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From the Land of Band Box Records

Bill Haley & The Comets:

In relentless pursuit of Rock ‘n Roll

Band Box - DeKnight & HaleyCLASSIC COMETS 1954
(Bill on right with Jimmy DeKnight (James Myers) who composed “Rock Around the Clock” – and the early classic Comets lineup )

Much has been written of Bill’s contribution to rock and roll – He has his detractors but I suspect they haven’t really dug nearly deep enough into his life.  I came across “Sound and Glory” the biography of Bill Haley by his son John W. Haley and John von Hoelle.  For my money – Bill is right there with Chuck Berry – the true Godfathers of Rock and Roll.

The following is a time line in discography form.

1943 – Cousin Lee & His Boys

Group included leader Arlee “Cousin Lee” Ellsworth – fiddle player Wayne “Brother Wayne” Wright and Bill “The Smilin’ Cowboy” Haley along with many others.

1945 – The Down Homers

Group included leader Everett “Shorty Cook” Hinderer – Haley joined to replace the band’s yodeler who went into the Navy (yes Haley started off as a supreme yodeler).  Kenny Roberts was the group’s bass fiddler and he worked very closely with Haley to develop his state presence.  They performed out of Fort Wayne, Indiana on radio station WOWO.

Other members included Bob Mason, Guy Campbell and Lloyd Cornell.  Kenny Roberts would return from the service to yodel on the below Vogue recordings – relegating Haley to playing guitar on the tracks dispelling theories that Haley was not in this group – it was verified by John Haley in his biography of Bill.

Vogue 726 – “Out Where The West Winds Blow” b/w “Who’s Gonna Kiss You When I’m Gone” – Recorded January 27th, 1946

1946-01-27 - DOWN HOMERS A 01 1946-01-27 - DOWN HOMERS A 02

Vogue R786 – “Boogie Woogie Yodel” b/w “Baby I Found Out All About You” – Recorded January 27th, 1946

1946-01-27 - DOWN HOMERS B 01 1946-01-27 - DOWN HOMERS B 02

1946 – The Range Drifters

Group formed out of the Down Homers with Bill Haley, Brother Wayne, Bob Mason and Lloyd Cornell.  Shorty Cook made life difficult for the band and forced them to head to the South to get clear of his negative influence.  The Range Drifters did not record.

1948 – The Four Aces of Western Swing

This band was put together by Haley in part to fulfill a vision he held of a new kind of music – He was joined by his long-time friend James Allsman along with Albert Constantine on accordion and “Bashful Barney” Bernard on bass.

They signed with Jack Howard and cut several tracks in 1949 – Only two were released on Howard’s Cowboy label – Many musicians passed through the band while it lasted – a few being Rusty Keefer, Jimmy Maise and others – Haley gave up on the group sometime late in 1949 and went into a quiet and for him a depressing period.

Cowboy 1201 – “Too Many Parties and Too Many Pals” b/w “Four Leaf Clover Blues” – Released 1948

Cowboy 1202 – “Tennessee Border” b/w “Candy Kisses” – Released March, 1949

1949-03 - HALEY & 4 ACES A 1949-03 - HALEY & 4 ACES B

Center Records – “Stand Up & Be Counted” b/w “Loveless Blues” – Recorded in late 1949
(On this record Haley used the name “Johnny Clifton & His String Band”)

1949 – Bill (“Jack”) Haley & His All Western Sextette

This was a temporary arrangement of Haley working with various friends and members of his past groups with the intent of raising some additional cash in small venues such as movie houses and children’s venues.

1949 – Bill Haley & His Saddlemen

This was the historic basis of great things to come.  Bill was joined by two eager musicians – Billy Williamson (steel guitar) and Johnny Grande (accordion – arranger).  For a short time they were rounded out with 400 pound Al Thompson on bass – who also served as the band’s clown.  By 1950 Thompson was replaced by Albert (“Al Rex”) Piccirlli and the first solid line-up of future rock pioneers was firmly in place.

Cowboy 1701 – “My Sweet Little Girl From Nevada” b/w “My Palomino And I” – Recorded 1949 – Released 1950
(Reno Browne was an actress and did not appear on this record – It was Bill Haley & The Saddlemen. Reno appeared in “B” type western movies and this was a PR favor on her behalf)

1949 - COWBOY - HALEY WITH RENO A 1949 - COWBOY - HALEY WITH RENO B

Keystone 5101 – “Deal Me A Hand” b/w “Ten Gallon Stetson”
(“Stetson” was composed by Jimmy DeKnight (James Meyers) composer of “Rock Around the Clock”)

1950-05 - HALEY & SADDLEMEN A 1950-05 - HALEY & SADDLEMEN B

Atlantic 727 – “Why Do I Cry Over You?” b/w “I’m Gonna Dry Ev’ry Tear With a Kiss” – Released 1950
(This was one of four tracks leased to Atlantic records – two were not released)

1950 - HALEY & SADDLE MEN - 01 A 1950 - HALEY & SADDLE MEN - 01 B

Holiday 105 – “Rocket 88” “Tear Stains on My Heart” – Released Fall of 1951

For this first record on the Holiday label – the group was supplemented by lead guitarist Danny Cedrone.  Shortly after it’s release – bass player Al Rex departs the band to form his own and is replaced by Marshall Lytle a guitar player who Haley teaches his style of bass.  The Holiday recordings were a conscious effort by label owner Dave Miller to capture a “black sound” without revealing the group was white (ref: “Sound & Glory”).

1951 - HALEY & SADDLEMEN A

Holiday – 108  “Green Tree Boogie” b/w “Down Deep in My Heart” – Released September 1951
(The lead guitarist on loan for these two cuts was Bob Scaltrito)

1951-09 HOLIDAY 108

By now Haley’s band was essentially transformed into what would be recognized as the first true rock and roll band in the world – although they would still perform country when it was necessary.

Holiday 110 – “Pretty Baby” b/w “I’m Crying” – Released December, 1951
(On this recording Haley jointed Loretta Glendenning on vocals)

Abey Records – “Rose of My Heart” b/w “Barnyard Special” – Released 1951
(The Saddlemen backed vocalist Curly Herdman on this one-off session)

At this point – Haley adds another vocalist to perform with the Saddlemen on their outdoor engagements – Lou Graham – They accompany him into the studio to record on the Gotham record label.

Gotham 416 – “Two-Timin’ Blues” b/w “Long-Gone Daddy” – Recorded late 1951

1951 - GOTHAM 416 A1951 - GOTHAM 416 B

Gotham 429 – “I’m Lonesome” b/w “A Sweet Bunch of Roses” – Recorded late 1951

1951 - GOTHAM 429 A 1951 - GOTHAM 429 B

Gotham 433 – “My Heart Tells Me” b/w “Please Make Up Your Fickle Mind” – Recorded late 1951

1951 - GOTHAM 433 A 1951 - GOTHAM 433 B

Holiday 111 – “A Year Ago This Christmas” b/w “I Don’t Want to Be Alone for Christmas” – Released December, 1951

Holiday 113 – “Juke Box Cannon Ball” b/w “Sundown Boogie” – Released February, 1952
(This is the only known Holiday 45 rpm release and was also the final release for the Saddlemen on Holiday)

1952 - HOLIDAY 113 78 A

1951 - HOLIDAY 113 A 1951 - HOLIDAY 113 B

Haley would next add fiddle player Arrett “Rusty” Keefer to the lineup – According to John Haley he was a bass and guitar player as well but primarily “was his prolific ability to write some of the best tunes in the business”.  And in the coming years Rusty would be valuable contributor of many Haley/Comets releases.

Essex 303 – “Rock the Joint” b/w “Icy Heart” – Released Spring, 1951
(This was to be Haley’s first recorded venture into rock and roll – Once again guitarist Danny Cedrone was invited into the studio to assume lead duties – Cedrone laid down the licks which would be replicated in short order on the Comets monster hit to come.)

1951-04 - ESSEX 303 - HALEY & SADDLEMEN A 1951-04 - ESSEX 303 - HALEY & SADDLEMEN B

1952 - ESSEX 303 A 1952 - ESSEX 303 B

Essex 305 – “Dance With a Dolly (with a Hole in Her Stockin’) – Released 1951

1951 - ESSEX 305 - HALEY & SADDLEMEN A 1951 - ESSEX 305 - HALEY & SADDLEMEN B

1952 - ESSEX 305 A 1952 - ESSEX 305 B

Now in 1952 Haley asked promoter, composer, and record publishing company owner James Myers to support his band with his services.  Myers would in short order compose the big one with Max Freedman – “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock” – Haley also quickly added James “Lord Jim” Ferguson as a hustling and “crafty” band manager.

1952 – Bill Haley & The Comets

A band meeting takes place with Ferguson – He urges the band to lose the cowboy hats and cowboy getup – and to find a more appropriate name – Haley’s “Comets” are born.  Haley switches out the band’s use of a baritone sax with a tenor sax – providing the final element of “the sound” he has searched so hard for.

Essex 310 – “Stop Beatin’ Round the Mulberry Bush” b/w “Real Rock Drive” – Released 1952

1952 - ESSEX 310 A 1952 - ESSEX 310 B

ESSEX 310 A

Rainbow Records 200 – Esquire Boys with Kay Karol – “Rock-a-Beatin Boogie” – Released December, 1952

This was guitar player Danny Cedrone’s group when he wasn’t playing lead guitar for the Comets.  Haley gave the song to Danny due to their friendship and avoided releasing it with the Comets until 1955 with the hope that Danny would enjoy a hit record.  Danny was in the studio with Haley off but mostly on for three years up until his untimely death via a heart attack.

1952 CEDRONE

Essex 321 – “Crazy Man, Crazy” b/w “Whatcha Gonna Do” – Released April, 1953 – Charted May 23rd, 1953 – #12 – 10 Weeks on Billboard’s Pop Hits

“Whatcha’ Gonna Do” was the intended “A” side but teenagers were flipping over “Crazy Man, Crazy” – and the song would change the future direction of the band.  The line-up for these tracks included lead guitarist Art Ryerson, Bill Gussack on drums (and new instrument for the group) Billy Williamson on steel guitar, Marshall Lytle on bass, Johnny Grande on piano and Haley on rhythm guitar.

1953-04 - ESSEX 321 - HALEY & SADDLEMEN A 1953-04 - ESSEX 321 - HALEY & SADDLEMEN B

1953 - ESSEX 321 A 1953 - ESSEX 321 B

Essex 327 – “Pat-A-Cake” b/w “Fractured” – Released June, 1953

1953-06 - ESSEX 327 - HALEY & SADDLEMEN A 1953-06 - ESSEX 327 - HALEY & SADDLEMEN B

1953 - ESSEX 327 A 1953 - ESSEX 327 B

Essex 332 – “Live It Up!” b/w “Farewell – So Long – Good-Bye” – Released September, 1953

1953-09 - ESSEX 332 - HALEY & SADDLEMEN A 1953-09 - ESSEX 332 - HALEY & SADDLEMEN B

1953 - ESSEX 332 A 1953 - ESSEX 332 B

Joey Ambrose – a 19-year-old sax player is brought into the group  completing the classic Comet rock line-up.  Ambrose brings much additional excitement to the Comets’ stage act – Joey often wades into the audience toting and blowing his sax like a wild man.

1954 – Enter Decca Records

Bill Haley – far from being the “country bumpkin” many would ascribe to him later, was a devout R&B fan – listening and learning from the genre at every opportunity.  The Comets would be thrown out of many southern honky-tonks when they would launch into their new style of music – which nobody seems to understand.

This would all change when James Myers approaches a contact at Decca in New York after being rejected by RCA and Columbia – A&R man for R&B releases Milt Garber.  He likes what he hears and signs the Comets to a contract.  “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock” would be the Comets first’ time out along with Garber’s “Thirteen Women”.  The record would not take off – even though it was receiving some air play.  Starting with “Shake Rattle & Roll” – most of Haley’s releases would chart – Amazingly for the yodeling and singing cowboy he had formerly been – Haley never charted on the Country Charts.  He was often scorned by country purists for his “experimental” sound which he never quite nailed until embarking on these Decca years.

Dave Miller Strikes Back

Having lost the Comets to Decca – Miller wasn’t about to stand still – After the success of “Rock Around The Clock” Miller floods the market with Comets releases on Essex as well as Trans-World – another Miller label.  Eventually Haley would file suit to prevent the release of these tracks which Haley felt lacked the new feel and sound of the Decca tracks – but would halt the suit when Essex went bankrupt.

Things ended up better for Miller eventually with his work in Europe bearing fruit – and over time his releases there (by other artists) would sell over 200 million total copies.

Essex 102 EP – “Rock With Bill Haley & The Comets – For Your Dance Party” – Released 1954

1954 - ESSEX 102 A1954 - ESSEX EP 102 A (2)

1954 - ESSEX 102 B 1954 - ESSEX 102 C

Essex 117 EP – “Rock With Bill Haley & The Comets – For Your Dance Party” – Released 1954

1954 - ESSEX 117 A 1954 - ESSEX 117 B

1954 - ESSEX 117 C 1954 - ESSEX 117 D

Essex 118 EP – “Rock With Bill Haley & The Comets – For Your Dance Party” – Released 1954

1953 - ESSEX 118 A 1953 - ESSEX 118 B

1953 - ESSEX 118 C 1953 - ESSEX 118 D

Essex 119 EP – “Rock With Bill Haley & The Comets – For Your Dance Party” – Released 1954

1954 - ESSEX 119 A

1954 - ESSEX 119 B 1954 - ESSEX 119 C

Essex 340 – “I’ll Be True” b/w “Ten Little Indians” – Released 1954

1953 - ESSEX 340 A 1953 - ESSEX 340 B

Trans-World 321 – “Crazy, Man Crazy” b/w “Whatcha’ Gonna Do” – Released 1954

1953 - TRANS-WORLD 321 A 1953 - TRANS-WORLD 321 B

Trans-World 718 – “Yes, Indeed” b/w “Real Rock Drive” – Released 1954

1953 - TRANS-WORLD 718 A 1953 - TRANS-WORLD 718 B

Essex 348 – “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” b/w “Straight-Jacket” – Released 1954

1954 - ESSEX 348 A 1954 - ESSEX 348 B

Essex 374 – “Juke Box Cannon Ball” b/w “Sundown Boogie” – Released 1954

1954 - ESSEX 374 A 1954 - ESSEX 374 B

Essex 381 – “Green Tree Boogie” b/w “Rocket 88” – Released 1954

1954 - ESSEX 381 A 1954 - ESSEX 381 B

Essex LP 202 – “Rock With Bill Haley & The Comets” – Released 1954
(The Comets first long play)

Sommerset LP 4600 – “Rock With Bill Haley & The Comets” – Released 1954
(The same tracks as the Essex LP above)

1954 - SOMERSET LP 3500 A 1954 - SOMERSET LP 3500 B

1954 - SOMERSET LP 3500 C 1954 - SOMERSET LP 3500 D

Sommerset LP 1300 – “Rock And Roll Dance Party” – Released 1954
(Includes 3 tracks by The Comets)

1954 - SOMERSET LP 1300 A 1954 - SOMERSET LP 1300 C

1954 - SOMERSET LP 1300 B

Decca 29204 – “Shake Rattle & Roll” b/w “A.B.C. Boogie” – Charted August 21st, 1954 – #7 – 27 Weeks on Hot 100

This was the Comets second session with Decca with both tracks being recorded on July 7th, 1954 – with Panama Francis on drums and Danny Cedrone on lead guitar

1954 - DECCA 29204 A 1954 - DECCA 29204 B

1954 - DECCA 29204 C 1954 - DECCA 29204 D

1954-07 - DECCA 29204 - HALEY & COMETS AV 1954-07 - DECCA 29204 - HALEY & COMETS BV

1954-07 - DECCA 29204 - HALEY & COMETS A 1954-07 - DECCA 29204 - HALEY & COMETS B

Decca EP 2168 – “Shake Rattle and Roll” Plus Three – Released 1954

1954 EP - DECCA 2168 A 1954 EP - DECCA 2168 B

1954 EP - DECCA 2168 C 1954 EP - DECCA 2168 D

1954 – Rock and Roll Comes to Hollywood

In October Bill Haley and the Comets would play in the motion picture “Round Up of Rhythm”.  Haley appears in the picture with Comets playing three songs – and pioneering rock and roll into the motion picture business.

Decca 29317 – “Dim, Dim The Lights (I Want Some Atmosphere)” b/w “Happy Baby” – Recorded September 21st, 1954 – Charted November 20th, 1954 – #11 – 15 Weeks on Hot 100 – #10 R&B – 3 Weeks on Charts

These two tracks were Haley’s third session which occurred on September 21st, 1954. New studio guitar player Frank “Franny” Beecher would join the Comets for this release.  He had formerly played with The Buckaroo Ramblers, then Benny Goodman and Buddy Greco.  After this session Haley would ask Beecher to join the Comets permanently for stage appearances.

1954 - DECCA 29317 A 1954 - DECCA 29317 B

1954 - DECCA 29317 C 1954 - DECCA 29317 D

1954-10- DECCA 29317 - HALEY & COMETS A 1954-10- DECCA 29317 - HALEY & COMETS B

Haley & Elvis

In the fall of 1954 Haley was contacted by Colonel Parker – manager for a young Elvis Presley.  Parker asked if Elvis could possibly appear on a tour of the Midwest with the Comets – Bill agreed and so Omaha, Nebraska became the venue for their dual appearance,  Elvis and Haley would team up again in New York City at a Brooklyn High School concert for no fee.

Decca LP 5560 – “Shake, Rattle and Roll” – Released 1955

1955 - DECCA LP 5560 C 1955 - DECCA LP 5560 D

1955 - DECCA LP 5560 A 1955 - DECCA LP 5560 B

Decca EP 2209 – “Dim, Dim The Lights” Plus 3 – Released 1955

1954 EP - DECCA 2209 A 1954 EP - DECCA 2209 B

1954 EP - DECCA 2209 C 1954 EP - DECCA 2209 D

Decca 29418 – “Birth of the Boogie” b/w “Mambo Rock” – Double Sided Hit – Recorded January 1st, 1955 – Charted March 5th, 1955 – #17 – 4 Weeks on Hot 100

1955 - DECCA 29418 - A 1955 - DECCA 29418 - B

1955-02 - DECCA 29418 - HALEY & COMETS A

Decca 29124 – “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock” b/w ‘Thirteen Women (and Only One Man in Town)” – Charted May 14th, 1955 – #1 for 8 Weeks – 24 Weeks on Billboard Charts – #3 R&B

This all-time classic was first recorded at Decca’s studio on April 12th, 1954 but would falter and fade – The movie “Blackboard Jungle” (below) would change everything!  Danny Cedrone would be brought into the Decca studio to play on this first Decca session.  The story about this legendary session is a “must read” so get a hold of ” Sound and Glory” and treat yourself to a great story!

1954-05 - DECCA 29124 - HALEY & COMETS B

1954 - DECCA 29124 A 1954 - DECCA 29124 B

1954 - DECCA 29124 E

1954 - DECCA 29124 C 1954 - DECCA 29124 D

1954-05 - DECCA 29124 - HALEY & COMETS A 1954-05 - DECCA 29124 - HALEY & COMETS A

Decca LP – 8225 – “Rock Around The Clock” – Released 1955

1955 - DECCA LP 8225 C 1955 - DECCA LP 8225 D

1955 - DECCA LP 8225 A 1955 - DECCA LP 8225 B

1955 – Blackboard Jungle

Haley and James Myers would learn that Decca had promoted “Thirteen Women” as the A side of this record and directed all the label’s publicity to the Garber composition.  To make things worse – the label describes the song as a “Fox Trot”!  James Myers never gave up and shopped “Rock Around the Clock” far and wide – personally delivering new copies to DJ’s who had probably never played the first one’s they received.  But the big break comes when Decca is contacted by the director Richard Brook. Notice the promotional poster makes no mention of Haley or his riotous recording.

MOVIE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE

Brook is looking for a song for his new movie and overheard “Rock Around the Clock” at his home where his teenage daughter was playing the the Comets platter.  Decca feels that perhaps the publicity will help the track which never quite made it so they take one dollar from Brooks for the rights.  This was the great game changer of all time for rock and roll!

Decca 29552 – “Razzle-Dazzle” b/w “Two Hound Dogs” – Double Sided Hit – Recorded May 10th, 1955 – Charted July 23rd, 1955 – #15 – 4 Weeks on Hot 100

1955 - DECCA 29552 A 1955 - DECCA 29552 B

1955 - DECCA 29552 C 1955 - DECCA 29552 D

The Comets song “Razzle Dazzle ” is featured in the motion picture “Running Wild” – May of 1955

MOVIE RUNNING WILD

Decca LP 5560 – “Shake, Rattle & Roll” – Recorded May 21st, 1955

This was The Comets first long play for Decca.  As was the case with all but one of Haley’s LP’s – this LP did not chart – Teenagers were perfectly happy to buy his plethora of hit singles.

HALEY - DECCA LP ROCKIN AROUND THE WORLD A

Decca EP 2322 – “Burn That Candle” Plus 3 – Released 1955

1955 - DECCA 2332 A 1955 - DECCA 2332 B

1955 - DECCA 2332 C 1955 - DECCA 2332 D

Three Comets Call it Quits

In a shocking move – three of the Comets quit the band in September of 1955 over a pay dispute – Haley is not present when they submit their resignation to management – The Comets would loose the talents of Joey Ambrose, Marshall Lytle, and Dick Richards.  They go on to form  the Jodimars and record for Capitol Records – They are soon replaced by bass player Al Rex who had played with The Comets previously, premier sax player Rudy Pompilli, and drummer Don Raymond.  Pompilli would stay with The Comets for 21 years – He previously had played with Ralph Marterie’s orchestra.  Raymond was a veteran from the Desi Arnez band.

JODIMARS 1955

 

The first Jodimar release on Capitol – November, 1955 – The group would not land a record on any national U.S. or Great Britain charts

JODIMARS CAP 11-55 A JODIMARS CAP 11-55 B

Buddy Holly Backs Bill Haley

On October 14th, 1955 – Haley becomes separated from his band on the way to a performance in Lubbock – A frantic promoter asks Haley to take the stage without them and says he has a band who can back him up.  Backstage Haley meets a young Buddy Holly asking him “Do you know my songs?”  “All of them!” Holly replies and so for the first 30 minutes of the performance – Haley takes the mike backed by The Crickets.  Finally the Comets arrive.

Decca 29713 – “Burn That Candle” b/w “Rock-A-Beatin’ Boogie” – Double Sided Hit – Recorded September 22nd, 1955 – Charted November 12th, 1955 – A side #9 – 17 Weeks on Hot 100 – B side #23 – 17 Weeks on Hot 100 – #9 R&B – 3 Weeks on Charts

1955 - DECCA 29713 A 1955 - DECCA 29713 B

1955 - DECCA 29713 C 1955 - DECCA 29713 D

1955-11- DECCA 29713 - HALEY & COMETS A 1955-11- DECCA 29713 - HALEY & COMETS B

1955-11- DECCA 29713 - HALEY & COMETS AV 1955-11- DECCA 29713 - HALEY & COMETS BV

Essex 399 – “Rock The Joint” b/w “Farewell, So Long, Good-Bye” – Released 1955

ESSEX 399 A

November 1955 – drummer Bob Raymond departs after a fist fight with Haley – having been a Comet for two short months.  Ralph Jones formerly of Little Ernie’s Four Horsemen” with Rudy – takes his place.

Decca 29791 – “See You Later, Alligator” b/w “The Paper Boy (On Main Street U.S.A)” – Recorded December 12th, 1955 – Charted January 14th, 1956 – #6 – 19 Weeks on Hot 100 – #7 R&B – 4 Weeks on Charts

The tiny little voice that opens the song belongs to Comet Franny Beecher. The recording becomes the Comets first gold record.

DECCA 78 29791A DECCA 78 29791B'

1956 - DECCA 29791 A 1956 - DECCA 29791 B

1956 - DECCA 29791 C 1956 - DECCA 29791 D

Somerset EP 1300 – “Rock and Roll Dance Party” – Released 1955

1955 - SOMERSET 1300 A

1955 - SOMERSET 1300 B 1955 - SOMERSET 1300 C

Somerset EP 4600 – “Rock with Bill Haley & His Comets” – Released 1955

1955 - SOMERSET 4600 A 1955 - SOMERSET 4600 B

1955 - SOMERSET 4600 C 1955 - SOMERSET 4600 D

Somerset and Trans-World were both labels established by Essex label owner Dave Miller – Miller set up headquarters in Europe and was actually there when the Comets met with Decca and signed with them – with their Miller contract set to expire.

Trans-World EP 102 – “Bill Haley & The Comets” – Released 1955

TRANSWORLD 102 A TRANSWORLD 102 B

Trans-World EP 117 – “Rock with Bill Haley & His Comets – Vol 1.” – Released 1955

TRANSWORLD 117 A TRANSWORLD 117 B

Trans-World EP 118 – “Rock with Bill Haley & His Comets – Vol. 2” – Released 1955
(Carried Essex logo with Trans-World Catalog number)

TRANSWORLD 118 A

TRANSWORLD 118 B TRANSWORLD 118 C

Trans-World EP 119 – “Rock with Bill Haley & His Comets – Vol. 3” – Released 1955
(Carried Essex Logo – with Trans-World catalog number)

TRANSWORLD 119 A TRANSWORLD 119 B

Trans-World 202 – “Rock With Bill Haley and the Comets” – released 1955

1956 - TW 202 LP A 1956 - TW 202 LP B

1956 - TW 202 LP C 1956 - TW 202 LP D

Racism and Hatred Rear their Ugly Heads

1956 was a tumultuous year for Haley and his Comets – Politicians, the police, the KKK, DJ’s and other performers launched a vicious campaign against the band and their music calling it the devil’s music and “nigger jungle music”.  At one point a rock and roll performance in the deep South is evacuated and police find 7 sticks of dynamite hooked up to a timing device that failed trigger.  The KKK appear at many of the Comets performances – The New York Times and many other papers lash out at Haley.

In January, 1956 Columbia calls again – this time to feature Bill Haley & The Comets in movie paralleling their own rise to fame – It would appropriately be called “Rock Around The Clock”.  The adult world protests it’s release but teenagers love it and the soundtrack is one of the best and most exciting in rock history.

MOVIE ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK POSTER

Decca EP 2398 -“He Digs Rock ‘N Roll” – Released 1956

1956 EP - DECCA 2398 A 1956 EP - DECCA 2398 B

Decca LP 8315 – “He Digs Rock ‘N Roll” – Released 1956

The “Super Attraction” Tour – Hatred Intensifies

On January 25th Bill Haley & the Comets headline and kickoff a rock ‘n roll tour featuring his Comets as the only while act – accompanied by his dear friend Big Joe Turner, the Platters, the Turbans, the Five Keys, the Drifters and Red Prysock & His Rock ‘n Roll Orchestra.

Backlash is immediate – Audiences are promptly segregated on Southern appearances and the band receives more death threats.

Decca 29870 – “R-O-C-K” – b/w “The Saints Rock & Roll” – Double Sided Hit – Recorded September 23rd, 1955 – Charted April 7th, 1956 – A Side #16 – 14 Weeks on Hot 100 – B Side #18 – 10 Weeks on Hot 100 – #15 R&B – 1 Week on Charts

DECCA 29870 A DECCA 29870 B

1956 - DECCA 29870 A 1956 - DECCA 29870 B

1956 - DECCA 29870 C 1956 - DECCA 29870 D

Decca 29948 – “Hot Dog Buddy Buddy” b/w “Rockin’ Through the Rye” – Recorded March 30th, 1956 – Double Sided Hit – A Side Charted June 16th, 1956 – #60 – 6 Weeks on Hot 100 – B Side Charted Rockin’ Through the Rye” – Charted July 14th, 1956 – #78 – 3 Weeks on Hot 100

1956 - DECCA 29948 A 1956 - DECCA 29948 B

1956 - DECCA 29948 C1956 - DECCA 29948 - B

Decca EP 2416 – “Rock n’ Roll Stage Show – Part 1” – Released 1956

1956 EP - DECCA 2416 A 1956 EP - DECCA 2416 B

1956 EP - DECCA 2416 C 1956 EP - DECCA 2416 D

Decca EP 2417 – “Rock n’ Roll Stage Show – Part 2” – Released 1956

1956 EP - DECCA 2417 A

1956 EP - DECCA 2417 B 1956 EP - DECCA 2417 C

Decca EP 2418 – “Rock n’ Roll Stage Show – Part 3” – Released 1956

1956 EP - DECCA 2418 A

1956 EP - DECCA 2418 B 1956 EP - DECCA 2418 C

Decca 30028 – “Rip It Up” b/w Teenager’s Mother (Are You Right?)” – Recorded July 12th, 1956 – Double Sided Hit – A side Charted August 11th, 1956 – #25 – 14 Weeks on Hot 100 – B side Charted August 25th, 1956 – #78 – 3 Weeks on Hot 100

“Teenage Mother” was a “message song” according to John Haley – perhaps the first ever in Rock ‘n Roll – singing about freedom in music – due to all the intense criticism being heaped on rock and roll in general and Bill Haley & The Comets in particular.

1956 - DECCA 30028 A 1956 - DECCA 30028 B

1956 - DECCA 30028 C 1956 - DECCA 30028 D

Decca 30085 – “Rudy’s Rock” b/w “Blue Comet Blues” – “Rudy’s Rock” recorded March 23rd & “Blue Comet Blues” recorded March 27th, 1956 – Charted November 3rd, 1956 – #34 – 13 Weeks on Hot 100

 ‘Commie Music’

On March 30th an article appears in the New York Times calling rock and roll music a “communist disease”.

1956 - DECCA 30085 A 1956 - DECCA 30085 B

1956 - DECCA 30085 C 1956 - DECCA 30085 D

Decca 30148 – “Don’t Knock the Rock” b/w “Choo Choo Ch’ Boogie” – Recorded October 4th, 1956 – Double Sided Hit – Charted December 15th, 1956 – A Side #30 for 3 Weeks – B side #30 for 1 Weeks

DECCA 30148 A DECCA 30148 B

1956 - DECCA 30148 A 1956 - DECCA 30148 B

“Don’t Knock the Rock” Motion Picture Released

The Comets were again featured in this film which was attacked and banned in many cities.  The title is a statement thrown back at the critics.  In spite of a thin plot – the music is pure and straight ahead rock and roll.

MOVIE DON'T KNOCK THE ROCK

The Opposition Mounts

Steve Allen mocks rock and roll with his sarcastic readings of song lyrics – After hearing one of these Haley tells his manager to never book the Comets on “that idiots’ show”.  Later Allen has Elvis perform “Hound Dog” while dressed in a ridiculous suit – not permitting him to make any stage moves – while singing to a Basset Hound – all designed to belittle the music.

Haley is particularly hurt by criticism from performers which include Teresa Brewer, Frank Sinatra, Mitch Miller, Rosemary Clooney and Meredith Wilson.

FBI Director Edgar Hoover sets up surveillance of the rock music industry – certain that it is communist inspired.  The American Communist Party releases its own lambasting of the music!

Haley is taken back but never wavers.  In interview after interview he maintains his support and love of the music and its fans – black and white.

Some do rally behind Haley with kind words and encouragement such as Kate Smith, Benny Goodman, Sammy Kaye and Duke Ellington.

The Comets Take on the World

The Australian Tour

The Comets head for Australia in January headlining a tour that includes again Big Joe Turner, Lavern Baker, The Platters and Freddie Bell & The Bell Boys.  Seven thousand fans attend the Sydney performance and that is topped with 20,000 attending four shows in Brisbane – then 40,000 in Melbourne – When the Australian tour is over – more than 300,000 were treated to the best rock and roll on earth with thousands more turned away.

The tour takes a health toll on Haley – both physical and mental – but it is then back home for a rest.

Great Britain!

The band boards the Queen Elizabeth on January 30th to take their brand of rock ‘n roll to England.  They take it by storm – The crowds – the hysteria – the press – the coverage all preview events to come later with the home grown Fab Four.

Teddy Boys Cheer Haley's Comets

Teddy Boys Cheer Haley’s Comets

The legacy of The Comets English tour are so well documented in “Sound and Glory” that alone justifies tracking down a copy to relive that exciting time when Great Britain embraced the greatest rock and roll band on Earth!  In a side note “Rock Around The Clock” on the Brunswick label earlier became the first British recording to sell one million copies.

Total concert attendance for the Comet tour exceeded 650,000!

GREAT BRITAIN - ROCK AROUND CLOCK

England’s 1st Million Seller

Decca LP 8569 – “Rockin’ The Oldies” – Released 1957

1957 - DECCA LP 8569 A 1957 - DECCA LP 8569 B

Valley Brook – Arcade & Seabreeze

These were Haley’s publishing companies which he dedicated much of his time to and included a large stable of performers including The Matys Brothers, Dotti Malone, The Morrison Sisters, Kitty Nation, Rusty Keefer, Lou Graham and many others.

Decca 30214 – “Forty Cups of Coffee” b/w “Hook, Line and Sinker” – Double Sided Hit – A Side Charted April 6th, 1957 – #70 – 4 Weeks on Hot 100 – B Side Charted March 23rd, 1957 – #70 for 1 Week

1957 - DECCA 30214 A 1957 - DECCA 30214 B

1957 - DECCA 30214 C 1957 - DECCA 30214 D

Decca 30314 – “(You Hit the Wrong Note) Billy Goat” b/w Rockin’ Roller” – Recorded March 22nd, 1957 – Charted June 10th, 1957 – #60 – 7 Weeks on Hot 100

1957 - DECCA 30314 A1957 - DECCA 30314 B

1957 - DECCA 30314 C 1957 - DECCA 30314 D

Decca 30394 – “The Dipsy Doodle” b/w “Miss You” – Recorded March 26th – Released 1957 – Did Not Chart

1957 - DECCA 30394 A 1957 - DECCA 30394 B

Decca EP 2532 – “Rockin’ The Oldies” – Released 1957

1957 EP - DECCA 2532 A 1957 EP - DECCA 2532 B

1957 EP - DECCA 2532 C 1957 EP - DECCA 2532 D

Decca EP 2533 – “Rock ‘n Roll Party” – Released 1957

1957 EP - DECCA 2533 A 1957 EP - DECCA 2533 B

1957 EP - DECCA 2533 C 1957 EP - DECCA 2533 D

Decca EP 2534 – “Rock & Rollin'” – Released 1957

1957 EP - DECCA 2534 A 1957 EP - DECCA 2534 B

1957 EP - DECCA 2534 C 1957 EP - DECCA 2534 D

Decca EP 2564 – “Rockin’ Around the World” – Recorded November, 1957

1958 - DECCA EP 2564 A (1)1958 - DECCA EP 2564 A (2)

1958 - DECCA EP 2564 A (3) 1958 - DECCA EP 2564 A (4)

Decca LP 3692 – “Rockin’ Around The World” – Released Winter, 1957

The tracks for this LP were recorded between November 8th and the 21st at Decca’s Pythian Temple auditorium where nearly all Comet recordings were made.

HALEY - DECCA LP ROCKIN AROUND THE WORLD A

Decca EP 2576 – “Rockin’ Around Europe” – Released 1957

1958 - DECCA EP 2576 A (1)

1958 - DECCA EP 2576 A (2) 1958 - DECCA EP 2576 A (3)

Decca EP 2577 – “Rockin’ Around The Americas” – Released 1957

1958 - DECCA EP 2577 A (1) 1958 - DECCA EP 2577 A (2)

Decca 30461 – “Rock the Joint” b/w “How Many” – Recorded July 15th, 1957 – Released August, 1957 – Did Not Chart

1957 - DECCA 30461 A

1957 - DECCA 30461 B 1957 - DECCA 30461 C

Decca 30530 – “It’s A Sin” – b/w “Mary, Mary Lou” – Recorded in November 1957 during a two week LP recording session – Released November, 1957 – Did not Chart

1957 - DECCA 30530 A 1957 - DECCA 30530 B

1957 - DECCA 30530 C 1957 - DECCA 30530 D

Decca 30592 – “Skinny Minnie” b/w “Sway With Me” – Charted April 14th, 1958 – #22 – 15 Weeks on Hot 100

1958 - DECCA 30592 AA (1) 1958 - DECCA 30592 AA (2)

Decca 30681 – “Lean Jean” b/w Don’t Nobody Move” – Recorded February 7th & 8th, 1958 – Charted August 11th, 1958 – #67 – 1 Week on Hot 1oo

1958 - DECCA 30681 A 1958 - DECCA 30681 B

1958-07- DECCA 30681 - HALEY & COMETS A 1958-07- DECCA 30681 - HALEY & COMETS A

April 1958 – Brazil & Latin America

The Comets head to Brazil and add guitarist and interpreter Joe Oliver – but he is unable to interpret Portuguese which is spoken in Brazil.  The concerts are all sold out throughout Latin America.

East West 115 – “Week End” b/w Better Believe It” (as by “The Kingsmen”) – Charted September 1st, 1958 – #35 – 3 Weeks on Hot 100

This note from the 45 Catalog:

“In 1958 record sales for Bill Haley and His Comets were slipping at Decca, so the Comets were allowed to do some “moonlighting” work. This was one result and “Week End” made the Billboard Top 40. As Billboard reported at the time, this caused a problem as the Kingsmen were expected to appear on American Bandstand and other TV shows to promote the record but couldn’t because they’d violate the contract with Decca. A “road band” version of the Kingsmen was formed for concerts and TV appearances as a result. Obviously this is not to be confused with the group that recorded Louie, Louie, but “Week End” is occasionally listed in error as one of the later group’s recordings.”

1958 - EAST WEST 115 A 1958 - EAST WEST 115 B

Decca 30741 – “Chiquita Linda” b/w “Whoa Mabel” – Recorded June, 1958 Released Summer of 1958 – Did Not Chart

1958 - DECCA 30741 A 1958 - DECCA 30741 B

1958 - DECCA 30741 A1958 - DECCA 30741 B

Decca 30781 – “Corrine, Corrina” – b/w “B.B. Betty” – Recorded June 18th, 1958 – Released Summer of 1958 – Did Not Chart

1958 - DECCA 30781 A 1958 - DECCA 30781 B

1958 - DECCA 30781 C 1958 - DECCA 30781 D

Decca 2615 EP – “Rockin’ The Joint – Part 1” – Released 1958

1958 - DECCA EP 2615 A

1958 - DECCA EP 2615 B 1958 - DECCA EP 2615 C

Decca 2616 EP – “Rockin’ The Joint – Part 2” – Released 1958

1958 - DECCA EP 2616 A

1959

The hits were now far and few between.  The Comets glory days were nearing an end in the U.S. but what a ride it was!

Decca 2638 EP – “Bill Haley’s Chicks” – Released 1959

1959 - DECCA EP 2638 A

1959 - DECCA EP 2638 B 1959 - DECCA EP 2638 C

Decca 30844 – “I Got a Woman” b/w “Charmaine” – Charted Nationally March 2nd, 1959 – #109 – 1 Week

1959 - DECCA 30844 - A 1959 - DECCA 30844 - B

1959 - DECCA 30844 - C 1959 - DECCA 30844 - D

Decca 30873 – “(Now and Then There’s) A Fool Such As I” b/w “Where Did You Go Last Night” – Charted Nationally April 6th, 1959 – #106 – 1 Week

1959 - DECCA 30873 A 1959 - DECCA 30873 B

Decca 30926 – “Caldonia” b/w “Shakey” – Charted Nationally June 29th, 1959 – #113 – 1 Week

1959 - DECCA 30926 A 1959 - DECCA 30926 B

1959 - DECCA 30926 C 1959 - DECCA 30926 D

Decca 30956 – “Joey’s Song” b/w “Ooh! Look-A There, Ain’t She Pretty” – Charted October 5th, 1959 – #46 – 12 Weeks on Hot 100

1959 - DECCA 30956 A 1959 - DECCA 30956 B

1959 - DECCA 30956 C 1959 - DECCA 30956 D

Decca EP 2670 – “Bill Haley & His Comets” – Released 1959

1959 - DECCA EP 2670 A

1959 - DECCA EP 2670 B 1959 - DECCA EP 2670 C

Decca EP 2671 – “Strictly Instrumental” – Released 1959

1959 - DECCA EP 2671 A1960 - DECCA LP 8964 B

Decca 31030 – “Skokiaan (South African Song)” b/w “Puerto Rican Peddler” – Charted January 4th, 1960 – #70 – 6 Weeks on Hot 100

1960 - DECCA 31030 A 1960 - DECCA 31030 B

1960 - DECCA 31030 C 1959 - DECCA 31030 B

1960 – Motion Picture “Here I Am To Stay”

The Comets appear in the German motion picture “Here I Am, Here I Stay” starring Caterina Valente – 1960

HALEY MOVIE - HERE I AM

Decca 31080 – “Music, Music, Music” b/w “Strictly Instrumental” – Released 1960 – Did Not Chart

1960 - DECCA 31080 A 1960 - DECCA 31080 B

1960 - DECCA 31080 C 1960 - DECCA 31080 D

The Waning Years – The Legacy

The Comets’ story takes a sad turn as Haley’s enterprises tumble into bankruptcy – He extended his efforts too far and has invested in many artists who would never realize any success.  But the glory days were gone – Haley would continue with various recording efforts and revivals of sorts – but it would never be the same – as is the story for nearly every rocker.  But he did it his way.  He believed in rock and roll and saw it through – launching a sound that would change the world!

1960 to the End

The final most valid Comet lineup included long timers and business partners Billy Williamson and John Grande – with guitarist Johnny Kay, drummer Ed Ward, Al Rappa, Franny Beecher and Rudy Pompilii rounding out the lineup.  Grande departs in 1962 as does Beecher and Ralph Jones – Williamson leaves in early 1963 – There would still be a Comets’ lineup for years to come but they would never again blaze through the sky as they once did.

Bill Haley passed away in 1981 at 56 years of age.  I saw Bill Haley and the Comets only once – in 1973 in Fresno, California in a “Caravan of Stars” tour that included The Chiffons, the Shirelles, Ron Holden, Dorsey Burnett, Freddy Cannon, Chubby Checker and Big Joe Turner.  Turner was escorted onto the stage to a chair due to his age and being crippled – where he sat and pounded out “Shake, Rattle and Roll” with his original lyrics.  Bill Haley and the Comets would follow with “Rock Around the Clock” and the world was a great place!

(John Haley reports that with most of the recordings shown below – proceeds were usually confiscated by the I.R.S. for back taxes. – I am only including recordings for which I have located images – His entire discography around the world is stunning and well preserved in “Sound and Glory”.)

Warner Bros. 5145 – “Tamiani” b/w “Candy Kisses” – Charted February 29th, 1960 – #101 – 4 Weeks Bubbling Under the Hot 100

1960 - WARNER BROS 5145 A1960 - WARNER BROS 5145 B

1960 - WARNER BROS 5145 C 1960 - WARNER BROS 5145 D

Warner Bros. 5154 – “Hawk” b/w “Chick Safari” – Released 1960

1960 - WARNER BROS 5154 A 1960 - WARNER BROS 5154 B REPLACE

Warner Bros. 5171 – “Let The Good Times Roll, Creole” b/w “So Right Tonight” – Released 1960

1960 - WARNER BROS 5171 A 1960 - WARNER BROS 5171 B

1961 - WARNER BROS. 5171 B 1961 - WARNER BROS. 5171 A

Warner Bros. 5228 – “Flip, Flop, Fly” b/w “Honky Tonk – Released 1960

1961 - WARNER BROS. 5228 A 1961 - WARNER BROS. 5228 B

Warner Bros. LP 1378 – “Bill Haley and His Comets” – Released 1960

1960 - WARNER BROS LP 1378 C 1960 - WARNER BROS LP 1378 D

1960 - WARNER BROS LP 1378 A 1960 - WARNER BROS LP 1378 B

Gone 5111 – “Spanish Twist” b/w “My Kind of Woman” – Released 1961

1961 - GONE 5111  BW MY KIND OF WOMAN

Gone 5116 – “Riviera” b/w “War Paint” – Released 1961

1961 - GONE 5161 - BW WAR PAINT1961 - GONE 5161 B

Kasey 7006 – “A.B.C. Boogie” b/w “Rock Around the Clock” by Phil Flowers – Released 1961

1964 - KASEY 6006 A 1964 - KASEY 6006 B

Roulette LP – “Twistin’ Knights at the Roundtable” – Released 1962

1962 - ROULETTE LP A

Newtown 5013 – “Up Goes My Love” b/w “Tenor Man” – Double Sided Hit – Both sides Charted Nationally March 9th, 1963 – A Side #130 – 5 Weeks – B Side #146 – 1 Week

Newtown 5024 – “Dance Around the Clock” b/w “What Can I Say After I Say I’m Sorry” – Released 1963

1963 - NEWTOWN 5024 A 1963 - NEWTOWN 5024 B

Nicetown 5025 – “You Call Everybody Darling” b/w “Tandy” – Released 1963

1963 - NICETOWN 5025 A 1963 - NICETOWN 5025 B

Decca 25650 – “Lean Jean” b/w “Skinny Minnie” – Released 1964 – A Reissue

1964 - DECCA 25650 A 1964 - DECCA 25650 B

Apt 25081 – “Burn That Candle” b/w “Stop, Look and Listen” – Released 1965

1965 - APT 25081 A 1965 - APT 25081 B

Apt 25087 – “Tongue Tied Tony” b/w “Haley A Go Go” – Released 1965

1965 - APT 25087 A 1965 - APT 25087 B

Decca LP 75027 – “Bill Haley’s Greatest Hits!” – Released 1968

1968 - DECCA 75027 LP B 1968 - DECCA 75027 LP C

1968 - DECCA 75027 LP A

Warner Bros. 7124 – “Rock Around The Clock” b/w “Shake, Rattle & Roll” – Charted June 15th, 1968 – #118 – 2 Weeks on Bubbling Under the Hot 100 (Back to Back Hits)

1968 - WARNER BROS 7124 C 1968 - WARNER BROS 7124 D

1968 - WARNER BROS 7124 A 1968 - WARNER BROS 7124 B

Decca 725751 – “The Green Door” b/w “Corrine, Corrina” – Released 1969

1969 - DECCA 725751 A 1969 - DECCA 725751 B

United Artists 50483 – “That’s How I Got To Memphis” b/w “Ain’t Love Funny, Ha Ha Ha” – Charted Nationally February 15th, 1969 – #144 – 2 Weeks

1969 - UA 50483 C

1969 - UA 50483 - A 1969 - UA 50483 - B

Buddah 169 – “Rock Around the Clock” b/w “Framed” – Released 1970

1970 - BUDDAH 169 A 1970 - BUDDAH 169 B

Kama Sutra 2014 – “Bill Haley Scrapbook” – Released 1970

1970 - KAMA SUTRA - 2014 A 1970 - KAMA SUTRA - 2014 B

Warner Bros. LP – 1831 – “Rock ‘n Roll Revival” – Released 1970

1970 - WARNER BROS 1831 A 1970 - WARNER BROS 1831 B

Janus 162 – “Travelin’ Band” b/w “A Little Piece at a Time” – Released 1971

1973 – The London Rock and Roll Show

Bill Haley featured with Chuck Berry and other prominent rockers in the motion picture “The London Rock and Roll Show”

1972 LONDON ROCK AND ROLL SHOW

Decca LP 211 – “Golden Hits” – Released 1972

1972 - DECCA 211 - A 1972 - DECCA 211 - B

MCA 60025 – “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock” – b/w Thirteen Women (And Only One Man in Town)” – Charted March 16th, 1974 – #39 – 14 Weeks on Hot 100

1973 - MCA 60025 A 1973 - MCA 60025 B

MCA 60057 – “See You Later, Alligator” b/w “Shake, Rattle and Roll” – Released 1974

1973 - MCA 60067 A 1973 - MCA 60067 B

 

4 Comments

  1. Love the rare shot of McCoo/LaRue!!
    From your friends at FOREVER 5th DIMENSION
    (PS…both ladies, looking better than ever, will get a kick out of it!)

  2. Pingback: The Founders: Bill Haley & The Comets | PopBopRocktilUDrop

  3. In the segment on 1945, “The Down Homers,” I assume you mean Fort Wayne, Indiana, not New Jersey. There is a Wayne, NJ, but it is the epitome of suburban sprawl and was suburban even in that era (although not as dense as it is now). And aside from a few typos around this most amazing post, I think it is excellent! Time hasn’t been kind to Bill Haley’s reputation, but perhaps with the European rockabilly revival he’ll get his due again.

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