United Artists. APT Records even went so far as to release a single under the name B.H. Sees Combo in order to trick American radio stations into playing music by the so-called "has been" group. Guest Star Records released an album of Haley recordings under the name Scott Gregory, possibly due to the fact Haley was having major problems with the Internal Revenue Service at the time. In 1964 there was an abortive attempt to return to Decca with a low-selling recording of Jim Lowe's "The Green Door" backed by "Yeah, She's Evil!" a song that would later be recorded by Elvis Presley as "The Meanest Girl in Town" for the soundtrack of his movie, Girl Happy. That song's writer, Joy Byers, also wrote "Stop, Look and Listen" which Haley recorded in 1965 for APT Records; the next year it was again recycled by Elvis, this time for his film, Spinout.

For commercial success in the 1960s, the band had to turn to venues outside the United States. The group continued to be a top concert draw in Europe throughout the 1960s, including a successful stint at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany where they played around the same time the Beatles performed there.

Mexico and the late 1960s

In 1961–1962, Bill Haley y sus Cometas (as the band was known in Latin America) signed with the Orfeon Records label of Mexico and scored an unexpected hit with "Twist Español", a Spanish language recording based on the Twist dance craze that was sweeping America at the time. Haley followed up with what was, for a time, the biggest selling single in Mexican history with "Florida Twist". Although Chubby Checker and Hank Ballard were credited with starting the Twist craze in America, in Mexico and Latin America, Bill Haley and His Comets were proclaimed the Kings of the Twist. Thanks to the success to "Twist Español" and "Florida Twist", among others, the band had continued success in Mexico and Latin America over the next few years, selling many recordings of Spanish and Spanish flavored material and simulated live performances (overdubbed audience over studio recordings) on the Orfeon label and its subsidiary, Dimsa. They hosted a TV series entitled Orfeon a Go-Go and made cameo appearances in several movies, lipsynching to some of their old hits. Haley, who was fluent in Spanish, recorded a number of songs in the language, but the vast majority of the band's output during these years were instrumental recordings, many utilizing local session musicians playing trumpet. There was also some experimentation with Haley's style during this time; one single for Orfeon was a folk ballad, "Jimmy Martinez", which Haley recorded without the Comets.

In 1966, the Comets (without Bill Haley) cut an album for Orfeon as session musicians for Big Joe Turner, who had always been an idol to Haley; no joint performance of "Shake, Rattle and Roll" was recorded, however. In a 1974 interview with BBC Radio, Haley said Turner's career was in a slump at this time, so he used his then-considerable influence with Orfeon to get Turner a recording session. The Comets' association with Orfeon/Dimsa ended later that year.

By 1967, as related by Haley in an interview with radio host Red Robinson that same year, the group was "a free agent" without any recording contracts at all, although the band continued to perform regularly in North America and Europe. During this year, Haley -- without the Comets -- recorded a pair of demos in Phoenix, Arizona: a country-western song called "Jealous Heart" for which he was backed by a local mariachi band (and similar in style to the earlier "Jimmy Martinez", and late-60s-style rocker called "Rock on Baby" backed by a group called Superfine Dandelion. Neither recording would be released for 30 years. In 1968, Haley and the Comets recorded a single for the United Artists label, a version of Tom T. Hall's "That's How I Got to Memphis" but no long-term association with the label resulted. In order to revive his recording career, Haley turned to Europe.

Revival

By the late 1960s, Haley and the Comets were considered an oldies act. The band's popularity never waned in Europe, and the group signed a lucrative deal with Sonet Records of Sweden in 1968 that resulted in a new version of "Rock Around the table" hitting the European charts that year. The band would record a mixture of live and studio albums for the label over the next decade.

In the United States in 1969, promoter Richard Nader launched a series of rock and roll revival concert tours featuring "oldies" acts of the 50s and 60s. One of the first of these shows, held at the Felt Forum at Madison Square Garden in New York City, resulted in Haley receiving an eight-and-a-half minute standing ovation following his performance, as Nader related in his recorded introduction to Haley's live album Bill Haley's Scrapbook, which was recorded a few weeks later at New York's Bitter End club.

The band appeared in several concert films in the early 1970s, including The London Rock and Roll Show and Let the Good Times Roll. After 1974, tax and management problems prevented Haley from performing in the United States, so he performed in Europe almost exclusively, though he also toured South America in 1975. The band was also kept busy in the studio, recording numerous albums for Sonet and other labels in the 1970s, several with a country music flavor. In 1974, Haley's original Decca recording of "Rock Around the Clock" hit the American sales charts once again thanks to its use in American Graffiti and Happy Days.

Late career

In February 1976, Haley's saxophone player and best friend, Rudy Pompilli, died of cancer after a nearly 20-year career with the Comets. Haley continued to tour for the next year with a succession of new sax players, but his popularity was waning again and his 1976 performance in London was critically lambasted by music media such as Melody Maker. That year, the group also recorded an album, R-O-C-K at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio for Sonet Records. In early 1977, Haley announced his retirement from performing and settled down at his home in Mexico. According to the John Swenson biography of Haley, the musician was quoted as saying that he and Pompilli had an agreement that if one died, the other would retire.

The Comets continued to tour on their own during this period.

In 1979, Haley was persuaded to return to performing with the offer of a lucrative contract to tour Europe. An almost completely new group of musicians, mostly British - including Pete Thomas (saxophonist) - were assembled to perform as The Comets, and Haley appeared on many TV shows as well as in the movie Blue Suede Shoes, filmed at one of his London concerts in March 1979. A few days later, a performance in Birmingham was videotaped and aired on UK television; it was released on DVD in 2005. During the March tour, Haley recorded several tracks in London for his next album with Sonet, completing the work that summer at Muscle Shoals in Alabama; released later in the year, the resulting album Everyone Can Rock & Roll was the last release of new recordings by Bill Haley before his death.

In November 1979, Haley and the Comets performed for Queen Elizabeth II, a moment Haley considered the proudest of his career. It was also the last time he performed in Europe and the last time most fans saw him perform "Rock Around the Clock".

In 1980, Bill Haley and His Comets toured South Africa but Haley's health was failing and it was reported that he had a brain tumor. The tour was critically lambasted, but surviving recordings of a performance in Johannesburg show Haley in good spirits and good voice. Nonetheless, according to the Haley News fan club newsletter and the Haley biography Sound and Glory, planned concerts such as a fall 1980 tour of Germany, and proposed recording sessions in New York and Memphis were cancelled -- including a potential reunion with past members of the Comets -- and Haley returned to his home in Harlingen, Texas where he died in his sleep of an apparent heart attack on February 9, 1981.

In April 1981, Bill Haley & His Comets returned to the British musical charts once again when MCA Records (inheritors of the Decca catalog) released "Haley's Golden Medley", a hastily compiled edit of the band's best known hits in the style of the then-popular "Stars on 45" format. The single reached No. 50 in the UK but was not released in the United States.

In 1987, Bill Haley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. At that time, supporting bands were not also named to the hall. This policy has since changed and efforts have been under way for several years to have The Comets also named to the Hall. Bill Haley and His Comets have also been inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and, in July 2005, the surviving members of the 1954–55 Comets (see below) represented Haley when Bill Haley and His Comets were inducted into Hollywood's Rockwalk, a ceremony also attended by Haley's second wife and youngest daughter. The Comets placed their handprints in cement; a space was left blank for Haley.

The Comets

More than 100 musicians performed with Bill Haley & His Comets between 1952 and Haley's death in 1981, many becoming fan favorites along the way. Several short-lived Comets reunions were attempted in the 1980s, including one contingent (organized by Baltimore-based piano player Joey Welz who was briefly a Comet in the mid-1960s) that appeared on The Tomorrow Show, and another run by an Elvis Presley impersonator named Joey Rand (this group later lost a legal action over the right to use the Comets name).

The Comets, featuring musicians who performed with Haley in 1954–1955, reunited in 1987 and are still touring the world as of 2007, playing showrooms in the United States and Europe. They have also recorded a half-dozen albums for small labels in Europe and the United States. This version of the group has also been credited as Bill Haley's Original Comets, and in circumstances where the use of the Comets name is in dispute, A Tribute to Bill Haley and The Original Band. The basic line-up of this group from 1987 to May 2006 consisted of Marshall Lytle (bass), Joey Ambrose (sax), Johnny Grande (piano), Dick Richards (drums) and Franny Beecher (guitar). British singer Jacko Buddin augmented the group on vocals during most of their European tours, with Lytle taking over on vocals for US/Canadian tours beginning in 2000 and full-time in Europe in the mid-2000s. Since they connected with Klaus Kettner's Rock It Concerts (Germany) in 1991 they have played hundreds of shows all over Europe, dozens of TV shows and in March 2007 pre-opened the Bill-Haley-Museum in Munich, Germany (www.rockithydra.de).

Two additional groups claim the name Bill Haley's Comets and have extensively toured in the United States since forming in the 1980s: one featuring Haley's 1965–68 drummer John "Bam-Bam" Lane, the other run by Al Rappa who played bass for Haley off-and-on between late 1959 and early 1969 (some media promotion for Rappa erroneously states that he joined the group in 1956). Both these musicians claim trademark ownership of the Bill Haley's Comets name; this dates back to Lane and Rappa (during a period when they worked together as one band) winning a trademark infringement lawsuit against the aforementioned Joey Rand group in 1989. Both Rappa and Lane's bands have, from time to time, recruited other former Comets for their line-ups (for example, in 2005, Rappa joined forces with Joey Welz), but for the most part the bandleaders are the only regular members who have worked with Bill Haley directly.

In March and July 2005, the members of the 1954–55 group, now billed as simply The Comets after decades of controversy over the use of the name, made several high-profile concert appearances in New York City and Los Angeles organized by Martin Lewis as part of celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of rock and roll, the release of Blackboard Jungle, the 50th anniversary of "Rock Around the Clock" hitting Number 1, and the 80th birthday of Bill Haley. During a July 6, 2005 concert at the Viper Room in West Hollywood, The Comets were joined on stage for one song by Gina Haley, the youngest daughter of Bill Haley; at a similar appearance in March they were joined by Haley's eldest son, John W. Haley.

In 2006, The 1954–55 Comets spent much of the year in residence at Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater in Branson, Missouri (their second season at the theater is scheduled to begin on March 30, 2007). Meanwhile, the John Lane edition of Bill Haley's Comets recorded a new album in Tennessee in early 2006 which has yet to be released.

On June 2, 2006, Johnny Grande, keyboardist with the 1954–55 Comets and an original founding member of the band, died after a short illness. The following month, 85-year-old guitarist Franny Beecher announced his retirement, though he was at one point announced as participating in an early 2007 tour of Germany. The three remaining original Comets (Lytle, Richards, and Ambrose) continue to perform in Branson with new musicians taking over the keyboard and lead guitar positions. During September 2006, PBS in the United States aired a series of programs videotaped in Branson during the spring of 2006; these shows include the last recorded performances of the complete Original Comets line-up including Grande.

John "Bam-Bam" Lane died on February 18, 2007 but his edition of Bill Haley's Comets is expected to continue touring, with the 2006 recordings to be released in Lane's memory.

On October 27, 2007 ex Comets guitar player Bill Turner opened the afore mentioned Bill-Haley-Museum in Munich, Germany.

Several tribute bands patterning themselves after The Comets are also active in Europe, including Phil Haley and His Comments in Great Britain, and the Bill Haley and His Comets Revival (also known as Bill Haley's New Comets) in Germany.

Discography

Bill Haley & His Comets recorded many singles and albums. The following list references only their original release and does not include compilation albums or single reissues. This list does not include releases on which the Comets worked as session musicians and only includes releases during Haley's lifetime.

Singles

As Bill Haley & the Saddlemen (and variations of the name)

1950

  • Deal Me a Hand/Ten Gallon Stetson (Keystone 5101)
  • Susan Van Dusan/I'm Not to Blame (Keystone 5102)
  • Why Do I Cry Over You?/I'm Gonna Dry Ev'ry Tear With a Kiss (Atlantic 727)
  • My Sweet Little Girl from Nevada/My Palomino and I (Cowboy 1701) - released as Reno Browne and Her Buckaroos

1951

  • Rocket 88/Tearstains on My Heart (Holiday 105)
  • Green Tree Boogie/Down Deep in My Heart (Holiday 108)
  • I'm Crying/Pretty Baby (Holiday 110) - with Loretta Glendenning
  • A Year Ago This Christmas/I Don't Want to Be Alone for Christmas (Holiday 111)

1952

As Bill Haley & His Comets (and name variations thereof)

1953

  • Stop Beatin' round the Mulberry Bush/Real Rock Drive (Essex 310)
  • Crazy Man, Crazy/Whatcha Gonna Do? (Essex 321)
  • Pat-a-Cake/Fractured (Essex 327)
  • Live it Up/Farewell-So Long-Goodbye (Essex 332)

1954

1955

  • Mambo Rock/Birth of the Boogie (Decca 29418)
  • Razzle-Dazzle/Two Hound Dogs (Decca 29552)
  • Burn That Candle/Rock-a-Beatin' Boogie (Decca 29713)

1956

1957

  • Forty Cups of Coffee/Hook, Line and Sinker (Decca 30214)
  • (You Hit the Wrong Note) Billy Goat/Rockin' Rollin' Rover (Decca 30314)
  • The Dipsy Doodle/Miss You (Decca 30394)
  • Rock the Joint (a.k.a. New Rock the Joint [stereo])/How Many? (Decca 30461)
  • Mary, Mary Lou/It's a Sin (Decca 30530)

1958

  • Skinny Minnie/Sway with Me (Decca 30592)
  • Lean Jean/Don't Nobody Move (Decca 30681)
  • Chiquita Linda (Un Poquito de tu Amor) /Whoa Mabel! (Decca 30741)
  • Corrine, Corrina/B.B. Betty (Decca 30781)

1959

1960

  • Skokiaan (South African Song) /Puerto Rican Peddler (Decca 31030)
  • Music! Music! Music!/Strictly Instrumental (Decca 31080)
  • Candy Kisses/Tamiami (Warner Bros. Records 5145)
  • Hawk/Chick Safari (Warner Bros. 5154)
  • So Right Tonight/Let the Good Times Roll, Creole (Warner Bros. 5171)
  • Rock Around the Clock/Shake Rattle and Roll (new versions) (Warner Bros. no. unknown)

1961

  • Honky Tonk/Flip, Flop and Fly (Warner Bros. 5228)
  • Riviera/War Paint (Gone 5116)
  • Twist Español/My Kind of Woman (Spanish version) (Orfeon 1010) [May 1961]
  • Cerca del Mar/Tren Nocturno (Orfeon 1036)
  • Florida Twist/Negra Consentida (Orfeon 1047)
  • Spanish Twist (English version) /My Kind of Woman (Gone 5111) [September 1961]

1962

  • Caravan Twist/Actopan Twist (Orfeon 1052)
  • La Paloma/Silbando Y Caminando (Orfeon 1062)
  • Bikini Twist/Rudy's (Orfeon 1067)
  • Mas Twist/Tampico Twist (Orfeon 1082)
  • Twist Lento/Sonora Twist (Orfeon 1100)
  • Martha/Tacos de Twist (Orfeon 1132)
  • Jalisco Twist/Pueblo del Twist (Orfeon 1169)

1963

  • Tenor Man/Up Goes My Love (Newtown 5013)
  • White Parakeet/Midnight in Washington (Newhits 5014)
  • Dance Around the Clock/What Can I Say (Newtown 5024)
  • Tandy/You Call Everybody Darling (Newtown 5025)
  • Yakety Sax (by Bill Haley & His Comets) /Boot's Blues (by Boots Randolph (Logo 7005)
  • ABC Boogie (new version) (by Haley) /Rock Around the Clock (by Phil Flowers (Kasey 7006)
  • Pure de Papas/Anoche (Orfeon 1195)
  • El Madison de la Estrella/Viajando Con el Madison (Orfeon 1229)
  • Avenida Madison/Reunion de Etiqueta (Orfeon 1243)
  • Limbo Rock/Ana Maria (Orfeon 1269)

1964

  • Green Door/Yeah, She's Evil! (Decca 31650)
  • Adios Mariquita Linda/El Quelite (Orfeon 1324)
  • Mish Mash/Madero y Gante (Orfeon 1333)
  • Jimmy Martinez/Al Compás del Reloj (Orfeon 1429)

1965

  • Burn That Candle (new version) /Stop, Look and Listen (APT 25081)
  • Tongue-Tied Tony/Haley-a-Go-Go (APT 25087)
  • A Gusto Contigo/Mish Mash (Orfeon 1570)

1966

1968

  • That's How I Got to Memphis/Ain't Love Funny, Ha Ha Ha (United Artists 50483)

1970

  • Rock Around the Clock/Framed (live versions) (Kama Sutra 508)

1971

1978

  • Yodel Your Blues Away/Within This Broken Heart of Mine (previously unissued pre-Comets recordings) (Arzee 4677)

1979

  • Hail Hail Rock and Roll/Let the Good Times Roll Again (Sonet 2188)
  • Everyone Can Rock and Roll/I Need the Music (Sonet 2194)

1980

  • God Bless Rock and Roll/So Right Tonight (Sonet 2202)

Albums

  • 1958 - Rockin' Around the World (Decca 8692)
  • 1959 - Bill Haley's Chicks (Decca 8821)
  • 1959 - Strictly Instrumental (Decca 8964)
  • 1960 - Bill Haley and His Comets (Warner Bros. 1378)
  • 1960 - Haley's Juke Box (Warner Bros. 1391)
  • 1961 - Twist (Dimsa 8255)
  • 1961 - Bikini Twist (Dimsa 8259)
  • 1962 - Twistin' Knights at the Roundtable (live) (Roulette SR-25174)
  • 1962 - Twist Vol. 2 (Dimsa 8275)
  • 1962 - Twist en Mexico (Dimsa 8290)
  • 1963 - Bill Haley & His Comets (compilation with unreleased tracks) (Vocalion 3696)
  • 1963 - Rock Around the Clock King (Guest Star 1454)
  • 1963 - Madison (Orfeon 12339)
  • 1963 - Carnaval de Ritmos Modernos (Orfeon 12340)
  • 1964 - Surf Surf Surf (Orfeon 12354)
  • 1966 - Whiskey a Go-Go (Orfeon 12478)
  • 1966 - Bill Haley a Go-Go (Dimsa 8381)
  • 1968 - Biggest Hits (re-recordings plus new tracks) (Sonet 9945); issued in England as Rock Around the Clock (Hallmark SHM 668) and in North America as Rockin' (Pickwick SPC 3256)
  • 1968 - On Stage Vol. 1 (live) (Sonet SLP63)
  • 1968 - On Stage Vol. 2 (live) (Sonet SLP69)
    • The above two albums have been reissued in many forms, including by Janus Records as the two-album set, Razzle-Dazzle (Janus 7003), a numerous releases on the Pickwick and Hallmark labels.
  • 1970 - Bill Haley Scrapbook (live) (Kama Sutra/Buddah 2014)
  • 1971 - Rock Around the Country (Sonet 623); issued in North America by GNP-Crescendo (LP 2097) and as Travelin' Band on Janus (JLS 3035)
  • 1973 - Just Rock 'n' Roll Music (Sonet 645); issued in North America by GNP-Crescendo (LP 2077)
  • 1974 - Live in London '74 (live) (Antic 51501)
  • 1975 - Golden Favorites (compilation with unreleased tracks) (MCA Coral 7845P)
  • 1976 - Rudy's Rock: The Sax That Changed the World (billed as Rudy Pompilli and the Comets; recorded without Haley) (Sonet 696)
  • 1976 - R-O-C-K (re-recordings) (Sonet 710)
  • 1978 - Golden Country Origins (previously unissued pre-Comets recordings) (Grassroots Records)
  • 1979 - Everyone Can Rock and Roll (Sonet 808)

Other notable album releases by the group included Rock with Bill Haley and the Comets (Essex 102; 1954), Shake, Rattle and Roll (Decca DL5560; 1955), Rock Around the Clock (Decca DL8225; 1956) and Rockin' the Joint (Decca DL8775; 1958). These were all compilations of previously issued material.

Unreleased recordings

As with Elvis Presley and other contemporaries of the 1950s, a large stock of previously unreleased recordings by Bill Haley exist and have been released periodically in the years following his death. Many of these are early country and western tracks recorded as demos or, for some reason, unreleased. However, occasionally tracks from the 1950s and 1960s have emerged, as have live recordings. Since the early 1990s several European labels have released a number of previously unreleased recordings, including Hydra Records, Rollercoaster Records, Rockstar Records, Buddah Records, and Bear Family Records.

Notable discoveries that have been commercially released have included:

  • Several 1946 radio recordings Haley made with the Down Homers (Rock n' Roll Arrives box set, Bear Family Records, 2006);
  • A large cache of country-western recordings made by Haley in the 1946–51 era, before the formation of the Comets (also released on Rock 'n' Roll Arrives);
  • An April 1955 concert in Cleveland, Ohio including the earliest known live recordings of "Rock Around the Clock" (Rock 'n' Roll Show, Hydra Records, 1995);
  • A concert recording from the German tour of 1958 (Vive La Rock 'n' Roll, Big Beat Records, 2002);
  • A 1957 radio recording from Haley's tour of Australia;
  • Soundtrack recordings from the 1958 film Here I Am, Here I Stay and the 1954 short film Round Up of Rhythm (On Screen, Hydra Records, 1998);
  • Previously unreleased live recordings from the 1969 Bill Haley's Scrapbook sessions at the Bitter End (CD release of Bill Haley's Scrapbook (Kama Sutra/Buddah, 1993) and The Warner Brothers Years and More box set (Bear Family, 1999);
  • Two Christmas recordings and a version of "Flip Flop and Fly" from the 1968 United Artists sessions;
  • In-studio discussion recordings and alternate takes from the 1979 Everyone Can Rock and Roll sessions (The Journey to Fame, Denton Media, 2004);
  • Assorted demos and alternate takes from the Decca and Warner Bros. era from the period 1958–1961, as well as additional alternate takes and unreleased tracks from the various labels Haley recorded with in the mid-1960s (The Decca Years and More box set (Bear Family, 1991) and The Warner Brothers Years and More box set (Bear Family, 1999); and
  • Two 1962 broadcasts for Armed Forces Radio (On the Air, Hydra Records, 2001).

A number of recordings exist in the hands of private collectors and remain to be commercially released, including a number of privately made live recordings of several 1960s and 1970s concerts, and a number of rehearsal recordings from 1960. To date, however, no one has discovered any alternative takes of any of Haley's most famous recordings of the 1950s, in particular "Rock Around the Clock" and "Shake, Rattle and Roll".

Later Comets recordings

Several of the post-Haley contingents of Comets had their own single and album releases:

  • The 1981–82 Comets reunion group recorded on single in 1982, Bring Back the Music/The Hawk Talks (Music City Records). Musicians involved in this recording included former Comets Franny Beecher, Al Rappa and Joey Welz. Welz later released a single overdubbing two Haley demo recordings using a group of session musicians who were dubbed The Comets for the occasion.
  • The Joey Rand version of Bill Haley's Comets recorded an album in the 1980s.
  • The John Lane version of Bill Haley's Comets recorded a live album in the early 2000s, along with a Christmas single.
  • Al Rappa's version of Bill Haley's Comets have recorded tracks with Joey Welz.
  • The 1954–55 Comets (a.k.a. The Original Comets) have been the most prolific, recording a half-dozen albums since 1993 -

The group has also appeared as guest stars on a number of other recordings by Andy Lee Lang, Schurli Weiss and others.

Chart positions (US and UK)

  • Billboard or Cash Box charts:
  • "Crazy Man, Crazy" - # 12, summer 1953
  • "(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock" - US # 23 on May 29, 1954 [for only one week]; UK # 17, in December 1954
  • "(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock" – US R'n'B #3 then # 1 US, 06/1955; # 1 (8 weeks), UK, 10/1955; UK recharts # 5 09/1956; # 24, 12/1956; #25 01/1957; #20 04/1968; #34 05/1968; #12 UK then #39 US, 04/1974
  • "Shake, Rattle and Roll" – # 7 [04/54]; # 4 UK, 12/1954
  • "Dim, Dim the Lights (I Want Some Atmosphere)" - # 11, 01/1955
  • "Birth of the Boogie" – #17, 04/1955
  • "Mambo Rock" – (flipside of "Birth Of The Boogie") # 17; # 14 UK, 04/1955
  • "Two Hound Dogs" – # 9 (09/1955)
  • "Razzle-Dazzle" - (A-side of "Two Hound Dogs") # 15, 09/1955; # 13 UK, 09/1956
  • "Burn That Candle" - # 9, 11/1955
  • "Rock-a-Beatin' Boogie" – (A-side) of "Burn That Candle") #23, # 4 RU, 01/1956
  • "The Saints Rock 'n' Roll" - # 18, 04/1956 # 5 UK, 05/56
  • "R-O-C-K" - (A-side of "The Saints Rock and Roll") # 29, 04/1956
  • "Hot Dog Buddy Buddy" - # 78) - # 60, 06/1956
  • "Rockin' Through the Rye" - (flipside of "Hot Dog Buddy Buddy") # 3, UK, 08/1956; # 19 (UK), 01/1957
  • "See You Later, Alligator" – # 6, 02/1956; # 7 UK, 03/1956; # 12 UK, 09/1956 (new entry)
  • "Rip It Up" – # 25, 08/1956; # 4 UK, 11/1956
  • "Teenager's Mother (Are You Right?)" - (flipside of "Rip it Up") - # 68, 08/1956
  • "Rudy's Rock""- # 34; # 30 (UK), 11/1956; re-charts # 26 (UK), 12/1956
  • "Don't Knock the Rock" - # 45, 12/1956; # 7, UK, 02/1957
  • "Rock the Joint" (1952 recording) - # 20 UK, 02/1957
  • "Forty Cups of Coffee"/"Hook, Line and Sinker" - # 70, 04/1957
  • "(You Hit the Wrong Note) Billy Goat" - # 60, 06/1957
  • "Skinny Minnie" - # 22, 05/1958
  • "Lean Jean" - # 67, 08/1958
  • "Joey's Song" - # 46, 11/1959
  • "Skokiaan (South African Song)" - # 70, 1960
  • "Rock Around The Clock" - US Pop # 39 & UK # 12 in April 1974
  • "Haley's Golden Medley" - (posthumous edit of "Rock Around the Clock", "See You Later Alligator", "Shake, Rattle and Roll" and others) # 50, UK, 04/1981

American Chart Toppers

(Top 100)

  • Launched on January 1, 1955 (coast to coast, under control).
  • (We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock: enters the "A.C.T." on 21/05/1955 topping on 9/07/1955 for 8 weeks.

British Chart Toppers

(Top 20)

  • Also launched on January 1, 1955 (round 2 decades later under control of Scotland Yard).
  • (We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock: enters the B.C.T. on 7/01/1955 reaching #17 two weeks later, re-enters on 14/10/1955 topping on 25/11/1955 for 11 weeks then re-enters once again on 21/09/1956 peaking at #5 a few weeks later.***Also B.C.T.'s #25 in January 1957 dropping out for a week before making its fifth and final re-entry on Columbia/Brunswick at #22.

In addition, Haley and the Comets also scored chart hits in Latin America during the period 1961–1966 with recordings such as "Twist Español", "Florida Twist" and "Land of a Thousand Dances". Reportedly, "Chick Safari", a 1960 recording, reached the No. 1 position on the Indian musical charts. Both the single "Florida Twist" and the Twist LP Record went to No. 1 in Mexico.

Sources

  • Jim Dawson, Rock Around the Clock: The Record That Started the Rock Revolution! (San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2005)
  • John W. Haley and John von Hoelle, Sound and Glory (Wilmington, DE: Dyne-American, 1990)
  • John Swenson, Bill Haley (London: W.H. Allen, 1982)
  • Discography information from Bill Haley Central and Bill Haley & His Comets, etc.: A Discography, an unpublished reference work by Herbert Kamitz.
  • What Was The First Rock'N'Roll Record? ISBN 0-571-12939-0 (paper)
  • Rock File no 4 - Panther Books Ltd., Great Britain, 1st Pub. 1976. (ISBN unavailable).

References

External links

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