BILL HALEY: Saddlemen and Comets

by Tony G. Marshall

Rock the Joint front cover

My first taste of the rock n’ roll music of Bill Haley and His Comets came via the original opening theme of the nostalgic American comedy series, “Happy Days” (1974 – 1984) namely “Rock Around The Clock” followed by a viewing of the 1956 movie of the same name which was shown on British television sometime in the late 1970’s. Intermingled with all this was the experience of listening to further hits of the band albeit infrequently on various radio stations. Sometime around 1980 I first saw a copy of “Rock The Joint!” – a 10″ album (the first of its format I’d ever seen) released by Rollercoaster Records with fabulous retro cover artwork, and through the back cover sleeve essay I discovered that there were more facets to Bill Haley’s early career than I had previously imagined: primarily, starting out as a ‘Hillbilly’ musician with a group called ‘The Down Homers’ in the 1940’s followed by his tenure fronting the band known as The Four Aces of Western Swing. Subsequently, Haley went on to form his own group known as The Saddlemen and it was Bill and The Saddlemen who, at their first recording session for the Holiday label in 1951, recorded a version of the song which is considered to be the first ever rock and roll record – “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats. The following year the Holiday label became known as the Essex label, and it’s most of these early releases featuring Bill Haley & The Saddlemen/Bill Haley and His Comets from 1952 – 53 which are compiled on this “Rock The Joint!” album. The title track of the album was the band’s first single release on Essex and five years later became a hit in the UK charts. However, it was the song “Crazy Man, Crazy”, written by Bill himself and released as ‘Bill Haley With Haley’s Comets’ on the label in 1953, which became the band’s first national hit and also bears the distinction of being the first  rock and roll recording to appear on the national American music charts. 

Rock The Joint / Rocking Chair On The Moon / Farewell, So Long, Goodbye / Fractured / Stop Beatin’ Around The Mulberry Bush.

Crazy Man, Crazy / Pat-a-Cake / I’ll Be True / Whatcha Gonna Do? / Dance With A Dolly.

Bill+Haley++The+Comets+Rock+Around+The+Clock+288197My actual first ever Haley/Comets album purchase was originally released in 1968 on the Hallmark label (Sonet/Pickwick in the US) with such an iconic cover and simply entitled “Rock Around The Clock”. The album featured 9 of the band’s greatest hits along with 1 of the most recent recordings (“Ling-Ting-Tong”) from this period. I didn’t realise it at the time but the majority of the songs featured on the album were re-recordings of their classic hits and the arrangements in the songs were basically the same as the originals. Therefore, it was an enjoyable listening experience for myself and a welcome addition to my vinyl collection. The album release coincided with the nostalgic Rock n’ Roll revival that was gradually taking shape amidst the psychedelic and acid rock-infused musical landscape of the late sixties. It also served as a period piece for another time in which a white country & western and rhythm & blues enthusiast changed the face of popular music by making his own musical cocktail acceptable in the mainstream for a new generation of rock and roll fans to drink up. At the time of the original Haley and The Comets’ recordings of some of the songs featured on this album, Elvis Presley & the Blue Moon Boys were beginning to shake up the Southern regional sanctums of entertainment with their own brand of rocking interpretations of old country and r n’ b standards which came to be identified with ‘Rockabilly’. Subsequently, Presley further developed the blueprint of Haley’s ‘acceptable’ white Rock n’ Roll style with his black-sounding voice and uptempo heavy beat style which in turn heralded the start of a new musical revolution in worldwide popular culture. 

Rock Around The Clock / Skinny Minnie / Ling-Ting-Tong / Rock The Joint / Rock-A-Beatin’ Boogie.

See You Later Alligator / Flip, Flop And Fly / Love Letters In The Sand / The Saints Rock And Roll / Shake, Rattle & Roll. 

The written content and style in this not-for-profit article is owned by Cosmic Dwellings/Tony G. Marshall. All Rights Reserved. Copyright © 2016 Tony G. Marshall/Cosmic Dwellings.

About Cosmic Dwellings

'Cosmic Dwellings' is a social media network consisting of a fine mix of retro rock and pop music, a radio drama production, an ebook serial and several works of poetry and lyrical prose.
This entry was posted in Album, Music, musician, Recording, Rhythm and Blues, Rock, Rock 'n' Roll, Rockabilly and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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