Jeff Kallman's excellent The Easy Ace: A Journal of Classic Radio
is a wonderful place to spend hours on end, rediscovering the Golden Age of Radio
as it's meant to be discovered and celebrated. Article after article
is filled with a wonderful new vignette about Golden Age Radio History.
---The Digital Deli Online.

[I]n his matchless on-this-day approach to chronicling “yesteryear,”
he easily aces out a less organized mind like mine,
which promptly lapsed into a more idiosyncratic mode of relating the past.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Haley's Comet: The Way It Was, 6 June

1955---It took over a year to happen and needed a big boost, perhaps, from a film called The Blackboard Jungle, but Bill Haley and the Comets, who have been recording for quite a few years and have already cut a small handful of classic smaller-label singles (including "Rock this Joint"---said to have been the record that moved Alan Freed to call the music rock and roll---and "Crazy, Man, Crazy," among others) finally hit number one in old-time radio play with "Rock Around the Clock," written mostly by Max C. Freedman, whose previous best known composition was 1946's "Sioux City Sue."

In the interim between their original issue of "Rock Around the Clock" and its hitting the summit at last, Haley and company have already enjoyed a million selling hit, their spry cover of Big Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle and Roll." But when The Blackboard Jungle becomes a film hit, "Rock Around the Clock" takes a jaunty ride on its coattails, including eight weeks at number one on the best-seller charts, when Decca Records reissues the single . . . and it becomes the second best-selling international hit of the year, behind another Decca release: Bing Crosby's "White Christmas."

I would like to be remembered as the father of rock and roll . . . "

---Bill Haley, in one of his last known broadcast interviews.

Bill Haley is the neglected hero of early rock & roll. Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly are ensconced in the heavens, transformed into veritable constellations in the rock music firmament, their music respected by writers and scholars as well as the record-buying public, virtually every note of music they ever recorded theoretically eligible for release. And among the living rock & roll pioneers, Chuck Berry is given his due in the music marketplace and by the history books, and Bo Diddley is acknowledged appropriately in the latter, even if his music doesn't sell the way it should. Yet Bill Haley---who was there before any of them, playing rock & roll before it even had a name, and selling it in sufficient quantities out of a small Pennsylvania label to attract attention from the major labels before Presley was even recording in Memphis---is barely represented by more than a dozen of his early singles, and recognized by the average listener for exactly two songs among the hundreds that he recorded; and he's often treated as little more than a glorified footnote, an anomaly that came and went very quickly, in most histories of the music. The truth is, Bill Haley came along a lot earlier than most people realize and the histories usually acknowledge, and he went on making good music for years longer than is usually recognized.

. . .During his final years, Haley developed severe psychological problems that left him delusional at least part of the time. By the time of his death in 1981, the process of reducing his role in the history of rock & roll had already begun, partly a result of ignorance on the part of the writers handling the histories by then, and also, to a degree, as a result of political correctness; he was white, and was perceived as having exploited R&B, and there were enough people like that in the early history who had to be written about but were easier to cast as "rebels."

. . . Haley's own reputation has increased somewhat, particularly in the wake of Bear Family Records' release of two boxes covering his career from 1954 through 1969, and Roller Coaster Records' issuing of Haley's Essex Records sides. True, there are perhaps 45 songs on those 12 CDs of material that Haley should not have bothered recording, but there are hundreds more in those same collections, some of it dazzling and all of it constituting a serious body of solid, often inspired rock & roll, interspersed here and there with some good country sides. Perhaps little of the post-1957 stuff could set the whole world on fire, but Haley had already been there and done that, and still had a lot of good music to play.

---Bruce Eder, in All-Music Guide.


1944: "YOU ARE ABOUT TO EMBARK ON A GREAT CRUSADE"---So said Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower the night before, to the forces about to launch D-Day. And a nation, if not a world, hung onto those and numerous more words by their radios.

KATE SMITH---Offering a prayer for the forces.

FIBBER McGEE & MOLLY---They turned their regular half-hour NBC slot over to patriotic music.

VALIANT LADY and THE ROMANCE OF HELEN TRENT---The popular soap operas included D-Day references and war bonds notices.

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT---offered an address and a prayer.

THE NEWS---The major radio networks carry near-continuous coverage of the massive invasion.


1944: KANSAS CITY'S FAVOURITE SINGER---Discouraged George (Burns), who thinks he's just a miserable, broken-down flop, gets a letter intended for Dinah Shore by mistake---and Gracie (Allen) uses it to help cheer him up, unaware that an official decree naming Shore Kansas City's favourite singer is also going to the Burns home by mistake, on tonight's edition of The George Burns & Gracie Allen Show. (CBS.)

Dinah Shore: Herself. The Happy Postman: Mel Blanc. Tootsie Stagwell: Elvia Allman. Additional cast: Jimmy Cash, Hans Conreid, Bill Goodwin, Lawrence Nash. Music: Felix Mills Orchestra. Writers: George Burns, Hal Block, Aaron Ruben, possibly Helen Gould Harvey.

1948: QUIZ PROGRAM AND SOAP OPERA---After the Alley demimonde turns over the question of who's spending more this year than last, celebrity interviewer Jack Eigen buttonholes Fred (Allen) at the Copa . . . and lets himself get talked into trying his hand at a quiz show called Take It, Or We'll Sue, and a soap opera abstract, on tonight's edition of The Fred Allen Show. (NBC.)

Claghorn: Kenny Delmar. Titus: Parker Fennelly. Mrs. Nussbaum: Minerva Pious. Ajax Cassidy: Peter Donald. Writers: Fred Allen, Bob Weiskopf.


1898---Walter Abel (actor: Columbia Presents Shakespeare; Magic Key; Voice of the Army), St. Paul, Minnesota.
1900---Arthur Askey (comedian: Band Wagon; Music Hall; Does The Team Think?), Liverpool.
1917---Maria Montez (actress: Lux Radio Theater), Barahona, Dominican Republic.
1918---Peter Donald (comedian: The Fred Allen Show; host: Can You Top This?), Bristol, U.K.
1932---Billie Whitelaw (actress: All That Fall), Coventry, Warwickshire, U.K.


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