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Rocking Around the Clock with Bill Haley and the Comets

Updated on August 21, 2015

You could say that I started to like rock and roll at the age of eight. What woke me up and made me realize I enjoyed the sounds was Elvis. At that time he was all over the TV. My dad when he was writing at this big desk he had would listen to music according to his mood. I could be music from the 1920s or jazz or even classical so my little ears picked up whatever music dad was enjoying at the moment. Suddenly dad was faced with a little daughter who was intently watching the TV screen and a young man on the screen singing in a loud voice, “Let me be your teddy bear”’. I guess dad realized he was in trouble and had some heavy competition so whenever Elvis was on TV dad made me laugh by imitating him. Then I discovered Dick Clark and his Bandstand and so my love of rock and roll was truly born.

Bill Haley and the Comets rolled out some of the greatest rock and roll hits from when they were founded in 1952 to the time of Haley’s death in 1981. This American rock group put nine singles on the Top 20. Bill Haley began his career as a country music singer.

The original name of this band was Bill Haley and the Saddlemen from 1949 – 1952 and performed country style. It was during this time that Haley became one of the top cowboy yodelers. However a great deal of the Saddlemen recordings didn’t get released until the 70s and 80s. They included wonderful tunes like “Rose of My Heart” and “Yodel Your Blues Away”. Members of this group included Haley piano, Johnny Grande accordion, and Billy Williamson steel guitarist.

When Halley started on his rock and roll career he began with rockabilly and the band adopted the name the Comets. Bill Haley and the Comets came out with “Crazy Man, Crazy” and it became a hit with teens and went on to become the first rock and roll song to be on national TV. It was used for the soundtrack of a 1953 play which starred James Dean. Next came one of their biggest hits which is still popular today “Rock Around the Clock”. This hit sold 25 million copies and went into the Guinness Book of World Records and became a gold disc.

Next came “Shake, Rattle, and Roll and wound up being the 7th best selling record in November of 1954. Other hits included “Dim, Dim the Lights”, “Birth of Boogie”, and “Mambo Rock”. In 1956 Elvis made a recording of “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” in 1956. Bill Haley and the Comets appeared in two full-length rock and roll movies “Rock Around the Clock” and “Don’t Knock the Rock”.

It was from this talented man and his band that teens got the saying, “See you later, alligator”. This is the song that started it all.

Bill Haley and the Comets lost some of their popularity in the U.S. from 56 to 57 due to other more wild acts by Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard. So they moved over to the U.K. in February of 1957 and discovered that they were enthusiastically greeted by fans at Waterloo Station in London. They also went on tour in Australia. When Elvis was on duty in Germany he went to visit them backstage.

Returning to the states Bill Haley and the Comets became known as Bill Haley y sus Cometas in Latin America and signed with a Mexican record label. They scored an amazing hit with “Twist Espanol” sung in Spanish. Since at this time people were twisting everywhere Haley came up with another Mexican hit single called “Florida Twist”. Even though in the U.S. Chubby Checker was known for starting the twist craze in Mexico and Latin America it was Bill Haley and the Comets who were known as the Kings of the Twist.

In the late 60s Bill Haley and the Comets were already referred to as an oldies act. However they were still popular in Europe and signed on with Sonet Records in Sweden in 1968 and came up with a new version of “Rock Around the Clock” which rose up in the European charts. In the early 70s they appeared in some concert films which included The London Rock and Roll Show and Let the Good Times Roll. It was in 1974 that their original recording of “Rock Around the Clock’ became once again popular in the U.S. due to the movie “American Graffiti “ and the TV show Happy Days. Bill Halley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. It was at this time that supporting bands didn’t get named but the Comets were inducted in 2012. Other places where Bill Haley and the Comets have been inducted are the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and in Hollywood’s Rockwalk in 2005 where the Comets put their handprints in cement leaving a blank space for Haley who had died in 1981.

His son carries on his father’s fame. Bill Haley, Jr. put together a band called Bill Halley, Jr. and the Comets in 2011. He has created a “Rock and Roll History Show” in which the band performs Bill Haley’s songs from his repertoire from the record labels of Decca, Essex and Holiday. During the show his son also tells some anecdotes and interesting and unknown facts about the songs and his father’s life. The band did a short tour of the Eastern U.S. in 2012.

With some reference to


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    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 23 months ago

      I loved Bill Haley and the Comets and never understood why they lost popularity after Elvis, Jerry Lee, and Carl came on the scene. In fact I first learned to dance rock 'n roll to "Rock Around the Clock" at an 8th grade party. I'm glad you wrote this article. Good information about an old favorite of us oldies.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 23 months ago from The Beautiful South

      Great sound! Thanks for bringing it back for awhile! Reminds me of BandStand. +

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 23 months ago from london

      I knew of Bill Haley and yes, he was good at rocking and rolling. I saw Elvis in a few movies, and I was still in the Caribbean. They were both greats. Great to know that they influenced your life. Much Peace.

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 23 months ago from United States

      Nice work and brings back old memories about the true start of Rock Music. Well received my friend. whonu

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 23 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks for sharing this interesting hub Rasma. Bill Haley was one of the founding father's of rock n' roll. I never knew he and his band were originally a country group. Well written and enjoyable.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 23 months ago from Riga, Latvia

      I simply love the oldies MizBejabbers and I also have a music blog but there I only post YouTube videos so I figure I can write about rock and roll on HubPages.

      You welcome Jackie. You know while I was writing this I kept thinking I just cannot believe Dick Clark is no longer with us.

      Thank you Manatita.

      Thank you Whonu.

      Thank you Jodah. While exploring the material for this hub I too discovered that he started off with country music. Lucky for all rock and roll fans he switched track.

    • Homeplace Series profile image

      William Leverne Smith 23 months ago from Hollister, MO

      I was a Bill Haley and the Comets fan, and preferred their music to Elvis for a number of years. Thanks, for the memories!! ;-)

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 23 months ago from Central Florida

      What a fun hub, Rasma! I'm a bit behind in my reading and this was a wonderful way to spend some time on this Sunday morning. You had me dancing and singing right along.

      Thank you!

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 23 months ago from Riga, Latvia

      You welcome Homeplace Series. It's the oldies that always take be back to a different time that I enjoyed.

      You welcome Shauna. Glad you enjoyed.

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