-----... he was 55-years-old when he died February 9, 1981.
Bill Haley is credited by many with first popularizing this form of music in the early 1950s known as “Rock and Roll” with his group Bill Haley & His Comets (inspired by Halley's Comet.) He has sold over 100 million records worldwide.
-----William John Clifton "Bill" Haley was born in Highland Park, Michigan but moved to Boothwyn, PA, when he was seven years old. Haley told the story that when he made a simulated guitar out of cardboard, his parents bought him a real one.
According to the sleeve notes accompanying the 1956 Decca album Rock Around The Clock, Haley got his first professional job at the age of 13, playing and entertaining at an auction for the fee of $1 a night. Very soon after this he formed a group and managed to get quite a few local bookings for his band.
When Bill Haley was fifteen he left home with his guitar and very little else and set out on the hard road to fame and fortune. The next few years, he worked at an open-air park show, sang and yodelled with any band that would have him and worked with a traveling medicine show. Eventually he got a job with a popular group known as the "Down Homers" while they were in Hartford, Connecticut.
During the 1940s Haley was considered one of the top cowboy yodelers in America as "Silver Yodeling Bill Haley.” The sleeve notes conclude: "For six years Bill Haley was a musical director of Radio Station WPWA in Chester, Pennsylvania, and led his own band all through this period. It was then known as Bill Haley's Saddlemen, indicating their definite leaning toward the tough Western style. They continued playing in clubs as well as over the radio around Philadelphia, and in 1951 made their first recordings."
During the Labor Day weekend in 1952, The Saddlemen were renamed Bill Haley with Haley's Comets and in 1953, Haley's recording of "Crazy Man, Crazy" (co-written by Haley) became the first rock and roll song to hit the American charts, peaking at Number 15 on Billboard and Number 11 on Cash Box. Soon after, the band's name was revised to Bill Haley & His Comets.
In 1953, a song called "Rock Around the Clock" was written for Haley. He was unable to record it until April 12, 1954. Initially, it was relatively unsuccessful, staying at the charts for only one week, but Haley soon scored a major worldwide hit with a cover version of Big Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle and Roll,” which went on to sell a million copies and became the first ever rock 'n' roll song to enter British singles charts in December 1954 and became a Gold Record.
He retained elements of the original, but threw some country music aspects in to the song (specifically, Western Swing) and cleaned up the lyrics. Haley and his band were important in launching the music known as "Rock and Roll" to a wider, mostly white audience after a period of it being considered an underground genre.
When "Rock Around the Clock" appeared behind the opening credits of the 1955 film Blackboard Jungle starring Glenn Ford, it soared to the top of the American Billboard chart for eight weeks. The single is commonly used as a convenient line of demarcation between the "rock era" and the music industry that preceded it.
Haley fought a battle with alcohol into the 1970s. Nonetheless, he and his band continued to be a popular touring act, enjoying a career resurgence in the late 1960s with the Rock and roll revival movement and the signing of a lucrative record deal with the European Sonet Records label.
After performing for Queen Elizabeth II at a command performance in 1979, Haley made his final performances in South Africa in May and June 1980. Prior to the South African tour, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and a planned tour of Germany in the fall of 1980 was canceled.
Bill Haley recorded prolifically during the 1940s, often at the radio stations where he worked, or in formal studio settings. Virtually none of these recordings were ever released.
Haley was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. Haley's original Comets still tour the world. They released a concert DVD in 2004 on Hydra Records.