Skip to comments.With one rocking tune, Bill Haley burst into fame
Posted on 04/12/2004 9:17:08 AM PDT by Revolting cat!
It was the rim shot heard 'round the world.
"One, two, three o'clock, four o'clock rock. Five, six, seven o'clock, eight o'clock rock. Nine, ten, eleven o'clock, twelve o'clock rock. We're going to rock around the clock tonight."
Fifty years ago today, on April 12, 1954, Bill Haley and the Comets stepped into New York City's Pythian Temple to record their debut single for Decca Records, "Rock Around the Clock," which became the first No. 1 rock 'n' roll record and the opening salvo in a worldwide pop revolt. continued...
(Excerpt) Read more at sfgate.com ...
I sometimes enjoy making people feel old by pointing out that Bruce Springsteen's "Born To Run" and the Sex Pistol's "Never Mind The Bollocks" album are now older than "Rock Around The Clock" was when Reagan got elected. >:)
For more than a year, Haley would reign as the first king of rock 'n' roll.
Actually I thought that the song didn't really take off until a year after it was released when it was used as the theme song to Blackboard Jungle. I don't think he "reigned" for all that time.
And don't be so quick to report that the SFgate/Comical didn't alledge just a lil' bit of racism:
When he is remembered, Haley is often portrayed as a marginal, transitional artist who sanitized ribald rhythm-and-blues lyrics and spoon-fed young whites watered- down versions of the real thing.
"Real" thing meaning "black"?
And while he may have had more chart success with "Rock Around The Clock", Bill Haley said that the first motion his country band made in this direction was playing the rhythm and blues tune "Rock This Joint" as a joke at the Twin Bar in New Jersey in 1950. He said that it just wasn't done to play rhythm and blues when you were a country act.
The article mentions his 1951 recording of Rocket 88 but history is not made with records; it is made with innovation and action. Live performance counts too. This is why I disagree with the "Rock and Roll" Hall Of Fame codifying all admissions based on 25 years after major label debut.
Here's one reason why (as excerpted from the above article):
Haley tried on several occasions to record the number, but Essex Records' Miller hated Myers and refused to allow Haley to cut the song.
...Louis Jordan, one of the few black recording artists of the era who sold records to the mainstream audience. Jordan's tightly focused small combo would provide the template for Haley's new rock 'n' roll records (Haley was still country and western enough to carry a steel guitarist with the band).
Well sometimes it is hard to justify a saxaphone in a band as being "rock and roll". There are a number of rocking hot rod songs that use a steel guitar. And Louis Jordan against wasn't the only black recording artist of the era who sold to the "mainstream" (white) audience. Lionel Hampton was there as well (and his "Hey Bop A Re Bop" was even cited by Lester Bangs as being "rock and roll").
His reign was short. By 1960, Haley had slipped off the charts entirely.So had most of the rock and rollers. Industry types, corporate heads, performers like Frank Sinatra, and others conspired to shove rock and roll out the door. A number of celebrities died in car and plane crashes, Elvis was drafted, Little Richard left for religion, Jerry Lee Lewis came home in shame, and payola charges were making stations leery of playing BMI songs (you see, ASCAP wouldn't publish rock and roll recordings and ASCAP alledged they were no longer getting chart play because of payola).
Music got castrated (at least for airplay). Johnny Burnette who had been a wild man rockabilly singer was singing the same type of poster boy pinup pablum that Frankie Avalon and others sang.
Rock and roll was shown the door. It wasn't welcome in the 1970s when it came back as "punk" (Ramones style bare bones) in the age of prog rock, concept albums, and sensitive singer songwriters. "Grow up" was again the industry retort. (We'll ignore 1964-1967 for now when rock was briefly allowed to rise again).
If nothing else, this article got me to pull out my copy of the album The Bill Haley Scrapbook which records a scorching live set from Bill Haley and the Comets circa 1969 in New York.
What Elvis did do was put a face/persona to a sound that broke it wide. The Beatles and Nirvana also did this (even though they didn't invent their sounds either).
8 Wynonie Harris: Good Rockin' Tonight (1948)
Actually I think Roy Brown's version from 1948 is more rocking (and his "Butcher Pete" even more so).
24 Jackie Brenston with His Delta Cats: Rocket 88 (1951)
Roadhouse music and an early hit from Ike Turner. The band could play for 8 hours non-stop (different band members would take or leave the stage as needed). Ike learned to play guitar and piano both while sitting at a piano.
25 Dominoes: Sixty Minute Man (1951)
Yeah, this certainly has many of the elements (although the tempo is still just a touch slow). The risque nature of the song adds to it's nomination I'm sure.
Part of my criteria for the "first" rock and roll record is that over the top wild recording. Both swing and jump blues had songs that were really amped up with energy but something just didn't quick click (too polite in some way).
Some of the nominations on that list and many more that are missing are the addition of recording techniques and distortion. Rather than try to say they "aren't" significant, I would rather note those songs separately than trying to make the case they they are/aren't the "first" rock and roll song.
I don't like modern historians' sense of "all or nothing" hyperbole. It's why I do not watch supposedly educational programs on cable (when I am at a friend's or hotel that has cable). Every one I've seen tries to make the case "If it wasn't for (say, Thomas Edison) we'd all still be (...in the dark)." Almost always they ignore the works others build off of or contemporary competitors.
I saw a bit that told us time and time again (with recreated historical footage) how Galileo discovered that the Earth revolved around the Sun and how he really stuck it to the Church/the Man. No mention was made that Galileo read the text of his predecessor, Copernicus. Copernicus was dead before Galileo was born. To over dramatize the contributions of one and totally ignore the work of another puts the whole lesson into question.
And Selvin's comment RE: Rip It Up by Haley? I've heard it, I know, but don't recall it. Sure, Presley's version too is "better" than Little Richard's, but the same can be said of Presley's cover of the Drifters Money Honey! Except that the originals of both songs swing like crazy, and with much softer sound - quite magically so, I say, while Elvis pretty much vulgarized both.
I agree with your rant, by the way. The way I hear it, rock'n'roll was inevitable in the early 50s and would have happened if there had been only Luis Jordan, Howlin Wolf and Leiber/Stoller!
There is a progression there but not as dramatic as the difference between the versions of "Train Kept A Rollin'" by Tiny Bradshaw (jump blues) and the Johnny Burnette Trio (which established the fuzzed out arrangement that everyone later copied even if they thought they were just covering the Yardbirds).
Rock and roll, (especially early rock and roll) was/is not "genteel". Something had changed...
gen·teel ( P ) Pronunciation Key (jn-tl) adj.
1. Refined in manner; well-bred and polite.
2. Free from vulgarity or rudeness.
3. Elegantly stylish: genteel manners and appearance.
- a. Striving to convey a manner or appearance of refinement and respectability. See Synonyms at polite.
- b. Marked by affected and somewhat prudish refinement.
I make do with that live Bill Haley album and another live performance from 1972 on film (The London Rock & Roll Show).
let me know if you want to be added to or removed from the ping list!
Obviously the names of his two hits had nothing to do with the name given to that form of music.
If Haley had never recorded ROCK Around the Clock and Shake Rattle and ROLL would they have called the music ROCK and ROLL ? ....
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