Bill Haley

Strange to think that the group synonymous with the birth of rock'n'roll through their iconic 1955 smash Rock Around The Clock were initially recognised as a solid country and western group, renowned for their romantic ballads and western swing tunes. Bill Haley himself, in fact, was widely considered one of the top cowboy yodellers in America when fronting The Saddlemen, forerunners of The Comets, in the early 1950s. Their move towards a rockabilly style occurred with their 1951 single Rocket 88, in which they first used the distinctive slapped upright bass style which became their staple diet. Rocket 88 attracted enough interest to encourage them to continue in the same vein with Rock The Joint and Shake, Rattle & Roll, after which they decided to change their name to Bill Haley & The Comets (at the time featuring Haley on vocals, Johnny Grande on piano, Billy Williamson on steel guitar and Marshall Lytle on upright bass). They had their first hit in 1953 with an original song Crazy Man Crazy, which connected with a teenage audience; and went on to record Rock Around The Clock soon afterwards. It didn't become a global phenomenon, however, until being featured in the movie Blackboard Jungle, going on to become the flagship of youthful rebellion and the new rock'n'roll counter-culture; eventually selling an estimated 25 million copies. They were never to duplicate its success, but subsequently appeared in a movie of the same name and co-starred with The Platters and Little Richard in Don't Knock The Rock. The arrival of Elvis Presley and sexier new stars dented their appeal, making Haley's "kiss curl" haircut image seem suddenly dated, although the band continued to tour with changing line-ups through the 1960s and remained a popular live act, especially in Europe. In 1977 Haley announced his retirement and settled in Mexico, although he was persuaded to make several comebacks prior to his death in 1981. Even that didn't stop various new line-ups of the Comets continuing to cash in on the name, with over 100 musicians reckoned to have been members of the Comets through the years.

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