Bill Haley was born William John Clifton Haley Jr in Highland Park, Michigan on July 6th, 1925. When he was seven, he and his family moved to Delaware where he taught himself how to play the guitar using one made of cardboard. He was more into country music than rock and in 1948, he formed his own band, The Four Aces of Western Swing. Later, he disbanded them and formed the Saddlemen, the band that would become the Comets in 1953. Even though Haley liked country music, he found himself recording songs which were just on the border of what would become rock and roll. In 1952, he recorded “Rock This Joint,” which sounds a lot like “Rock Around the Clock.” Next they recorded “Crazy, Man, Crazy” which peaked at number twelve on the Billboard’s Juke Box chart. This is considered the first rock and roll song to chart at all. On April 14, 1954, they recorded two songs which would become classics, “Rock Around the Clock” and for the flip side of the record, “Thirteen Women”
“Rock Around the Clock” didn’t do much. It didn’t even chart at first. The group went on to record “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” which is an old Joe Turner song and it went to number fifteen. Then came “Dim, Dim the Lights” (#11) and “Birth of the Boogie” (#26) and “Mambo Rock” (#17.)
Then, the miraculous happened. Jimmy Myers, a New York music publisher, had been sending the songs everywhere he could think of and in the spring of 1955, MGM movies decided to use the song “Rock Around the Clock” over the opening credits of the movie Blackboard Jungle. Needless to say, it created a sensation. There were riots in the theaters. The song went right to the top, becoming the first rock and roll song to hit number one and starting a genre of music which exists to this day, although, it has changed somewhat since then.
Bill Haley never had another number one, but he continued to hit the charts regularly until 1958. In 1974, “Rock Around the Clock” had a brief resurgence when they played it on the hit television show, Happy Days. Bill Haley got caught up in the drug scene and in 1981, he died of what was called “natural causes” but was probably a heart attack due to his drug habit. His song, however, will live in infamy, at least as long as I’m alive.
Next: Not a rock and roll song, but the next number one is: Frank Sinatra “Learnin’ the Blues”