Bill Haley

Bill Haley

Original Name William John Clifton Haley
Highland Park, Wayne County, Michigan, USA
Death 9 Feb 1981 (aged 55)
Harlingen, Cameron County, Texas, USA
Burial Cremated, Ashes given to family or friend
Memorial ID 6942256 · View Source
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Singer, Songwriter, Musician, and Bandleader. He is credited by many with first popularizing Rock and Roll music in the early 1950s with his group Bill Haley & His Comets and his million selling hits such as "Rock Around the Clock," "See You Later, Alligator," "Shake, Rattle and Roll," "Rocket 88," "Skinny Minnie," and "Razzle Dazzle." He and his band were important in launching Rock and Roll to a wider, mostly white audience after a period of it being considered an underground genre. Born William John Clifton Haley into a musical family, his father played the banjo and mandolin and his mother was an accomplished pianist When he was seven years old his father moved the family to Boothwyn, Pennsylvania. He learned to play the guitar and obtained his first professional job at the age of 13, playing and entertaining at an auction for the fee of $1 a night. Shortly afterwards, he formed a group of equally enthusiastic youngsters and managed to get quite a few local bookings for his band. He left home at the age of 15, he struggled to find employment, usually working at open-air park shows, singing and yodeling with any band that would have him, and even worked with a traveling medicine show. He eventually got a job with a popular group known as the "Down Homers" while they were in Hartford, Connecticut. He then got a job working as a musical director of Radio Station WPWA in Chester, Pennsylvania, and led his own band all through this period, known as Bill Haley's Saddlemen. They played in clubs as well as over the radio around Philadelphia, and in June 1951 made their first recording with Ed Wilson's Keystone Records in Philadelphia, a song called "Rocket 88." Many Rock historians regard this song, with its fusion of African-American R&B and Haley's country swing, as the very first "Rock and Roll" recording. During the Labor Day weekend in 1952, the Saddlemen were renamed Bill Haley with Haley's Comets and in 1953, his recording of "Crazy Man, Crazy" became the first rock and roll song to hit the American charts, peaking at Number 15 on Billboard and Number 11 on Cash Box. Soon after, the band's name was revised to Bill Haley & His Comets. In 1953 a song called "Rock Around the Clock" was written for Haley but he was unable to record it until April 1954. Initially, it was relatively unsuccessful, peaking at Number 23 on the Billboard pop singles chart and staying on the charts for only one week. He then scored a major worldwide hit with a cover version of Big Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle and Roll", which went on to sell a million copies and became the first ever Rock and Roll song to enter the British singles charts in December 1954 and became a Gold Record. When "Rock Around the Clock" appeared as the theme song of the 1955 film "Blackboard Jungle" starring Glenn Ford, it soared to the top of the American Billboard chart for eight weeks and became the first record to sell over 1 million copies in both England and Germany. The single is commonly used as a convenient line of demarcation between the "rock era" and the music industry that preceded it. After the record rose to Number 1, he was given the title "Father of Rock and Roll" by the media, and by teenagers who had come to embrace the new style of music. With the song's success, the age of rock music began overnight and instantly ended the dominance of the jazz and pop standards performed by Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford, Perry Como, Bing Crosby and others. On August 7, 1955 Bill Haley and the Comets were the first Rock and Roll act to appear on the iconic American musical variety series "The Ed Sullivan Show. He became the first major American Rock singer to tour Europe. He continued to score hits throughout the 1950s such as "See You Later, Alligator" and in 1956 he starred in the first rock and roll musical films "Rock Around the Clock" and "Don't Knock the Rock." In 1957 he and his band appeared twice on television's "American Bandstand" hosted by Dick Clark, on the prime time show October 28 and on the regular daytime show on November 27. The band also appeared twice on Dick Clark's "Saturday Night Beechnut Show," also known as "The Dick Clark Show," a primetime television series from New York on March 22, 1958 during the first season and on February 20, 1960. He fought a battle with alcohol into the 1970s, however, he and his band continued to be a popular touring act, benefiting from a 1950s nostalgia movement that began in the late 1960s and the signing of a lucrative record deal with the European Sonet label. After performing for Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Variety Performance in November 1979, he made his final performances in South Africa in May and June 1980. Before the South African tour, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, although it was disputed by his wife. In the final weeks of his life, he displayed deranged and erratic behavior, according to media reports and he died at the age of 55. His death certificate listed "Natural causes: Most likely heart attack" as the 'Immediate Cause' of death. In 1982 his "Rock Around the Clock" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and in 1987 he was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to records.

Bio by: William Bjornstad

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 20 Nov 2002
  • Find a Grave Memorial 6942256
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Bill Haley (6 Jul 1925–9 Feb 1981), Find a Grave Memorial no. 6942256, ; Maintained by Find A Grave Cremated, Ashes given to family or friend.