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Bill Haley and His Comets
Rock Around the Clock 1951-1956
see end of review for track listing
RETROSPECTIVE RTR 4251 [76:00]


Bill Haley began his music career in the mid-1940’s as a country-western singer and guitarist. He performed with several different groups, including the Downhomers and the Four Aces of Western Swing. In 1949 he formed the Saddlemen along with steel guitarist Billy Williamson, keyboardist Johnny Grande, and bassist Al Rex. The Saddlemen blended country-western with rhythm and blues to create their own rockabilly music style, and laid the foundation for the birth of rock and roll. In 1951 they recorded their first big hit “Rocket 88” and followed it in 1952 with “Rock the Joint”. By 1953 the group had changed their name to Bill Haley and His Comets and recorded “Crazy, Man, Crazy”. Other musicians joined the band at different times, including bassist Marshall Lytle, tenor saxophonist Joey Ambrose, drummer Dick Richards, and guitarist Danny Cedrone. In 1954 the group recorded their best-known hit, “Rock Around the Clock” for Decca Records. In 1955 the Comets saw some new faces, including tenor saxophonist Rudy Pompilli, drummer Ralph Jones, and guitarist Fran Beecher. The group reached the height of their popularity in 1956, when Bill Haley and His Comets starred in the movie Rock Around The Clock. They continued performing together until 1962, when the band finally broke up.

This CD contains thirty of the bands’ best known songs. Four songs recorded by Bill Haley & The Saddlemen are included ; “Rocket 88”, named for the Oldsmobile model with their new Rocket V8 engine, “Rock The Joint”, “Real Rock Drive”, and “Dance With A Dolly With A Hole In her Stocking”, adapted from the folk song Buffalo Gals (Won’t You Come Home Tonight). These songs are all non-stop rockers, simple, fast-paced rhythms that were made for dancing. Bill Haley had a husky, natural singing voice which is easy to listen to; he stays on key and on the beat, and the band swings easily through each number. The rest of the songs are a wide assortment recorded under the Bill Haley & His Comets name. Two instrumentals, “Goofin’ Around” and “Blue Comet Blues” feature the fine guitar work of lead guitarist Franny Beecher, who composed both numbers. Franny Beecher had a long music career, performing with the Benny Goodman Orchestra, Buddy Greco, and several other groups before joining Bill Haley. He recently passed away (in February 2014) at the age of 93. Tenor saxophonist Rudy Pompilli is featured on two more instrumentals; “Rudy’s Rock”, which he and Bill Hailey composed, and “Calling All Comets”. Keyboardist Johnny Grande is featured on accordion on the instrumental song “A Rockin’ Little Tune”. Although primarily a piano player, Johnny played accordion for most of the band’s live shows. The rest of the CD features the Comets with Bill Haley on vocals, including a surprisingly-choppy version of “Choo-Choo Ch’Boogie”, and a neat version of “See You Later, Alligator” with vocal call-and-response with the band and with the saxophone.

The sound quality of this CD is excellent, and even the little-known songs like “Rip It Up” are short, fun and easy to listen to. There is a very informative 12-page booklet included with the CD. If you like early rock & roll, this CD is a good choice.

Bruce McCollum

See also review by Tony Augarde

Track listing
1. Rock Around the Clock
2. Rocket 88
3. Rock the Joint
4. Dance with a Dolly with a Hole in her Stocking
5. Real Rock Drive
6. Goofin’ Around
7. Crazy, Man, Crazy
8. What’cha Gonna Do?
9. Shake, Rattle and Roll
10. ABC Boogie
11. Rudy’s Rock
12. Dim, Dim the Lights
13. Birth of the Boogie
14. Mambo Rock
15. Razzle-Dazzle
16, Blue Comet Blues
17. R.O.C.K.
18. Rock-a-Beatin’ Boogie
19. The Saints Rock ‘n’ Roll
20. Burn That Candle
21. Calling All Comets
22. See You Later, Alligator
23. Hook, Line and Sinker
24. Choo-choo Ch’Boogie
25. Hot Dog, Buddy Buddy
26. A Rocking Little Tune
27. Rockin’ Through the Rye
28. Rip It Up
29. Don’t Knock the Rock
30. Farewell, So Long, Goodbye

Performers
Bill Haley – Vocals, rhythm guitar
Joey d'Ambrosio - Tenor sax
Rudy Pompilli - Tenor sax, bass sax, clarinet, flute
Tony Lance – Baritone sax
Danny Cedrone, Franny Beecher, Art Ryerson - Lead guitar
Billy Williamson - Steel guitar
Johnny Grande – Piano, accordion
Marshall Lytle, Al Rex - Double bass
Billy Gussak, Ralph Jones, Panama Francis, Cliff Leeman – Drums
Dick Richards – Triangle, tom-toms