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Bill Haley and the Comets! Man those cats can really go!

Man I wish I could swing like that but I think I would tear something! I was born in the wrong era.

Here is some background on Bill and the Comets. He did so much more then the theme to “Happy Days”:

Bill Haley and his Comets was a rock and roll band of the 50s led by guitarist Bill Haley, one of the earliest groups of white musicians to record rock and roll bring it to the attention of white America and the rest of the world. Haley was a country performer who converted to rock and roll almost before there was such a thing.

Although several members of the Comets became famous, Bill Haley was the star. With his spit curl and the band all in plaid dinner jackets jumping about, many fans consider them to be as revolutionary in their time as the Beatles or the Rolling Stones were in theirs.

The band was 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.”

Haley began his rock and roll career with a cover of “Rocket 88” in 1951 which sold well and was followed up a cover of a 1940s rhythm and blues song called “Rock the Joint” in 1952. 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 alternate pronunciation of the name Halley’s Comet to rhyme with “Bailey”, suggested that Haley call his band The Comets.

The original members of the Comets when the band officially received its new name in the fall of 1952 were Johnny Grande (piano/accordion), Billy Williamson (steel guitar) and Marshall Lytle (string bass). 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.

In 1953, Haley scored his first national success with an original song (co-written by an uncredited Marshall Lytle) called “Crazy Man Crazy”, a phrase Haley said he heard from his teenaged audience.

Later, he added Joey Ambrose on tenor sax and Dick Boccelli (aka Dick Richards) on drums. Along with the other original Comets, plus session musicians Danny Cedrone on electric guitar and Billy Gussak on drums (standing in for Boccelli), this was the group that recorded “Rock Around the Clock” for Decca Records on April 12, 1954. Haley’s biggest hit, and one of the most important records in rock and roll history, “Rock Around the Clock“, started slow but eventually sold an estimated 25 million copies and marked the arrival of a cultural shift.

Bill Haley and the Comets history information provided by:

4 responses »

  1. Shane! Where did you find this film of me falling down on the dance floor?! (Haha!). Now this is whatcha call DANCIN baby! Somehow I get this “visual” of you and your little sweetie BOOGIE’N DOWN out there in the boonies ;- )
    Great film clip


  2. hepcatrestorations

    Thanks Vic, your kind words mean alot. I wish Mel and I could dance like that. That girl really hit the floor hard, I would hope I could do better than that.


  3. My man had the pleasure to support The Comets when they were over in the UK a few years ago. (He’s a double bass player) I only met Dick and he’s a sweet old man. He look very frail but when he get behind the drums he’s like Animal from the Muppet show. :))

    I’m personally more of a Jodimars fan.


    • hepcatrestorations

      Wow, that’s a cool story and experience. I guess age does not determine if you can get down or not. I would of loved to see him on the drums.



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