'The birth of rock 'n' roll for me? Seeing Bill Haley and The Comets in "Rock Around the Clock" with my best friend at the time. God, that band SWUNG! We were eleven years old.' – Pete Townsend
It was the middle of the Roaring Twenties when rock’s first superstar, Bill Haley, entered this world. With a father who played mandolin and banjo Bill was to get his love of goodtime, foot-stomping music from an early age. By the age of 13 Bill wanted to be a singing cowboy like the ones he saw in the local movie theatres and, as if to grant his wish, this was the year his parents gave him his first guitar. After mastering the basic chords Bill discovered that he had inherited his father’s ability to play by ear and could recreate songs he heard on the radio without ever seeing the music.
By the age of 18 he had become his childhood hero, the singing cowboy, he had the outfit, he had the voice and he had the tunes, all that was missing was an appreciative audience. Life on the road was hard however and by the time he was 21 Bill felt that he wasn’t going to make the grade and in 1947 he became a DJ. It was his work on the radio that rekindled his love of playing and led him to form a new group the “Four Aces of Western Swing”. It was with this group that Bill first tried to produce a hybrid Hillbilly, Dixieland, Swing style of music.
Developing his theme further Bill then formed “Bill Haley and his Saddlemen” in 1949 - this was his path to stardom. In 1952 they recorded “Rock The Joint” and Bill wrote “Rock A Beating' Boogie“, and having hit their stride they unleashed a series of rock ‘n’ roll tunes over the next three years that inspired a generation of artists to respond to this musical call to arms.
With the Saddlemen becoming the Comets, reflecting the impact they were having on the world of music, the most famous group in rock ‘n’ roll history, Bill Haley and his Comets, had arrived.
With the name and the pedigree all that was needed was a classic song and it arrived in the form of “Rock Around The Clock”, recorded in 1955. Not only did it give an amazing apex to Bill Haley’s career, it announced rock ‘n’ roll around the world, it was to eventually sell tens of millions of copies and be covered by more than 200 artists. On the back of this one song, which was only possible after years of hard work, Bill Haley and the Comets became icons, appearing in film and performing on stage around the world. They continued to record and had further successes but nothing could ever match the first worldwide rock ‘n’ roll hit that was “Rock Around The Clock”.