Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Bill Haley (1925-1981) - See Ya Later, Alligator
Bill Haley (1925-1981)
Shake, Rattle, and Roll (1954)
Rock Around the Clock (1954)
See Ya Later, Alligator (1955)
Bill Haley (July 6, 1925, Highland Park, MI - February 9, 1981) was one of the first American rock and roll musicians.
He is credited by many with first popularizing rock in the mid-1950's with his group Bill Haley and the Comets, and their hit song Rock Around the Clock.
Because of the effects of the Great Depression on the Detroit area, Haley's father moved the family to Boothwyn, Pennsylvania, near the town of Chester, when Bill was seven years old. Haley's father played the banjo, and his mother was a technically accomplished keyboardist with classical training. Haley told the story that when he made a simulated guitar out of cardboard, his parents bought him a real one.
The anonymous sleeve notes accompanying the 1956 Decca album Rock Around the Clock describe Haley's early life and career thus: "Bill got his first professional job at the age of 13, playing and entertaining at an auction for the fee of $1 a night. Very soon after this he formed a group of equally enthusiastic youngsters and managed to get quite a few local bookings for his band."
The sleeve notes continue: "When Bill Haley was fifteen (c.1940) he left home with his guitar and very little else and set out on the hard road to fame and fortune. The next few years, continuing this story in a fairy-tale manner, were hard and poverty stricken, but cramful of useful experience. Apart from learning how to exist on one meal a day and other artistic exercises, he worked at an open-air park show, sang and yodelled with any band that would have him and worked with a traveling medicine show. Eventually he got a job with a popular group known as the "Down Homers" while they were in Hartford, Connecticut. Soon after this he decided, as all successful people must decide at some time or another, to be his own boss again - and he has been that ever since.’
The sleeve notes conclude: "For six years Bill Haley was a musical director of Radio Station WPWA in Chester, Pennsylvania, and led his own band all through this period. It was then known as Bill Haley's Saddlemen, indicating their definite leaning toward the tough Western style. They continued playing in clubs as well as over the radio around Philadelphia, and in 1951 made their first recordings."
During the Labour Day weekend in 1952, The Saddlemen were renamed Bill Haley with Haley's Comets (inspired by a popular mispronunciation of Halley's Comet), and in 1953, Haley's recording of "Crazy Man, Crazy" (co-written by Haley and his bass player, Marshall Lytle although Lytle would not receive credit until 2001) became the first rock and roll song to hit the American charts, peaking at no.15 on Billboard and no.11 on Cash Box. Soon after, the band's name was revised to Bill Haley & His Comets.
In 1953, a song called "Rock Around the Clock" was written for Haley. He was unable to record it until April 12, 1954. Initially, it was relatively unsuccessful, staying at the charts for only one week, but Haley soon scored a major worldwide hit with a cover version of Big Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle and Roll", which went on to sell a million copies and became the first ever rock 'n' roll song to enter British singles charts in December 1954 and became a Gold Record.He retained elements of the original, but threw some country music aspects in to the song (specifically, Western Swing) and cleaned up the lyrics. Haley and his band were important in launching the music known as "Rock and Roll" to a wider, mostly white audience after years of it being considered an underground genre. When "Rock Around the Clock" appeared behind the opening credits of the 1955 film Blackboard Jungle starring Glenn Ford, it soared to the top of the American Billboard chart for eight weeks. The single is commonly used as a convenient line of demarcation between the "rock era" and the music industry that preceded it; Billboard separated its statistical tabulations into 1890-1954 and 1955-present. After the record rose to number one, Haley was quickly given the title "Father of Rock and Roll," by the media, and by teenagers that had come to embrace the new style of music.
"Rock Around the Clock" was the first record ever to sell over one million copies in both Britain and Germany and, in 1957, Haley became the first major American rock singer to tour Europe.
Haley continued to score hits throughout the 1950s such as "See You Later, Alligator" and he starred in the first rock and roll musical movies Rock Around the Clock and Don't Knock the Rock, both in 1956. His star was soon surpassed in the USA by the younger, sexier Elvis, but Haley continued to be a major star in Latin America, Mexico, and in Europe throughout the 1960's.
A self-admitted alcoholic (as indicated in a 1974 radio interview for the BBC), Haley fought a battle with alcohol into the 1970's. Nonetheless, he and his band continued to be a popular touring act, enjoying a career resurgence in the late 1960s with the Rock and roll revival movement and the signing of a lucrative record deal with the European Sonet Records label. After performing for Queen Elizabeth II at a command performance in 1979, Haley made his final performances in South Africa in May and June 1980. Prior to the South African tour, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and a planned tour of Germany in the fall of 1980 was canceled.
The October 25, 1980 edition of the German paper Bild reported on Haley's condition. It quoted British manager Patrick Maylan as saying that Haley "had taken a fit and went over the seat. He didn't recognize anyone anymore" after being taken to his home in Beverly Hills. It also reported that a doctor at the clinic where Haley had been taken said, "The tumor can't be operated on . . . ."
The Berliner Zeitung reported a few days later that Haley had collapsed after a performance in Texas and been taken to the hospital in his home town of Harlingen, Texas.
Despite his ill health, Haley began compiling notes for possible use as a basis for either a biographical film based on his life, or a published autobiography (accounts differ), and there were plans for him to record an album in Memphis, Tennessee, when the tumor began affecting his behavior and he retired to his home in Harlingen, Texas, where he died early on the morning February 9, 1981
Haley's death certificate listed "Natural causes most likely heart attack" as the 'Immediate Cause' of death. The next lines, 'Due to, or as a consequence Of" were blank.
Haley made a succession of bizarre, mostly monologue late-night phone calls to friends and relatives in which he seemed incoherently drunk or ill. Haley's first wife has been quoted as saying, "He would call and ramble and dwell on the past, his mind was really warped". A belligerent phone call to a business associate was taped and gives evidence of Haley's troubled state of mind.
Media reports immediately following his death indicated Haley displayed deranged and erratic behavior in his final weeks, although beyond a biography of Haley by John Swenson, released a year later, which described Haley painting the windows of his home black, there is little information extant about Haley's final days.
Haley was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Songwriters Tom Russell and Dave Alvin addressed Haley's demise in musical terms with "Haley's Comet" on Alvin's 1991 album Blue Blvd. Dwight Yoakam sang backup on the tribute.
Haley's original Comets still tour the world. They released a concert DVD in 2004 on Hydra Records, played the Viper Room in West Hollywood in 2005, and performed at Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater in Branson, Missouri in 2006-07.
In March 2007, the Original Comets pre-opened the Bill Haley Museum in Munich, Germany.
On October 27, 2007, ex-Comets guitar player Bill Turner opened the Bill Haley Museum for the public.
Blackboard Jungle is a 1955 social commentary film about teachers in an inner-city school. It is based on the novel of the same name by Evan Hunter.
Richard Dadier (Glenn Ford) is a teacher at North Manual High School, an inner-city school where many of the pupils, led by student Gregory Miller (Sidney Poitier), frequently engage in anti-social behavior. Dadier makes various attempts to engage the students' interest in education, challenging both the school staff and the pupils. He is subjected to violence as well as duplicitous schemes; he first suspects Miller, but later realizes that Artie West (Vic Morrow) is the perpetrator, and challenges him in a classroom showdown.
The film marked the rock and roll revolution by featuring Bill Haley & His Comets' Rock Around the Clock, initially a B-side, over the film's opening credits, as well as in the first scene, in an instrumental version in the middle of the film, and at the close of the movie, establishing that song as an instant classic. Popularized by its use in the film, "Rock Around the Clock" reached number one on the Billboard charts, and remained there for eight weeks. The music also led to a huge teenage audience for the film, and their exuberant response to it sometimes overflowed into violence and vandalism at screenings.
In this sense, the film has been seen as marking the start of a period of visible teenage rebellion in the late 20th century.
The film marked a watershed in the United Kingdom. When shown at a South London Cinema in Elephant and Castle in 1956 the teenage teddy boy audience began to riot, tearing up seats and dancing in the aisles.
After that, riots took place around the country wherever the film was shown.
In March 2005, the 50th anniversary of the release of the film and the subsequent upsurge in popularity of rock and roll, was marked by a series of "Rock Is Fifty" celebrations in Los Angeles and New York City, involving the surviving members of the original Bill Haley & His Comets.
The film was released on DVD in North America on May 10, 2005.
[8926 Davis / 8925 Haley / 8925 Boulez]