July 9 1955 – “Rock Around the Clock” No.1 On US BILLBOARD CHART
A landmark in music history is established on July 9th when Bill Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock” reaches number one on the Billboard chart. Many music historians will eventually acknowledge the song as a dividing line, separating Rock and Roll from everything that preceded it.
”Rock Around the Clock” has sold 22.5 million copies since 1955,
Birth name William John Clifton Haley
Born July 6, 1925
Highland Park, Michigan, US
Origin Boothwyn, Pennsylvania, US
Died February 9, 1981 (aged 55)
Harlingen, Texas, US
Genres: Rock and roll country rockabilly
Occupations Singer-songwriter musician bandleader
Years active 1946–1980
Labels Decca, London, Brunswick, Cowboy, Atlantic, Vogue, Holiday, Essex, Warner Bros. Records, Orfeón, Dimsa, Logo, Gone, United Artists, Roulette, Sonet, Buddah
Associated acts – Bill Haley & His Comets
The Down Homers,
William John Clifton Haley July 6, 1925 – February 9, 1981 was a pioneering American rock and roll musician. He is credited by many with first popularizing this form of music in the early 1950s with his group Bill Haley & His Comets and million selling hits such as “Rock Around the Clock”, “See You Later, Alligator”, “Shake, Rattle and Roll”, “Rocket 88”, “Skinny Minnie”, and “Razzle Dazzle”. His recordings have sold over 60 million records worldwide.
This is his Obituary from the New York Times:
BILL HALEY, 55, DIES; SINGER-BAND LEADER
By Robert Palmer Feb. 10, 1981
Credit…The New York Times Archives
See the article in its original context from
February 10, 1981, Section B, Page 19
Bill Haley, the singer, guitarist and band leader whose original recording of ”Rock Around the Clock” has sold 22.5 million copies since 1955, died yesterday of natural causes at his home in Harlingen, Tex.. The 55-year-old entertainer was one of the pioneers of rock-and-roll.
”Rock Around the Clock” swept the United States in 1955 when it appeared as the theme song in the motion picture ”Blackboard Jungle.” Mr. Haley and his band, the Comets, became matinee idols in the United States and Europe and recorded more hits, though their relatively sedate song stylings were soon overshadowed by the wilder rock-and-roll sounds of Elvis Presley and Little Richard.
William John Clifton Haley Jr. was born in Highland Park, Mich., 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 country and western bands, and by 1951, when he signed a contract with Essex records, he was leading a band of his own, the Saddlemen. Their first release was a version of the black rhythm-andblues hit ”Rocket 88” and prefigured Mr. Haley’s later style, an amalgam of country, blues and pop influences.
First Hit in 1953
In 1952 Mr. Haley renamed his band the Comets, and a year later they recorded their first hit, ”Crazy Man Crazy.” In 1954 Mr. Haley’s ”Shake, Rattle and Roll,” a blues song originally recorded by Joe Turner, became a million-copy seller for Decca records.
Mr. Haley and various editions of the Comets toured the United States and Europe throughout the 1960’s and early 70’s. His recordings are recognized here and perhaps especially in Europe as among the earliest in the emerging rock-and-roll style and were an important influence on the Beatles and other prominent rock performers during the 60’s and 70’s.
In recent years Mr. Haley lived quietly with his wife and children and granted no interviews.
A version of this article appears in print on Feb. 10, 1981.
Rock Around the Clock
“Rock Around the Clock” 45″ single
Single by Bill Haley & His Comets from the album Rock Around the Clock (original version)
Released May 20, 1954, New York City and again in May 1955
Recorded April 12, 1954, Pythian Temple studios, 135 West 70th Street, New York City
Length 2:08 (see length variations)
Songwriter(s) Max C. Freedman
James E. Myers (as Jimmy DeKnight)
Producer(s) Milt Gabler
(1954) “Rock Around the Clock”
(1954) “Shake, Rattle and Roll”
“Rock Around the Clock” is a rock and roll song in the 12-bar blues format written by Max C. Freedman and James E. Myers (the latter being under the pseudonym “Jimmy De Knight”) in 1952. The best known and most successful rendition was recorded by Bill Haley & His Comets in 1954 for American Decca. It was a number one single for two months and did well on the United Kingdom charts; the recording also re-entered the UK Singles Chart in the 1960s and 1970s.
It was not the first rock and roll record, nor was it the first successful record of the genre. (Bill Haley had American chart success with “Crazy Man, Crazy” in 1953, and in 1954, “Shake, Rattle and Roll” sung by Big Joe Turner reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart). Haley’s recording nevertheless became an anthem for rebellious 1950s youth particularly after it was included in the 1955 film Blackboard Jungle. It was Number 1 on the pop charts for two months and went to Number 3 on the R&B chart.
The recording is widely considered to be the song that, more than any other, brought rock and roll into mainstream culture around the world. The song is ranked No. 159 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Although it was first recorded by Italian-American band Sonny Dae and His Knights on March 20, 1954, Myers claimed the song had been written specifically for Haley but, for various reasons, Haley was unable to record it himself until April 12, 1954.
The original full title of the song was “We’re Gonna Rock Around the Clock Tonight!”. This was later shortened to “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock”, though this form is generally only used on releases of the 1954 Bill Haley Decca Records recording; most other recordings of this song by Haley and others (including Sonny Dae) shorten this title further to “Rock Around the Clock”.
In 2018, it was selected for preservation in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or artistically significant.”
After leaving Essex Records in the spring of 1954, Bill Haley signed with Decca Records, and the band’s first recording session was set for April 12, 1954, at the Pythian Temple studios in New York City. The recording session almost failed to take place because the band was traveling on a ferry that got stuck on a sandbar en route to New York from Philadelphia.
Near the end of the session, the band finally recorded a take of “Rock Around the Clock,” but Haley’s vocals were drowned out by the band. A second take was quickly made with minimal accompaniment while Sammy Davis Jr. waited outside the studio for his turn behind the microphone. Decca engineers later combined the two versions into one version.
Many musicians have claimed that they performed on the recording session for “Rock Around the Clock.” Song co-writer Myers once claimed he had played drums on the piece, although he also claimed to have been advising the sound mixer in the recording booth. According to the official record sheet from the session, however, the musicians on the famous recording are :
Bill Haley – vocals, rhythm guitar
Marshall Lytle – double bass
Franny Beecher – guitar
Billy Williamson – steel guitar
Johnny Grande – piano
Billy Gussak – drums (session musician)
Danny Cedrone – electric guitar
Joey Ambrose (aka Joey D’Ambrosio) – tenor saxophone
The version of “Rock Around the Clock” that was used in the movie Blackboard Jungle differs from the hit single version. The difference is in the two solo breaks. The record has the guitar solo taking the first break and the sax solo taking the second break. The movie version is just the opposite with the sax solo coming first.
On July 9, 1955 “Rock Around the Clock” became the first rock and roll recording to hit the top of Billboard’s Pop charts, a feat it repeated on charts around the world. The song stayed at this place for eight weeks. The record was also no.1 for seven weeks on the Cashbox pop singles chart in 1955. The Bill Haley version also hit number three on the R&B charts. Billboard ranked it as the No. 2 song for 1955, behind Perez Prado’s “Cherry Pink (and Apple Blossom White)”.
In the UK, Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock” was released on Brunswick Records (and Germany as well), reaching number 17 on the UK Singles Chart in January 1955, four months before it first entered the US pop charts. (Coincidentally, it reached the same position as The Beatles’ first single, “Love Me Do”, in 1962.) The song re-entered the UK chart to reach number one in November 1955 for three weeks, and after a three-week break returned there for a further two weeks in January 1956. It re-entered the charts again in September 1956, reaching number 5. The song was re-issued in 1968, when it made number 20, and again in 1974, when it reached number 12. The song’s original release saw it become the UK’s first million selling single and it went on to sell over 1.4 million copies in total.
The band performed the song on the May 31, 1955 episode of Texaco Star Theatre hosted by Milton Berle in an a cappella and lip synched versions. On August 7, 1955, the band performed the song on the Ed Sullivan Show, hosted by Ed Sullivan.
On the heels of the song breaking into the Top 20 in the UK in 1968, Decca began plugging the single in the US, where it briefly re-entered the Billboard charts in June 1968, peaking at #118.
In 1964, Bill Haley and His Comets recorded a sequel song entitled “Dance Around the Clock”. The song was not a commercial success.
Haley would re-record “Rock Around the Clock” many times over the years (even scoring a substantial hit with a version recorded for Sonet Records in 1968), but never recaptured the magic. In 1974, the original version of the song returned to the American charts when it was used as the theme for the movie American Graffiti and a re-recorded version by Haley was used as the opening theme for the TV series Happy Days during its first two seasons. In the UK, the song again reached the top 20 and as of 2013 remains the only non-Christmas single to have done so on five separate occasions. The original version was also featured in the 1978 film Superman, heard playing on a car radio just prior to Glenn Ford’s final scene in the film; Ford, as noted earlier, had starred in Blackboard Jungle.
During the 1970s, Haley shortened his performances of “Rock Around the Clock”, dropping one verse and the second instrumental break from most performances. However, his last known recorded performance of the song, at a November 1979 command performance for Queen Elizabeth II, was a complete version.
Following Haley’s death in February 1981, a number of major tributes involving “Rock Around the Clock” occurred. That fall, a TV special marking the 30th anniversary of American Bandstand saw an all-star “supergroup” perform the song (accompanied by 1950s-era footage of Haley and the Comets). In 1982, Haley’s original recording was given the Grammy Hall of Fame Award. An excerpt from the recording was included in “Haley’s Golden Medley”, a hastily compiled single in the “Stars on 45” mould which made the UK record charts in 1982, reaching number 50. In 1989, Haley’s original Decca recording was incorporated into the “dance mix” single “Swing The Mood”, credited to Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers, but legal considerations forced the album version to substitute a patchwork of rerecordings from the 1950s and 1960s (in Haley’s case, a 1968 version of “Rock Around the Clock” recorded for Sonet Records). Since “Swing the Mood” was still on the sales charts going into 1990, it meant that Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock”, in one way or another, appeared on UK or US sales charts in five consecutive decades.
“Rock Around the Clock” is often cited as the biggest-selling vinyl rock and roll single of all time. The exact number of copies sold has never been audited; however, a figure of at least 25 million was cited by the Guinness Book of World Records in its category “Phonograph records: Biggest Sellers” from the early 1970s until the 1990s, when the advent of compact discs led to Guinness discontinuing the category. Guinness consistently listed “Rock Around the Clock” as having the highest claim of any pop music recording, coming second in sales only to Bing Crosby’s 1942 recording of “White Christmas”, which was also listed as having sold 25 million copies. Haley’s version alone is estimated to have sold 15 million copies, with a total of 30 million copies counting all versions. A frequently used piece of promotion regarding the song is that it is said to be playing somewhere in the world every minute of the day.
Although originally released to vinyl at a running time of 2 minutes and 8 seconds, most digital/CD releases of the original 1954 recording, starting with the “From The Original Master Tapes” compilation of Haley’s work with Decca Records, mastered by Steve Hoffman and released in 1985, clock in at 2:10. This is due to the inclusion of a “count-in” by one of the Comets (saying, “One … two”) at the very start of the song. This was never included in the original single or album releases of the song. (All of Haley’s subsequent studio re-recordings of the song run longer than 2:10 ).