By Walter Price
What I’m about to write has mostly all been said before. Bill Haley’s contributions to Rock N’ Roll are Rock N’ Roll. The leader of the pack, the granddaddy of all rockers and the man who started much of what we take for granted sonically these days. He took that crazy cool jump blues sound and got our parents and grandparents all crazy in the head and their hips swiveling and a swayin’ in, for the time, vulgar fits of ‘hell yeah’.
You can argue if a guy that borrowed so much from others to do his thing deserves the crown of ‘Inventor of Rock N’ Roll’ but there is no denying his place in rock history. He did the do and we owe him forever more for his contributions.
I just finished an article by Margaret Moser for The Austin Chronicles, When TheClock Strikes 12, that will devastate your thoughts and memories of Mr. Rock Around The Clock. A man essentially lost to history, looked over, crippled by drink and haunted from all he had lived and done.
Moser starts with Haley’s beliefs on his place in history saying, ”Worse, Haley bought into the pointless argument of who invented rock & roll, believing he deserved the title. He had a legit claim, too, having recorded the genre’s first bona fide anthem, “Rock Around the Clock.” The other firsts he deserves credit for have been marginalized along with his memory” and she continues on the point “Yet, of all the myths and maybes surrounding Haley, one detail rings true: Bill Haley & His Comets were the first rock & roll band. While Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Fats Domino, and Jerry Lee Lewis dreamed big in 1951, prototype rock bands led by Haley charted hits.”
It has always been my notion that Elvis and the new breed of rock idols were a large part of Haley’s decline (mainly Elvis) in teen popularity and the article touches on that as well, “For all his meteoric rise and worldwide following, Haley now trailed behind Presley and the new crop of slick young singers. His trademark kiss curl looked dated and he’d never been especially photogenic: tall but schlubby, introverted, shy about his blind eye, married, and generally looking and acting square in a world of Brylcreem pretty boys like Ricky Nelson. And just when media began focusing on rock & rollers, Haley backed away from press. His next recording projects of hopped-up international folk songs were followed by a country album that stiffed.”
But it is how Moser delves into the last chapter of Bill Haley’s life in South Texas that destroys my faith in what, respect, reaching out to those who need it, I don’t know actually but I have a dark spot on my soul. How a man that so many artist owe so much to would spend his last day in a coffee shop humming his hits waiting for someone, anyone to recognize or to care.
“After a while, he’d start to shift in his seat and look around. … He was giving people around him clues. He wanted people to hear him and say, ‘You’re Bill Haley, aren’t you?” – Martha Velasco (Widow)
Take a few minutes and read the full article HERE.
Respect is all some people need…
Bill Haley 1925 – 1981
Who Do You Think Has Been Lost To Time?