Let’s begin this journey through the music of the 20th Century with a song that is looked on by most people as the first Rock and Roll record. I’m talking about “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets. The song hit number one on the Billboard charts on July 9, 1955. I was just about to enter 8th grade and basically didn’t have a clue what Rock and Roll was about. I grew up in Michigan which was not the center point for the music revolution. I might have felt differently if I had been raised in New York City or even in Chicago or L.A. The song was first released early in 1955, but didn’t do too much. It wasn’t until it was used in the movie “Blackboard Jungle” that it had a resurgence of popularity and rose to number one in July.
A headline in a Michigan paper for that day says “Congressman is indicted on $154,000 Conspiracy Charge”. It doesn’t look like some things have changed all that much. The paper cost 7 cents. A lumber yard is offering to build a complete 2-bedroom ranch style home (on your lot) for $3950.00. Coffee was 69 cents a pound. Popular comics in the paper were “Priscilla’s Pop” and “Freckles and His Friends”, not to mention “Alley Oop” and “Captain Easy”.
The term “Rock and Roll” is pretty much attributed to Allen Freed, a New York disk jockey who later made several cool Rock and Roll movies and was later indicted in the famous “payola” scandals that hit the late 50’s.
Bill Haley never wanted to be a rock singer. He started out as a country singer and had several groups in the late 40’s and early 50’s. The group that eventually became the Comets were called the Saddlemen up until 1952 when they officially became the Comets. His first hit under the new name was “Crazy, Man, Crazy” in 1953, but “Rock Around the Clock” in 1955 was his only number one.