BIO

Bill Haley transformed popular music.

 

As frontman for the iconic group Bill Haley & His Comets, Haley catapulted into superstardom in the 1950’s with hits including “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock,” “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” “See You Later, Alligator,” and many others.

 

During his career, Haley amassed nine Top 20 singles, selling millions of records worldwide while single-handedly introducing the world to a sound called rock ‘n’ roll.

 

“We premiered it,” Haley told Rolling Stone in 1967. “We put country & western together with rhythm & blues, and that was rock. The first three years were ours, all ours, till [Elvis] Presley came along.”

Born William John Clifton Haley on July 6, 1925 in Highland Park, Michigan, Bill’s fascination with music came at a young age. His father, William Albert Haley played the mandolin and banjo, and his mother, Maude Green was a classically trained pianist and piano teacher.

 

One of Haley’s first musical performances took place in 1938, when he played at a Bethel Junior baseball team event at just 13 years old, and he spent most of his teen years playing guitar and yodeling in various bands, including The Downhomers.

 

With music in his blood, Haley also served as a late night disc jockey where his unencumbered ability to play records from seemingly disparate musical genres would influence the musical stylings of his own band, Bill Haley and The Four Aces of Western Swing.

 

In 1951, the group signed with Essex Records and changed their name to Bill Haley and The Saddlemen, releasing a number of singles that further showcased Haley’s country, swing, and rhythm & blues influences. With tracks including “Rocket 88,” “Rock the Joint,” and “Crazy Man, Crazy,” the band was unknowingly pioneering a new genre of popular music that many years later would finally be given a name…rock ‘n’ roll.

 

In 1954, Haley left Essex to sign with Decca Records and he renamed the group again, this time to Bill Haley & His Comets.

The spectacular breakout of Bill Haley & His Comets came with the chart-busting hit “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock,” a song that was released as a B side in 1954 and would go on to reach critical mass a year later after being featured in the 1955 film Blackboard Jungle, a movie about unruly students and teenage rebellion. It would be featured again shortly thereafter in the aptly titled film Rock Around The Clock in which Haley would co-star, before making a return in the 1970’s as the opening theme for the television series, “Happy Days,” and as part of the soundtrack for the classic film American Graffiti.

 

With sales of more than 25 million copies worldwide, “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock” is one of the best-selling records in history and Rolling Stone has named the track #159 on their list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

 

But Haley would prove to be more than just a one-hit wonder, releasing a number of commercially successful followup hits including “See You Later, Alligator,” “R.O.C.K.,” “The Saints Rock ‘n’ Roll,” “Rip It Up,” “Rudy’s Rock,” and “Skinny Minnie.” Bill Haley & His Comets appeared twice on American Bandstand, and they toured extensively across Europe, Australia, Latin America and more. To this day, Haley maintains a particularly concentrated celebrity status in the UK, where he endures as a member of rock ‘n’ roll royalty.

 

While the full value of his contributions to popular music may be somewhat underappreciated, Haley’s legacy is indisputable. With his unmistakable vocal styling and ‘kiss curl’ hairstyle, Bill Haley has paved the way for generations of stars across genres. Formal recognition of his impact on music history arrived posthumously in 1987 when he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and again in 2018 when “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock” was inducted into the National Recording Registry, an archive maintained by the Library of Congress to preserve culturally significant recordings.

“The first time I really ever felt a tingle up my spine was when I saw Bill Haley and His Comets on the telly. Then I went to see them live. The ticket was 24 shillings, and I was the only one of my mates who could go, as no one else had been able to save up that amount. But I was single-minded about it. I knew there was something going on here.”

Paul McCartney
THE BEATLES

“I’ve still got the ticket stub in my wallet from when I went to see Bill Haley and the Comets play in Manchester in February 1957—my first-ever concert. Over the years I’ve lost houses…I’ve lost wives…but I’ve not lost that ticket stub. It’s that important to me.”

Graham Nash
CROSBY, STILLS & NASH

“…when we listened to the radio, it was Bill Haley and the Comets or the Everly Brothers.”

Carly Simon
Songwriter & Recording Artist

“Bill Haley was there from the beginning – He was blending sounds from Country, Dixieland and R&B before the term “Rock and Roll” was even invented.”

Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

“The first record I bought and which turned me around a bit was Rock Around The Clock by Bill Haley, when I was ten. That was the first moment to me when I though ‘this is something new and original!’ It is very hard to describe how new and revolutionary that sounded to me at the time!”

David Gilmour
PINK FLOYD

“As he did these tours Bill Haley and His Comets, who you’d say would be quite tame really by the standards of what followed, were just setting the world on fire. I looked at them and thought ‘That’s what I want! I want to be like that!’”

Robert Plant
LED ZEPPELIN

“The birth of rock `n roll was seeing Bill Haley and His Comets.”

Pete Townshend
THE WHO

ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK!

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