ON THIS DATE (58 YEARS AGO)
May 10, 1954 – Bill Haley And His Comets: “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around The Clock” b/w “Thirteen Women (And Only One Man In Town)” (Decca 9-29124) 45 single is released in the US.
“Rock Around the Clock” is a 12-bar-blues-based song written by Max C. Freedman and James E. Myers (the latter under the pseudonym “Jimmy De Knight”) in 1952. The best-known and most successful rendition was recorded by Bill Haley and His Comets in 1954. It was a number one single on both the US and UK charts and also re-entered the UK Singles Chart in the 1960s and 1970s.
It was not the first rock and roll record, nor was it the first successful record of the genre (Bill Haley had American chart success with “Crazy Man, Crazy” in 1953, and in 1954, “Shake, Rattle and Roll” reached No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart). Haley’s recording nevertheless became an anthem for rebellious Fifties youth and is widely considered to be the song that, more than any other, brought rock and roll into mainstream culture around the world. The song is ranked No. 158 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
The original full title of the song was “We’re Gonna Rock Around the Clock Tonight!”. This was later shortened to “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock”, though this form is generally only used on releases of the 1954 Bill Haley Decca Records recording; most other recordings of this song by Haley and others (including Sonny Dae) shorten this title further to “Rock Around the Clock”.
Many musicians have claimed that they performed on the recording session for “Rock Around the Clock.” The song’s co-writer, James E. Myers, once claimed he had played drums on the piece, although he also claimed to have been advising the sound mixer in the recording booth. According to the official record sheet from the session, however, the musicians on the famous recording are :
Bill Haley – vocals and rhythm guitar
Marshall Lytle – string bass
Joey Ambrose (aka Joey D’Ambrosio) – tenor saxophone
Billy Williamson – steel guitar
Johnny Grande – piano
Billy Gussak – drums
Danny Cedrone – electric guitar
Despite not being members of Bill Haley and His Comets, Gussak and Cedrone were trusted session players that Haley had used before. Cedrone’s guitar solo was one that he used before on Bill Haley And The Saddlemen’s version of “Rock the Joint” in 1952, and is considered one of the classic rock and roll guitar solos of all time. (Cedrone died in a fall down a stairway on June 17, 1954 and never lived to see his contribution become famous and legendary.) The second instrumental break recreates a popular rhythm and blues “out chorus” with tenor sax and guitar emulating the rhythm section.