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On February 9, 1981 : Bill Haley dies at the age of 55.
If ever there was an anthem to rock and roll it was the song "We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock" performed by Billy Haley and His Comets
The songs powerful refrain and driving beat ushered in a new style for a new era in popular music.
Yes, rock and roll was here to stay!
In 1955, Haley recorded the landmark song, which held down the Number One spot for eight weeks and went on to sell 45 million copies worldwide.
In Britain, "Rock Around the Clock" has re-entered the charts seven times. Surprisingly, "Rock Around the Clock" was not Haley's first million seller, "Shake, Rattle and Roll" was recorded months earlier and even it was not his first hit.
Haley began his recording career in 1951 when he led a small country and western band. However, it appeared Haley was not any match for the current stars in that genre, Hank Williams and Webb Pierce, so Haley added a rhythm and blues feel to the band.
With the bands new style and a new name, the Comets, they recorded their first hit in 1952 called "Crazy Man, Crazy."
After signing a record contract with Decca, the group recorded "Shake, Rattle and Roll" and "We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock." This most fantastic group of music makers the world had yet known started a frenzied new era of their own creation.
Haley's discs sold like wildfire in almost every country of the world. Indeed, we were rocking around the clock and Haley's music would soon be featured in 14 different movies and recorded in 37 different languages with over 140 versions globally!
The Comets also recorded ten other chart topping songs, including "See You Later Alligator," which like "We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock" became an icon, a symbol of the era. Bill Haley had made his mark on music and generations of rockers would tell stories of how they were influenced by this seemingly innocent country and western star from Detroit.
Bill Haley, who performed on the revival circuit throughout the Sixties and Seventies, saw his signature song become a U.S. hit for the second time when "Rock Around the Clock" appeared on the 1974 soundtrack for American Graffiti and the hit TV show Happy Days. It is estimated that Haley and His Comets have sold 100 million records worldwide.
Bill Haley suffered and died from a heart attack at his home in Harlingen, Texas on February 9, 1981. He was only 55 years old. Stories emerged shortly after his death that he had died penniless, however those stories were never confirmed.
William John Cliftop Haley Jr. was born in Highland Park, Michigan on July 6, 1925.
His family was interested in country music and he learned to play guitar at an early age. When he was 15 he left home to tour with a country and western band and by 1951, when he signed a contract with Essex Records, he was leading a band of his own.
The band was called The Saddlemen and their first record was a version of the rhythm and blues hit "Rocket 88" and prefigured Haley's later style, an amaigam of country, the blues and pop influences.
In 1952, Haley renamed his band in order to place his name outfront and came up with the clever name Bill Haley and The Comets. A year later the band recorded their first hit, "Crazy Man Crazy."
In 1955, bandleader Bill Haley and His Comets recorded a landmark rock and roll song, "(We're Gonna) Rock Around the Clock," which held down the number one spot for eight weeks and went on to sell 41 million copies worldwide. In Britain, "Rock Around the Clock" has re-entered the charts seven times, most recently in 1974.
If only for the impact of "Rock Around the Clock," in which Haley adapted a black R&B; song to a more streamlined rock and roll beat, Haley would deserve a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Yet his impact in the early days of rock and roll went well beyond that.
Two years earlier he'd put out "Crazy, Man, Crazy," an original song that became the first rock and roll record to make Billboard's pop chart. For most of the Fifties, Haley was a presence on the record charts with and in teen-oriented movies.
At their first session for Decca, they cut "Rock Around the Clock" (which had originally been recorded in 1952 by Sunny Dae. Little attention was paid to Haley's version upon its initial release in the spring of 1954.
The group followed it with their cover version of Big Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle and Roll," which cracked the Top Ten in July 1954 and sold a million copies.
"Rock Around the Clock" got its second lease on life by being chosen for the soundtrack to The Blackboard Jungle, a 1955 movie about high-school delinquency that generated controversy in the press and pandemonium among the young.
In effect, "Rock Around the Clock" became an anthem for rebellious Fifties youth. A 1956 movie named after the song, which featured nine lip-synched performances by Haley, made him a star here and abroad.
His celebrity was particularly long-lived in Britain, where he continued to be treated as rock royalty into the Seventies.
The following is a list of the Bill Haley recordings which toped the charts:
1955 Shake Rattle and Roll #4 for 11 weeks
1955 Dim Dim The Lights #11 for 7 weeks
1955 Rock Around The Clock #1 for 22 weeks
1955 Mambo Rock #14 for 2 weeks
1955 Razzle Dazzle #13 for 4 weeks
1955 Burn That Candle #20 for 2 weeks
1956 Rock-a-Beat-in-Boogie #4 for 8 weeks
1956 See You Later Alligator #6 for 12 weeks
1956 Saints Rock and Roll #5 for 22c weeks
1956 Rockin' Though The Rye #3 for 19 weeks
1957 Don't Knock the Rock #4 for 14 weeks
1957 Rock the Joint #20 for 1 week
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