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Saturday, December 19, 2009

100 Records That Shook The World, #92

Rock Around The Clock

Bill Haley and His Comets

Bill Haley was originally a country artist, but after he recorded a version of Jackie Brenston's "Rocket 88" and had some success with it, he changed direction and started to record rhythm & blues songs with a country-western tinge. This was the best move he could have made, and it made his name legendary. This new sound of Haley's came to be called Rock And Roll.

The band was originally called The Saddlemen, and after the success of 'Rocket 88' and its follow-up, 'Rock The Joint' in 1952, the name didn't seem to fit the style anymore, and so when a buddy of Haley's suggested the Comets as a play on words with Halley's Comet (using the alternative pronunciation), the name stuck.

In '53, Haley and The Comets had more success with "Crazy Man, Crazy" and "Pat-A-Cake" but it was in 1954 that things blew up for them. First, the band moved from the small Essex Records to the nationally-known Decca label. "Rock Around The Clock" was originally released as the b-side to "Thirteen Women (And Only One Man In Town)". Although the record made the Billboard charts, it did not set the world on fire until the song was used in the movie Blackboard Jungle in 1955, after Haley's version of "Shake, Rattle & Roll" had been a hit internationally, and late 1954's "Dim, Dim The Lights" which was the first record by a white artist to make it into the R&B chart.

The record was chosen for the soundtrack of Blackboard Jungle by Glenn Ford, the star of the film, who along with the film's producers, picked it from the collection of his son, Peter, to represent the kind of music the kids of 1955 were listening to. On the 9th of July that year, "Rock Around The Clock" became the first rock and roll record to hit number one on the Billboard charts, and stayed there for eight weeks. It had been hanging around the UK charts since January '55, peaking at number 17, then later in the year, re-entering and hitting number one in November. It then hit number one again in January of '56.

A small side note: the guitarist Danny Cedrone, who performed the guitar solo on the record, was a session player and not a full member of the Comets; he died in a fall down a stairway in June 1954, never living to see his contribution reach legendary status.

Here's Bill and the boys.

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