THE TWO-BOOKS-SPANNING BILL HALEY
BIOGRAPHY PUBLISHED BY BOOKS ON DEMAND:
Bill Haley - The Father of Rock & Roll Book 1
Paperback: 570 pages
Publisher: Books on Demand (June 13, 2016)
Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.3 inches
Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
Bill Haley - The Father of Rock & Roll Book 2
Paperback: 570 pages
Publisher: Books on Demand (June 13, 2016)
Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.2 x 8.3 inches
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Otto Fuchs – Bill Haley
If Elvis has Peter Guralnick in his camp, then it is fair to say that Bill Haley has Otto Fuchs on his side. Ironically, I had just put down “Last train to Memphis” when I received the equally impressive “The Father of Rock'n'roll” (in two volumes!) and if I was initially intimidated by the sheer size of the work, I was quickly drawn into a highly addictive biography of Bill Haley.
Like most – I must confess – I was, until picking up the first part, familiar mostly with Haley's Essex and Decca output, and relatively ignorant about his later years and the rest of his career. A lack of knowledge that this exhaustive work was about to address...
Before we embark on the journey through the life and times of the father of rock'n'roll, let me just set the score straight – we're not going to merely go through the life story of Bill Haley and give a condensed version of Otto's book; my aim is rather to analyse and discuss important aspects of Bill's career.
Our subject was born in 1925 in Highland Park, Michigan and moved with his parents to Pennsylvania where he spent much of his childhood – these facts in themselves set him aside from most other stars of the rock'n'roll era of the 50s: he was their senior by about ten years (after all, Presley was born in 1935), and was a “Yankee” rather than a southerner...
So how did Haley craft his unique sound, and when did the bandwagon become unstoppable? As the author aptly points out, Bill, growing up in the north of the USA, was exposed to a slightly different type of country music. While most in the south were honing their skills on fast paced “mountain” music, later called “bluegrass”, northerners were subjected to a slightly different rendition. Here, the rhythm was toned down and the tunes were milder, more polished.
The likes of Hank Williams and his tales of heartache and drinking were not as popular as smoother ballads; the harder, “honky tonk” elements popularised by Irish immigrants were, in northern parts, nowhere near as appreciated as the milder sounds of the “Singing Cowboys”.
The visual element favoured by the stars of the day (Garish western suits, with bold colours and embroideries) also had a profound impact on the young Haley, and would remain with him for the rest of his career; looking at the many illustrations, it is evident that from the first western band outfits to the later matching jackets, the style of early country music stars made an impact on him.
It wasn't long before William Clifton started off with the Down Homers and the Range Drifters, and taking the “plunge”, going professional under the tutelage of Jack Howard, the founder of Cowboy records.
Touring soon began, and bookings saw a young Bill criss crossing the country. These travels exposed him to the varied musical tastes of America's “minorities”, a fact vividly captured by Otto Fuchs. The starting point of the journey, in Chicago, gave him an opportunity to play regularly on WLS' “National Barn Dance” and hone his skills with Hank Williams and Red Foley.
In the spring of '46, the Down Homers moved to the somewhat seedier honky tonks of Oklahoma where our aspiring rock'n'roll stars were simultaneously exposed to hillbilly sounds of booze, fights and heartache while also getting acquainted with the sounds of rhythm'n'blues with the likes of Louis Jordan.
After this short sting, the road took them to Chuck Berry's home town, Saint Louis where the travelling band discovered more rhythm'n'blues, this time frequenting clubs where Haley “noticed the wiggling of the pelvis by black vocalists and the sexually suggestive lyrics” (p. 74).
Next, the boys were off to Texas (where a rich musical tradition blending different styles, namely western swing won them over) and finally ending in New Orleans before the band broke up in late 1946.
So end the first important part of Bill Haley's musical career – and a first part of his biography, which Otto chooses to close with an epilogue entitled “End of the dream?”
Luckily for us, the dream does not end here, and this relatively short period can actually be seen as a prologue; or, in other words, a “taste of things to come”. Over the course of these first 80 odd pages, the author delivers the good in an informative yet pleasant way. The narrative is well written and lively; the facts are brought to life in a way that sets the work aside from other more “conventional” biographies. All the better, as I was only getting to grips with the life and times of Bill Haley – and about to embark on the next part of the journey!
Bill Haley... the father of rockabilly?
For a lot of us, the fiery brand of music was born – almost by accident – during the hot summer of '54 in Memphis Tennessee; others may see earlier efforts such as Hank Williams' “Move it on over” as a starting point, but not so, according to the author: the idiom was created by Bill Haley during his stint on Dave Miller's “Essex” label. A bold statement, but, as the reader is about to discover, also a credible one.
The second phase of Haley's career begins closer to home, in Chester (Pennsylvania), at WPWA radio, and will see him moving ever closer to an “integrated” sound with first of all the Four Aces of Western Swing, later followed by the Saddlemen and finally... the Comets.
Back to our “radio days”, though. Picture this: the small station known as WPWA was created by Jewish businessman Lou Pollar was providing entertainment for all the diverse communities and catering for all the different tastes. Blacks, whites, middle class, working class, and generally speaking immigrants from all backgrounds had their respective tastes represented. It is in this climate tat the Four Aces became the house band in 1948.
After a short while, Haley went on to form the Saddlemen and even started experimenting with drums as early as 1950. The text, augmented by lively reminiscences of significant players of this era, vividly conveys the impression (and excitement) that at the dawn of the new decade, things were starting to move at a faster pace and a lot of musicians, including Bill, were searching for a new sound. Without knowing exactly what they were after, they started experimenting and exploring new ways of playing.
The whole thing was made easier with the emergence of new technologies such as widely available 78 rpm records, later followed by the 45 rpm “micro groove” revolution and the explosion in radio broadcasting, a fact often over looked but very rightly addressed by Otto.
And this, in my opinion, is what makes one of the great strengths of this book: while having opinions and beliefs about Haley, the author never lets the narrative descend into such sterile debates as “Who invented rock'n'roll”, “What is the first rock'n'roll song”, “Who is the real king of rock'n'roll”, etc. A great exercise in modesty and restraint, for which the reader will be grateful!
But back to the halcyon days of the turn of the decade for now – more precisely to 1951, when the Saddlemen produced their first claim to rockabilly: a cover of Rocket 88 for the holiday label.
The book describes the feverish atmosphere and the sheer anticipation in which the sound was created, reminding us of the element of surprise for Bill Haley himself. While playing the local clubs, his blend of uptempo music, using a slap bass to add extra rhythm started to appeal to the crowds. For example, there is a great description of Haley turning in amusement to his band, after playing Gloucester, New Jersey, and exclaiming “What have I done...?” (p. 138).
But the desire to create a new sound really materialised when the band was signed to Dave Miller's “Essex” label in April 1952.
Commercial success came, but, most relevant to this part of the biography, the Essex output marks the arrival of rockabilly with numbers such as “Rock this joint”, “Dance with a dolly” or “Rockin' chair on the moon”. And the claim holds, as all the components are present: white musicians, raised on straight country but looking for a new sound; not knowing exactly in which direction to head, but firmly inspired by rhythm'n'blues; the presence of a slap bass to accentuate the rhythm in up tempo songs... So it is fair play to conclude this section by saying that Dave Miller is one of the unsung heroes of mid century America!
Rock around the clock
In November 1952, the band underwent yet another transformation and dropped the name Saddlemen in favour of the Comets. By early 53, they added a permanent drummer to the band, thus gradually starting to move from rockabilly towards a more rock'n'roll sound.
The long road eventually led to the recording of Rock around the Clock on April 12th, 1954, arguably the most important day of Bill Haley's career. But how exactly did it all unfold, what were the inspirations and forces behind the song?
Again, Otto takes great pride in tracing the history of the hit, in order to make the reader understand that it was not merely a musical “UFO” coming from nowhere, but rather a piece deeply rooted in tradition.
In a masterful insight, we are taken all the way back to... the 16th century to explore the origins and meaning of “blues” and its evolution into the earlier parts of the 20th century where everything with the word blues attached to it seemed to to become popular in the recorded world.
From there, events very similar to what would happen during the fifties started unfolding: record pressing plants could barely cope with the demand, major record companies scrambled to find blues singers to add to their rosters all in a very american over the top climate! The rhythm element that gave way to rhythm'n'blues was only one step away (the term rock'n'roll was first used in 1922). By the late 40s, big jazz ensembles were starting to give way to smaller, tighter jump blues combos. Far from me the idea to give a course in music history, but it was in these settings that the Haley sound was forged – again, something very well explained by the author. If going centuries back to explain the emergence of a certain song may seem excessive to some, it is done in the style that the reader will now be familiar with: informative, yet highly enjoyable!
As for the lyrics, it seems that clocks were a recurrent fixture in early jump blues – once more something vividly brought to life by Mr. Fuchs. From the mid 1920s onwards, clocks seem to be regularly picked upon in the risque lyrics of up tempo blues numbers... Something that obviously did not go unnoticed by Max Freedman and Jimmy De Knight, the authors behind the “national anthem” of rock'n'roll...
I will not go into the details of the song and how it was crafted – after all, Otto does it better than most of us could, but I found this part on its roots and its social and cultural background most interesting, and criminally overlooked in other studies about Haley or 1950s music in general.
The next question I feel is important is “how did Rock Around the Clock achieve worldwide notoriety?
Of course, the song will forever be linked to the film “Black board Jungle”; who will ever forget the opening credits, showing Glenn Ford, the new teacher, arriving at a tough inner city school, while the anthem plays in the background?
To answer this, our author has given Ford's son, Peter, the opportunity to explain, in the most charming possible way. As the book is only loosely based on a chronological ordering, the story only appears on page 344, but it is well worth the wait. The recollections are full of details on Peter's childhood (he was 9 years old at the time), and can only bring us to understand how a small, every day, seemingly unimportant gesture can have an impact which goes well beyond our comprehension...
As Peter explains, he was an avid music fan in these early days and had already started buying singles; one that particularly caught his attention was “Rock around the Clock”. As he recollects, he was unimpressed by the A side (“Thirteen Women”), but he regularly played the livelier B side. And on the day the producer for “Blackboard Jungle” (Richard Brooks) came to visit his father to discuss subjects relating to the film, Peter took the single out of its sleeve, placed it on the record player, dropped the needle onto the opening grooves and... as they say, the rest is history!
These very simple moves, done probably without even thinking, had the effect of a tidal wave for Bill Haley, and indeed rock'n'roll.
Later intrigued about how exactly the song found its way to the film, Peter started investigating; he found the producers, Pandro Berman and Richard Brooks as well as their children; by process of elimination, he soon found out that the nine year old kid he was in '54 played an important part in the birth of rock'n'roll without knowing it!
This leads (very smoothly) to our next part: Bill Haley at the movies.
Unlike Elvis, it looks like Bill had no real desire to become a genuine actor; with hindsight, we can see the disastrous effect that Hollywood had on Presley, and can only commend Haley for not trying to be the next James Dean.
Nonetheless, he burst out on the american scene with Blackboard Jungle, only to be followed by two quickie, rock'n'roll exploitation flicks (“Rock Around the Clock” and “Don't knock the Rock”).
The first cinematic exponent caused mass hysteria, but also linked rock'n'roll to juvenile delinquency, and showed the darker side of the music: gone was the joyous, spontaneous element; this time, it had become the anthem of a corrupt youth, whose moral compass was long broken...
The following efforts include cameo roles in musical films aimed at a teenage audience, destined to cash in on the latest craze. To name but a few, “Here I am, here I stay”, or Mexican efforts such as “Ritmo de twist” and “Besito a Papa”.
If these pictures are mostly forgettable, it seems that the seventies played an important part in the legacy of Haley and his Comets. During this time, many films and TV series played his songs; some in part, some in full, some in the background and some more prominently. This was enough to ensure the singer's notoriety well into the 21st century and turn him into an instantly recognisible figure complete with the trade mark kiss curl and paid jacket. One of the best examples being the hugely popular “American Graffiti” with “Rock around the clock” playing during the opening credits – with the equally iconic “Mel's Diner” in the background.
Bill Haley... father of the revival?
Haley also played a huge part in two movies that helped shape the revival of the seventies: first the “London rock'n'roll show” (filmed in 1972) and the later “Blue Suede Shoes” (shot in 1978).
As early as the late '60s, renewed interest in rock'n'roll started happening (as proved by second lease of life given to “Rock around the clock” in the British charts in 1968) – but it took an event like the one filmed at Wembley to make everyone understand that this type of music was undergoing a full fledged revival and was more than just a passing fad. If the hot August day gathered all types (dapper teddy boys can be seen digging the sounds alongside long haired greasers and hippies), it seems that all the different tribes of Great Britain were unanimous when Bill Haley, dressed in a yellow jacket, treated them to “Shake rattle & roll”, “See you later alligator” and, of course, “Rock around the clock”.
Along with originals like Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill played an important part in bringing it all back from the brink of extinction!
Our next production finds him and his band once again in England, this time in 1978.
The BBC documentary, narrated by the late Stuart Coleman, chronicles one of the first rock'n'roll festivals held at Caister (“off the wet and windy east coast”, as described by the BBC DJ!) and has exceptional footage of Crazy Cavan, Ray Campi, Flying Saucers, Graham Fenton – but Haley gets the lion's share of this film, as he appears at the beginning (with original footage of his '57 UK tour) and at the end (not at Caister, but at London's “Royalty Club”), adored by hundreds of fans. This time, the public has evolved, and the long haired types of the earlier parts of the decade have given way to more teddy boys, and a new breed of “rockabilly rebels”.
Bill Haley: a detailed discography
The first volume of the biography of rock'n'roll's “big daddy” can be roughly divided into two parts, a first one about the life and times of Haley, and a second, which we are about to go through, dedicated to his monumental discography.
Not an easy task, as Bill's recorded legacy spans many decades, covers different musical styles and influences and a variety of labels (14 in total!)
The reader is treated to a detailed account in chronological order, but the author uses an innovative approach, making this a very informative part. Instead of listing endless session details (including dates, locations, musicians, etc.), he prefers a less rigid approach, making it much easier and enjoyable to read.
The “Cowboy” recordings
A logical starting point, Otto only gives an account of this first recording period over 6 pages – a good choice, considering that these early takes are perhaps not wholly representative of the Haley sound and will appeal mainly to completists – nevertheless highlighting the importance of country artists (such as Roy Acuff) on the young William.
The Essex & Decca years
Fast forward to 1`951 – and Bill's rock'n'roll career begins with his cover of “Rocket 88”. And so begins the second part (and arguably most important) part of Haley's discography.
The fascinating account describes the slow transition from a “country” sound to rockabilly and the subsequent transformation into rock'n'roll: back in '52, the guys blurred the musical conventions with treats such as “Dance with a dolly” and upped the game a short while later by introducing a saxophone on songs such as “Live it up” and “Farewell, so long, good bye”.
The song by song approach that follows is a very original approach, as it drops the more repetitive elements usually found in such works and highlights how the many times Haley rerecorded his hits in later years – an aspect easily overlooked by more conventional discographies.
By 1954, the Comets were unstoppable – and the hits started rolling. All the major songs are mentioned in vivid detail in this section “Shake rattle & roll”, (which was, for example given a new lease of life in 1960 for Warner Brothers, in '66 for Orfeon and in '68 for Sonet) “Dim dim the lights”, “Razzle dazzle”, “Rock a beatin' boogie”, “Later alligator”, amongst others.
The latter part of the decade, however, saw the slow yet inexorable decline of Bill Haley – the reasons are multiple and have been studied many times; one thing is certain, though: the father of rock'n'roll started innovating when he felt things slipping away. Interestingly, one of the things he is credited with, in this part, is the invention of... the concept album.
Bill Haley... Father of the concept album?
The idea may generally associated to drug fuelled, long haired late 1960s artists – but you read right, Bill Haley and his gang invented the “concept” album!
During Haley's heyday, the preferred medium for rock'n'roll music was the 45 rpm single; widely available and relatively cheap, it could be found anywhere; the “long play” 33 rpm record was vastly neglected by fans of the genre (even Sam Phillips was known to have a personal aversion), so it is no surprise that brave first efforts by artists like Elvis or Gene Vincent resulted in eclectic collections of songs rather than coherent “albums”: The king's first was a mixture of 7 new RCA takes and 5 unissued Sun masters; as for the Norfolk cat, his “Blue Jean Bop” is watered down by fillers such as “Waltz of the wind” or “Peg o' my heart”. Hard to imagine the bequiffed greasers of the day going wild over these selections...
By 1957, Haley's popularity with teenagers was on the wane, and he had to think carefully about his nest move. In a stroke of genius, he thought of bridging the gap between the young and the old by recording... an LP on which all entries would share a common theme: they would be rocked up versions of existing traditional songs. The sixteen numbers were compiled on a record entitled “Rockin' the Oldies” and included such goodies as “The Dipsy Doodle”, “Ain't misbehavin'” and “Moon over Miami”. It may not have had the success expected by producers at Decca, but it did not deter Haley and his Comets from recording a second concept album, this time saluting different countries around the world, “Rockin' around the world”. An album quickly followed by... a third concept platter, “Bill \haley's chicks” - this time, the thread is girl's names; even if none hit the top layers of the charts, it is hard not to mention gems such as “Dinah”, !Mary, Mary Lou” or “Marie”.
Yet another thing that sets the “Big Daddy” ahead of the pack – very well spotted by our eagle eyed author, who leaves no stone unturned.
1959 marks the last year of Bill with the major label Decca. The stint ended on a quite note; the recordings, even if more than good, failed to make an impact on the charts.
The sixties: rockin' on Warner Brothers and taking Mexico by Storm!
The dawn of the new decade saw a quick stint with the newly formed Warner Brothers label between 1960 and 61. The tenure saw a couple of long players, including one with distinct country accents, but it is the next part of the decade that will be of true interest to the Haley reader: having had a few problems with the tax man, our man moved south of the border until 1966, where, under the name “Bill Haley Y sus Cometas”, he worked for the Orfeon, Dimsa and Maya labels. This period saw the release of 9 long players, 4 extended plays and 18 singles. Some in Spanish, some in English; some plain instrumentals, most unashamedly exploiting dance crazes of the day (Twist, surf, etc.)
Into the sixties and seventies
For the next 30 pages or so, the reader will be taken on a tour of Bill's later recorded output- if the major part saw him with the Swedish label Sonet, he nonetheless lent his talent to New Town Records, ABC Paramount, United Artists, Kama Sutra and Buddah records.
The material released on these labels consists of a variety of styles, from country (“Bill Haley's Jukebox”, his second LP for Warner), to a live recording (Roulette's 1962 “Twistin' Knights of the Round Table”).
If Bill found more stability when signing with Sonet, in 1968, it is apparent that his recording career was dogged by endless revised versions of previous hits; on the occasion he was given a bit more latitude, his talent shone through and he proved that he still was a force to be reckoned with. The album “Rock around the country”, released in 1970, is a good example: it opens with a thinly veiled copy of “Rock around the Clock” entitled “Dance around the clock”, but it soon evolves into a great mixture of covers (John Fogerty's “Travellin' Band” & “Who'll stop the rain” and Kris Kristofferson's “Me and Bobby McGee”) and new songs like “Games people play” or “Pink eyed Pussycat”. The record is made even more worthwile by the addition of the ballad “A little piece at a time” and the two great uptempo rockers (which could be used as club jivers...?) that respectively close both sides, “There's a new moon over my shoulder” and “No letter today”.
The other noteworthy album to be released in the 70s is “Live in London '74”, where, in scenes reminiscent of Bill's tour of the British Isles in '57, he can be heard rocking the Hammersmith Palais with all the Haley classics.
The life and times of Bill Haley, continued
After this detailed discography, the reader is thrust back into the events surrounding Haley's career, with a recap on his raucous early days to his heyday on April 12th, 1956... exactly 2 years after “Rock around the clock” was recorded! By then, Decca had already sold several million records, hundreds of fan clubs had sprung up around the world... but storm clouds were gathering on the horizon, namely in the form of an anti rock'n'roll backlash. The outraged citizens of “mid America” were not about to cave in without a fight and let the devil's music take over!
The narrative in next section of the book goes well beyond the life of Haley, (in a conventional biography sense), as it draws upon Bill's diary (which he held on a religious daily basis during the fifties), to examine the impact the music had upon the USA (and the rest of the world) – and believe me, this is the most fascinating part yet...
The first memorable event to be discussed is the tour that Bill and the Comets headlined in 1956, simply called “Biggest Rock'n'roll Show of '56”. It was a ground breaking effort, in that the line up included an “integrated” bill (with both black and white artists, such as Roy Hamilton, the Platters, or Joe Turner) and played dated throughout the segregated south.
Over the next few pages, the reader is drawn into the disjointed and chaotic action and atmosphere surrounding one of the first “rock tours”: long before the sleek, well timed, rehearsed and overproduced (and somehow underwhelming) shows that we might be subjected to nowadays, Bill Haley, his Comets and associated acts became trailblazers and were the first to be submitted to life on the road. In a vivid account, we are taken on a raucous ride throughout mid century American landscape – which includes badly organised journeys, long drives and bus rides, oversold concerts where wild teenagers had to be turned away in scenes of mass hysteria and near riots, and menacing locals throughout the mid-south unwilling to accept the new type of music – including members of the Ku Klux Klan trying to bomb a venue in Greenville, South Carolina...
The mixture of Otto's writing and Bill's diary entries acts like a precious time capsule and catapults the willing reader to the mid 50's – better than a film can do!
Bill Haley... father of the message song?
In all this turmoil, our subject found himself the unlikely spokesperson for the new emerging phenomenon in American society, the “teenager”. After a moral backlash against youth culture (especially of the musical kind!), Haley lent his voice to the cause of America's young by recording “Teenager's Mother” on July 12th, 1956. Far from the usual topics of rock'n'roll songs of the day, the song tried to explain to grown up “squares” what the new kind of music was about, and why it was no worse than what had previously been done, like the Charleston. Once again, it looks like Haley was a good decade or so ahead of his time!
No matter what, the new “teen beat” was sending shock waves throughout the world, so much so that then USSR leader Nikita Khrouchtchev even commented on it – prompting Haley to comment that he was the first one to get the Catholics, Protestants, the KKK, the Communists, the Press, Frank Sinatra, and adults over 25 to agree on something... they unanimously hated the music!
Bill Haley: to infinity and beyond!
After touring the USA, it wasn't long until the band attracted foreign interest – and unlike Presley, capitalised on it. As soon as 1957 dawned, Bill & the gang travelled to Australia for “The Big Show”, which would expose many a youngster from down under to the sounds of the Comets, Lavern Baker, Joe Turner and Freddie Bell and the Bellboys.
After a short respite, it was off to the United Kingdom – the triumphant arrival at Southampton was well documented (and excerpts can be seen at the beginning of the classic documentary “Blue Suede Shoes”). This time, despite the hype, the tour was (it is worthy to note!) less than rocking: Haley only played short sets, supported by acts such as Desmond Laine, Earl & Vaughan or the Vic Lewis Orchestra... this did not seem to deter young fans of the big beat, who turned out in their droves and packed all the venues!
If the father of rock'n'roll was losing ground at home to newer sensations, he was still in very high demand across the world – as demonstrated by successful tours of Latin America (with many dates in Brazil), shortly followed by dates in Europe: France, Austria, Belgium and an infamous, doomed tour of West Germany dogged by chaotic scenes of rioting in major cities – again described by the author with vivid accuracy.
The beginning of the end
As we finally find ourselves at the end of the first volume of this unique biography, an important question arises: why,and indeed how, did the Haley bandwagon come to a stop? Many theories have been put forward, from Bill's age (compared to that of younger rockers) and his tamer, more sedate look to his choice of material or management decisions.
According to the narrative, the seeds of the downfall are none of the above – but can be traced right back to the beginning of the Comets and a unique business model that saw certain band members classed as “partners” and others not, which resulted in huge pay discrepancies. As soon as the band hit pay dirt, the partners (being paid according to record ales), started earning substantially more than “non partners” - which led to a split and the creation of the Jodimars. The high personnel turnover in the band led to a certain instability which hindered the Comets in the long run as Bill had to focus on recruiting new musicians rather than spending time finding new material or setting up tour dates.
And on this note... the first volume of Bill Haley ends. What was supposed to be just a regular “rock'n'read” feature (one page, max!) turned out to be a full article... To wrap it up, what can I say? If I was a high school teacher, I'd give this work an “A++” report, but only being a fanzine reviewer, I'd like to say that all the rock'n'roll scene needs is more of Otto Fuchs!
Next: a review of “Bill Haley, the father of Rock'n'roll”, volume 2, the rock'n'roll revival years and Bill Haley's legacy.
Ray Liffen (Pipeline Instrumental Magazine - #107) (2018)
„Nobody likes rock & roll – except the people.“ That was Bill Haley quoted in 1956 at a time when rock & roll had set the teenage world on fire but the establishment (politicians and preachers)) were trying to have it suppressed.
From a background of country & western in the 1940s he gradually incorporated more & more the features of black rhythm & blues into his sound. Not just with an increasingly heavy backbeat on the „2s and 4s“, but adding drums and saxophone tot he originial rhythm guitar / steel guitar / piano / double-bass line-up. Then, on April 12th 1954, in the last 30 minutes of his first recording sesssion with a new label, Decca, he recorded a song that would become the first international rock & roll hit and has remained in the reportoire of popluar music ever since.
That song was of course Rock Around The Clock by Bill Haley & His Comets, a 12-bar in they key of A. The studio, the Pythian Temple in New York, had a great natural reverb. The mix, by another producer Milt Gabler, was better than everything they´d had done before. The rhythm was driven not by the drums, but by the slapped bass with that click high in the mix. There was a „flying finger“ guitar solo by session player Danny Cedrone, that guitarists still try, and usually fail, to emulate. Above it all there was Haley, already 28 years old but ever-hopeful making it big, telling everyone to „have some fun when the clock strikes one.“
How did he get there? What happened afterwards? Why was he dead by the age of 55? In two books, each over 500 pages long, Otto Fuchs lays out Bill´s life from the early beginnings through the great years when he was selling million of records and playing sell-out concerts around the world to those last, sad times when drink was his best friend when he tried to relive past glories.
An immense amount of work has gone into these books – checking facts, finding pictures and, of course, conducting interviews. And what interviews! Part 1 has a number, including with original Comets Marshall Lytle, Dick Richards, and Joey D´Ambrosio. There´s also an interview with Peter Ford (and if you don´t know why he is important, you need to read the book).
Part 1 takes Bill & The Saddlemen and then The Comets, from the early years up tot he 1950s. Part 2 covers the 60´s, the 70s´s and the early 80´s and has many more interviews, both with musicians who formed The Comets in those years and with some of Bill´s children. The musician interviews go into a lot of depth so we instrumental lovers can read about the guitars used and in some cases the amplifiers. Did you know that Bill & The Comets recorded a whole album of instrumentals? So many musicians´ biographies tell you all about their private life but are thin on details of the music and the gigs. Not here. There is a lot of detail about the recordings, the concerts and, very unsually, there are plenty of set lists. There are also indexes of albums, songs and movies.
That session in 1954 has assured Bill´s place in musical history. This books tell the whole story and fill in many gaps not covered in previous writings.
Ulrich K. Baues (Country Mag - Online Mag for Music and More)
Der Band 2 dieser umfangreichen Arbeit über Bill Haley fand bereits an geeigneter Stelle seine Berücksichtigung (s. Country-Mag vom 26. Januar 2017), da soll nun auch das Einstiegsbuch natürlich nicht übergangen werden. Hier berichtet der Autor über die Anfänge von Bill Haleys musikalischem Werdegang, also über seine ersten musikalischen Formationen, in denen Country & Western auf dem Programm stand. Damals, in den vierziger Jahren, gab es nicht unbedingt nur rosige Zeiten für den jungen Musiker aus Pennsylvania. Die spätere Entwicklung hin zur Gründung der Comets, und die ersten Erfolge mit Schallplattenaufnahmen, lassen sich hier gut nachvollziehen. Auch wenn man den weiteren Werdegang sicherlich zumindest in groben Zügen kennen dürfte, lesen sich die Schilderungen über den „Ausbruch“ des Rock & Roll spannend. Der Film „Blackboard Jungle“ (Saat der Gewalt) transportierte den Song „Rock Around the Clock“ um den Erdball, und natürlich wurden Bill Haley und seine Comets nun zu gefeierten Stars. Es gab nun Spielfilme wie „Rock Around the Clock“ (Außer Rand und Band), in denen die Musiker selbst auftraten, und sogar in Deutschland baute man die Band in den Caterina-Valente-Film „Hier bin ich, hier bleibe ich“ ein. Bei Konzerten kam es zu tumultartigen Szenen. Weitere Singles der Musiker verkauften sich ebenfalls ordentlich. Doch dem steilen Weg nach oben folgte dann ein langsamer Weg abwärts, als weitere Hits ausblieben. Man erfährt noch über Haleys Vorliebe für Mexiko, die ihn unter anderem auch aus steuerlichen Gründen zu einem Umzug in dieses Land bewog. Er konnte dort mit seinen Comets („y sus Cometas“) seine Rolle als Superstar noch einige weitere Jahre festigen. All diese und noch unzählige weitere sicherlich nicht jedermann bekannte Einzelheiten bietet dieses Buch. Die ausreichenden s/w-Illustrationen lockern die Schilderungen auf. Der Text ist auch hierbei in englischer Sprache gehalten.Buch: Bill Haley – The Father of Rock’n‘Roll
Ulrich K. Baues (Country Mag - Online Mag for Music and More)
Buch: Bill Haley – The Father of Rock’n‘Roll – Band 2
Mit der ursprünglich als Country & Western-Formation gegründeten Band the Comets startete Bill Haley quasi die nachhaltigste musikalische Revolution der fünfziger Jahre, genannt Rock & Roll. Dies ist der zweite Teil einer sehr umfangreichen Arbeit über ihn, den Vater des Rock & Roll, Bill Haley. Der Text ist trotz des deutschen Verlages samt entsprechender ISBN-Kennung komplett in englischer Sprache gehalten. Der Österreicher Otto Fuchs trug hier unzählige Informationen und Interviews zusammen, die zu einem ungewöhnlich detaillierten Bild des 1981 viel zu früh verstorbenen Musikers führen. Viele Personen aus dem Umfeld kommen zu Wort, und darunter seine Comets, die natürlich aus erster Hand berichten konnten. Anspielungen auf Bills Alkoholproblem werden präzisiert, und auch die Steuerschulden des Musikers kommen ans Tageslicht. Interessant ist auch das Interview mit Bills jüngster Tochter Gina, die sich musikalisch der Country & Rockabilly Music widmet. Wenn man so will, behandelt dieser zweite Teil die sechziger und siebziger Jahre, mit den legendären Auftritten im Hamburger Star-Club, und den späteren – gefeierten – Europatourneen. Dass sich Bill Haley und die Beatles begegneten, wird ebenfalls bestätigt. Es gibt dazu die ausführlichen Listen mit den Auftrittsorten, nicht ausschließlich in Europa, sondern auch weltweit, Mehrere Comebackversuche werden beschrieben, darunter auch die Aufnahmen Ende der sechziger Jahre in Nashville, und natürlich die 1974 erneut in den britischen und den US-Charts plazierte Aufnahme von „Rock Around the Clock“. Andere Versuche, wieder im Musikgeschäft Fuß zu fassen, blieben leider erfolglos. Ein weiterer Part des Buches widmet sich dem Werdegang der Comets nach Haleys Tod. Fotos sind zahlreich im Text eingestreut, allesamt in s/w, manche von sehr schöner Qualität, bei einigen sieht man dagegen, wie der Zahn der Zeit auch an solchen Aufnahmen nagt.
Dynamite Magazin Nr. 06 / 2014
Die vorliegende Bill Haley – Enzyklopädie wurde schon in der DYNAMITE Ausgabe Nr. 72 vorgestellt. Da Otto Fuchs offenbar keine Ruhe fand und das ultimative Komplettwerk über den Rock ´n´ Roll Übervater erschaffen wollte, hat er noch mal eine aktualisierte Auflage nachgelegt.
Die ohnehin schon pralle Ausgabe von fast 900 Seiten wurde auf 1070 Seiten aufgestockt, das Buchcover angenehm umgestaltet. Der Kern der Neuauflage bleibt derselbe Haleys gesamtes Schaffen mit allen nur erdenklichen Details wird durchleuchtet, dass einem der Rock ´n´ Roll-Kopf brummt. Darüber hinaus gibt diese Publikation noch einmal einen aktualiserten Blick auf die Aktivitäten der noch verbleibenden Comets und enthält Interviews mit Bills Söhnen John, William und Pedro Haley. Wer die erste Ausgabe bereits besitzt, braucht diesen erweiterten Druck nicht zwingend. Wer immer auch den Rock ´n´ Roll erfunden erfunden haben mag. Bill ließ ihn nicht im Stich und hat bis zuletzt für ihn gekämpft. Read around the clock!
Badener Zeitung - 23/04/15
Wenigen seines Alters werden Namen wie Jive Bunny, Buddy Holly oder Bill Haley noch etwas sagen, doch Otto Fuchs hat aus Begeisterung für den Rock´n Roll eine ausführliche Biographie über Bill Haley geschrieben, mit Unterstützung der noch lebenden Freunde und Verwandten des „Father of Rock´n Roll“. Der BZ erzählt er von der Entstehung.
Als Bill Haley 1981 starb, war Otto Fuchs gerade zweieinhalb Jahre alt, lebte im steirischen Mariazell und die typische Musik im Hotel seiner Großeltern war nicht Rock´n Roll. Aber im Fernsehen gab es „Die großen 10“, die Hitparade mit Udo Huber. Hier hörte Fuchs zum ersten Mal „Rock Around The Clock“ von Bill Haley. Ohne Bill Haley noch zu kennen, war er von der Musik sofort begeistert; den Namen des „Father of Rock´n Roll“ sieht er im dazu passenden Musikvideo. Das war 1989.
„Anfangs haben mir nur seine großen Hits gefallen. Erst 1992 – ich war 14 – habe ich in Baden ein paar Rockabillys kennen gelernt. Wir haben auch Elvis gehört, aber ich bin bei Bill Haley hängen geblieben“, erzählt Otto Fuchs. „Im selben Jahr durfte ich mir bei unserem USA-Urlaub einige Städte aussuchen, die ich sehen wollte. Da war wegen Elvis natürlich Memphis/Tennessee dabei, Lubbock/Texas, das Grab von Buddy Holly und Highland Park/Michigan, wo Bill Haley 1925 zur Welt gekommen ist. Es gab aber keinen Hinweis auf ihn; wir haben an der Adresse seiner Eltern gesucht, aber da war nichts.“ Im nächsten Jahr fuhr Otto Fuchs noch einmal in die USA, nach Boothwyn/Pennsylvenia, wo Bill Haley sein Haus „Melody Manor“ gebaut hatte. „Es schien, als wäre er in Amerika in Vergessenheit geraten.“
Für Fuchs war es damals sehr schwierig, etwas über Bill Haley zu erfahren. „Es gab nur drei Bücher über ihn, mit wenigen Informationen. Erst mit dem Internet wurde es möglich, Leute zu googeln.“ So kam der Kontakt mit Bill Turner – Haleys Gitar-isten – zustande. „Das war das erste ernsthafte Interview! Nach vielen Jahren ist es mir 2011 endlich gelungen, persönlichen Kontakt zu Bill Haleys Tochter Gina und ihrem Bruder Pedro zu bekommen. Nach und nach traf ich mich mit weiteren Familienmitgliedern und Haleys ehemaligen Musikern.“
Die erste, weit nicht so umfangreiche Biographie in deutscher Sprache war kein großer Erfolg. Um Bill Haley, der heuer 90 Jahre alt geworden wäre, in Amerika wieder in Erinnerung zu bringen, hat Otto Fuchs sein neues, sehr ausführliches Werk (1071 Seiten!) in Englisch verfasst. „Ich will keine große Zielgruppe ansprechen, glaube aber, dass es in Großbritannien noch viele Fans gibt“, erklärt Fuchs.
Dass Otto Fuchs vom – wie er sagt – „Prototyp des Rock´n Roll Sängers, der den Rock´n Roll erst in den Hitparaden platziert hat“, begeistert ist, zeigen nicht nur seine Frisur und Kleidung, sondern auch die Akribie, mit der er für dieses Buch recherchierte. Seine Leidenschaft hat ihn auch zu zwei Radiostationen geführt, für die er im Internet wöchentlich Rock´n Roll und Rockabilly moderiert. (Für interessierte: Rockitradio und Rockabilly-Radio).
Die eingeschworene Gemeinschaft der Teddyboys und Teddygirls – eine Subkultur in England, „die viel dazu beigetragen hat, dass der Rock´n Roll in Großbritannien nicht ausgestorben ist“ – wäre ein Thema, dessen sich Otto Fuchs auch noch gerne annehmen würde: „Mal schauen, ob es was wird.“
Badener Autor auf den Spuren von Rock ´n´ Roll Legende
Tochter von Bill Haley besuchte Otto Fuchs
Mit “Bill Haley – Father of Rock ´n´ Roll” veröffentlichte der Badener Otto Fuchs eine 896 Seiten starke Biographie über die Rock ´n´ Roll – Legende. Kommende Woche wird er gemeinsam mit Bill Haley´s jüngster Tochter Gina das Buch im Rahmen eines Festivals in Großbritannien der Öffentlichkeit präsentieren. Zuvor legte Gina Haley einen Zwischenstopp in Baden ein, wo sie sich von der anstrengenden Anreise aus Texas im Hotel Schloss Weikersdorf erholte.
Bereits in jungen Jahren entdeckte Otto Fuchs seine Leidenschaft für Rock ´n´ Roll. Im zarten Alter von 14 verfasste er Artikel für bekannte Fachmagazine und blieb dem Rock ´n´ Roll bis heute treu. Sieben Jahre lang arbeitete der Badener an seiner Bill Haley – Biographie. “… Ich freue mich nun natürlich besonders, Gina Haley persönlich, kennenzulernen”, so Fuchs. Die jüngste Tochter der Rock ´n´ Roll – Legende trat in die Fußstapfen ihres Vaters, schlug ebenfalls den Weg ins Musikbusiness ein und möchte dafür Sorge tragen, dass der musikalische und kulturelle Verdienst ihres Vaters, nicht in Vergessenheit gerät. Sie wird 2011, beim “Shake, Rattle & Roll” – Rock & Roll Weekender in Great Yarmouth, zusammen mit der englischen Formation Phil Haley & His Comments einen Auftritt absolvieren. Auch ist ein Album von Ms Haley und Mr. Haley und seinen Mannen in Planung. Derzeit arbeitet sie in Dallas, Texas an ihrem Rockabilly / Rock & Roll Debütalbum. Auf ihren Auftritt in England freut sie sich bereits: “Ich kanns kaum erwarten. Das wird großartig. Und ich freu mich, all die Bill Haley-Verrückten Fans zu treffen. Ich freu mich darauf, und bin schon ganz aus dem Häuschen”, so die Amerikanerin, die die zwei Tage in Baden sehr genoss und gerne wiederkommen wird.
BILL HALEY – FATHER OF ROCK N ROLL
Otto Fuchs (Wagner Verlag)
Musik-Fachblatt “Now Dig This”. 2011-05-01
NOW DIG THIS MAGAZINE Issue No. 338 MAY 2011
What happened to Bill Haley during, after and in between his many successess, what was behind the professional image and what led to his untimely death at the age of 55? These are just some of the questions that author Otto Fuchs set out to answer in what has become a totally absorbing biograhpy. By interviewing many of the principals involved, including musicians who worked with Bill as ´Comets´ and trawling through newspaper reports, fan club and music magazines, Otto has left no stone unturned, no avenue unexplored in adding considerable flesh to the bone of the Bill Haley story.
Loners don´t give much away about themselves, and Bill Haley was a loner. But whether that was his natural persona or enforced by a bungled ear operation that severed an optic nerve leaving him blind in one eye is open to speculation. As a result of the mishap he couldn´t see properly to play ball games with the other boys and he couldn´t fight. Neverthless he survived by letting others ride his bike and risking a beating by dishing out his dad´s tobacco. Fast forwarding to later life, despite all the glory that was rightly his, Bill was still the loner, content to let others take the vocals and do their own thing rather than hog the limelight. It wasn´t what the fans wanted and as Otto found, Bill took a lot of flack after the shows for not taking more of the lead. But too old to be a teen-idol, not having the edge to his voice for country music and since hillbilly was no longer en vougue, the role as bandleader rather than star would have had its attraction and probably kept him in the business. He also had the support of Rudy Pompilli, who, as the book recalls, stood by him through thick and thin and remained the one rock on which he could depend. When Rudy died, Bill admitted that he found it difficult to go on and qoute Otto; losing Rudy opened wounds that never healed. A few years later, Bill´s health gave away, he came reclusive and died a loner.
Going back to the early days, the book recalls the problems that Bill encountered in getting his music heard. Mixing country music with Dixieland and New Orleans rhythm and blues met the same kind of prejudice and resistance. He was almost on the point of giving up before finally achieving the breakthrough of leading a band that was allowed to play both country and rhythm and blues. Eventually when the music gelled Bill was quite definite that the rock n roll he created was not rhythm and blues, neither was it western swing and he was not copying Louis Jordan. Bill put it in a nutshell in defining rock and roll not as a style of music, but as a style of rhythm.
´Bill Haley – Father Of Rock Rock n Roll” is a massive book, which in quantity far exceeds anything that has gone before. Every major event and every recording session is covered, TV appearances, films, tours and shows are covered in detail, as well as the Mexican adventure as the “Twist King” and the Orfeon recordings, which, according to Otto, numbered 103 songs, one more than the 102 recorded for US Decca. The book is particularly strong on the European appearances, including the Berlin riots, the Star Club, the London Rock n Roll show, the bun fight at the Preston Guildhall (of which I have fond memories), the Royal Variety Performance and much, much more.
Otto´s book is worthy companion to ´Sound And Glory´ by John Haley and John von Hoelle, altough what has been gained in quantity is slightly diminished by a loss in the quality. Photographs appear to have been reproduced using a low-grade photocopier, there is no formal discography, no index and there is repetition. Nevertheless this is a monumental work and as with ´Sound And Glory´, it is inconceivable that any Bill Haley fan would want to be without it.
DYNAMITE Magazin #72 (Nr.05/2011)
Hier liegt sie nun vor, die englische Ausgabe des fast 900 Seiten starken Machwerks von DYNAMITE-Autor Otto Fuchs, die dem Leser das Schaffen des Rock ´n´ Roll-Vaters Bill Haley näherbringen soll. Zumindest die deutsche Ausgabe kam in einigen Kundenrezensionen eines Versandhändlers weniger gut weg, so wurden von einigen Lesern die Satzstellungen und unscharfe Fotos bemängelt. Man mag das beurteilen wie man will; beim Lesen der vorliegenden Veröffentlichung wird einem klar, welche Leidenschaft in diesem Buch steckt. Macht man sich von dem Gedanken frei, dass viele Fakten schon in anderen Werken publiziert wurden, bekommt man hier ein Nachschlagewerk in die Hände, das seinesgleichen sucht. Es wird das gesamte musikalische Schaffen des Meisters beleuchtet, so hat der Leser die Chance, zum Haley-Experten zu werden! Die Fotos mögen teilweise zwar grobkörnig daherkommen, doch ist die Masse zufriedenstellend in ihrer Qualität, vergessen darf man hierbei auch nicht den historischen Wert der Abbildungen! Die engültige Kaufrechtfertigung bieten die ausgiebigen Interviews, unter anderem mit Bills späterem Wegbegleiter und Wild Angels-Frontmann Mal Gray oder seiner Tochter Gina Haley. Für den Preis von 29, 80 gibt es 896 Seiten Bill Haley vom Feinsten, eine Bereicherung für das heimische Bücherregal! (Oliver Sydow)
#94 Summer 2011
Blue Suede News Magazine 2011-06-01
This huge book covers the entire life of Bill Haley. Fuchs is an Austrian, but he writes quite well in English, or else was translated very well. The first quarter of the book tells the story chronologically and is fascinating. As the story gets to the ‘60s though, it begins to be thematic, with a section on various movies that Bill was in or his music was used in, recording sessions, interviews with early band members, tours and like that. This approach destroys the narrative thread in the chronological sense, and also leads to repetition of details by way of running complete interviews that the details were gleaned from. Various tours were covered in day to day detail. It appears to me that in some cases interviews, particularly ones with Bill himself, were translated into German, and then back into English with the result being quite different to what Bill had actually said, or at least to HOW he had said it. While there are many photos in the book, some are not reproduced very well. Some attention to improvements in Photoshop or a similar program could have helped. Still, even if I’m not the total Bill Haley fanatic, I was happy to read the entire book, and am sad to learn that plans to make a movie about his life, based upon his own autobiography (never published, so far), have never happened. Jeff Bridges was to play Bill in plans made while Bill was still with us, and Dolly Parton was slated to play his second wife Cuppy! Bill Haley wanted credit for inventing Rock’n’Roll, and even though I see it more as an evolution starting much earlier, if one perceives Rock’n’roll as a cultural explosion, there is no question that Bill Haley lit the fuse. I’m very happy to have learned a lot more of Bill’s story, and to have been inspired to play all the Haley we have in the house. I’m only sorry we didn’t have more of his ‘60s and ‘70s recordings – but that will be something to look forward to! Wagner-verlag.de –MB
Book review: Bill Haley: Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll – Otto Fuchs
“Clocking” in at nearly 900 pages, Otto Fuchs’ massive biography of Bill Haley is the most extensive volume to date dedicated to the man.
From The Rockabilly Hall of Fame, Tennessee 2011-10-21
This book was originally published several years ago in a German language edition, but the English release isn’t a simple translation. In the intervening years, Fuchs has extensively revised the text, removing some errors from the original version and inserting quite a bit of new material, while also distilling and reinterpreting information from past Bill Haley biographies and articles.
At times I felt this book was a bit too detailed, so much so it occasionally became a rather slow read as it got bogged down a bit in minutae. But where the book took off was in the interviews, when Fuchs moves away from decantering his research and starts adding new information by way of several in-depth interviews with several Comets and, most notably, Haley’s youngest daughter, Gina Haley.
Fuchs also manages to shine a light on a part of Haley’s career that tends to get little coverage – the final years when Haley alternated between retirement in Mexico and returning to the stage for a pair of European tours in 1979. Fuchs interviews Mal Gray, who served as the Comets’ band leader during those final shows. Gray’s interview is firey as he lashes out at writers who pepetuate myths about Haley’s last years (present company excluded, I hope!), and he also gives insight into Haley’s late-day career plans.
Gina – who at the time this book was published last spring was touring Europe with a show promoting her father’s music (first with the UK group Phil Haley & His Comments, and later the German-based Bill Haley’s New Comets (alongside former Comets guitar player Bill Turner)) – talks candidly about her father and his music. We also hear from Turner, as well as Johnny Kay, Haley’s guitarist in the 1960s and who is enjoying his own career resurgence, and Fuchs also chats with members of the Original Comets – Marshall Lytle, Dick Richards and Joey Ambrose. Al Rappa, who continues to perform with his own version of Bill Haley’s Comets, chats about his memories of Haley, as does piano player Joey Welz. And one of the coolest “catches” by Fuchs for this book has to be drummer Bill Nolte, who joined the Comets in 1969 after working with Haley’s legendary late-60s/early-70s guitar player Nick Nastos in the Country Showmen. It’s great to see these folks – many of whom were never involved in the previous Haley biographies – provide their stories and recollections. On the basis of these interviews alone I recommend the book.
Unfortunately, there are some major issues with the book as well. The book really needed a better edit than it received. There were a number of places where the fact it was a translation were pretty obvious, but I also spotted many typos and other errors that even if one wasn’t a professional freelance book editor (like me) they’d be obvious. I don’t put this blame on the author. Similarly, the book is loaded with rare photos – many of which I’ve never seen before (which is saying something), but many of them suffer from muddy reproduction. It’s my hope that if a new edition of this book sees print down the line (or is converted to e-book) that some of these issues are rectified.
Bill Haley: Father of Rock ‘n’ Roll is a paperback German release, however it is available (as of October 2011) through online retailers such as Amazon UK and Book Depository.
Bill Haley – Father Of Rock ´n´ Roll
No 201, 36. Jahrgang, 1/2012
Rock & Roll Musik Magazin 2012-01-01
Vor einiger Zeit ist von Otto Fuchs die Bill Haley Biografie in deutscher Sprache erschienen. Nun hat er sie noch einmal komplett überarbeitet. Er hat die Discografie weggelassen, dafür viele Interviews hinzugefügt. Bill Haley´s zeitweise Gitarrist Bill Turner hat viele Fotos beigesteuert und die Texte noch einmal gegengelesen. So ist eine Biografie entstanden, die um Klassen besser ist als die erste Veröffentlichung. Allerdings ist dieses Buch komplett in englischer Sprache. Das ist insbesondere bei den Interviews von Vorteil, da man Texte unverfälscht nachlesen kann, aber natürlich für alle schwierig, die nur über rudimentäre oder keine Kenntnisse dieser Sprache verfügen.
Neben der eigentlichen Biografie liefert dieses Buch viele einzelne Kapitel über bestimmte Aspekte aus der Karriere von Haley. So gibt es Abschnitte über seine Rundfunk-Karriere, über die Comets, über Bill und seine Filme, über seine Aufnahmen und Schallplatten, über Zusammentreffen mit Elvis Presley, über die Zeit in Mexico, im Hamburger Star-Club etc.
Interviews wurden eingestreut mi den Comets Dick Richards, Marshall Lytle, Joey D´Ambrosia, Joey Welz, Al Rappa, Johnny Kay, Bill Nolte, Bill Turner, Mal Gray, mit Gina Haley und nicht zuletzt mit Bill Haley selbst. Viele interessante Informationen wurden zusammengefasst und machen das Buch zu einem guten Nachschlagewerk. Es liest sich nicht so flüssig, da es Zeitsprünge gibt und manchmal der chronologische Ablauf der Ereignisse nicht eindeutig eingehalten wird. Die Qualität der Fotos ist insgesamt viel besser, dennoch sind viele noch verbesserungswürdig.
Otto Fuchs hat hier unglaublich viele Fakten und Geschichten zusammengetragen. Wer etwas über Bill Haley, seine Geschichte, seine Musik wissen will, der ist mit diesem Buch gut bedient.
UK Rock ´n´ Roll Magazine Issue 95 March
To say that author and occasional UK Rock contributor Otto Fuchs is a mere fan of all Bill Haley is understating the case significantly, Otto keeps the Haley flag flying through magazine articles, involvement with Comets, individually and collectively, a similar involvement with Bill´s daughter Gina, the list goes on. And now he´s written a book. And at a whopping 896 pages the reader can approach the book at least knowing that Otto has put his heart and soul into the volume.
The first chapter, detailing the period from Haley´s birth in Detroit to the time he failed his forces entry, is well researched but left me worried that another 850 pages of such studiousness might prove a bit of hard work. However, as the story unfolds, Otto draws the reader in to a story of full of twists and turns, successes and a few failures, and brings not just Bill Haley but the times he lived in to life.
Haley´s early failure to hit the big time and unheralded return home; making his way as a country and western singer; The gradual transition into the first ´rock ´n´ roll´ star; none had trodden the road Haley was following before, and the story is all the more fascination for that. Fuchs interjects the ´story´ chapters with the likes of Comets Marshall Lytle, Al Rappa and Bill Turner sharing their thoughts at various points, and in some depth. Albums, singles, tours and films are all covered, in chronological order but without just reading like a list. All interviewees have interesting stuff to impart, which suggests Fuchs either had some mighty fine interviewees or asked way more even than the hundreds of questions found here.
The book doesn´t focus on Haley to the exclusion of all others, and ignoring the narrative for a minute there is a well-chosen photograph of Haley picking away cheerily on his guitar whilst a uniformed Elvis Presley appears to focus on something else entirely. Nor does it only dwell on Haley´s 50´s heyday, the Comets appearances at The Star Club, as beat music started its relentless push across Europe is thoroughly covered, as is the way Bill dealt with his 1968 comeback and how he and various Comets lineups handled the changing sounds and tastes of the 1970´s. A late 1960´s tour of UK and Europe includes details of dates in places rock rock ´n´rollers still dig Bill´s songs today. Bill´s Time in Nashville proved enlightening, as did the impact Bill Still managed to have as he rode the crest of another rockin´ wave in mid-70´s Britain, where dates were interrupted by teddy boys storming the stage. Clearly it wasn´t just punks stirring it up in those days.
Haley´s demise hits hard after soaking up all the highs and lows contained earlier, and is left to daughter Gina to close the book with an upbeat interview. Right to the end, Fuchs is pushing the legend forward, the last question discussing a possible film of Haley´s life. And right at the end, a picture of the Comets in full flow paints those extra thousand words.
A rewarding read. Just make sure you set aside plenty of time.
Vintage Rock Magazine – Edition 3
Bill Haley was a true frontiersman in the world of music. Not only did his calling card Rock Around The Clock kickstart the rock ´n´ roll revolution but he also significantly helped shape the very idea of what being a ´teenager´ was all about. He started riots, was branded as a ´gangster´ by the papers, ´suspicious´ by the FBI and even called a communist. He was the first bandleader to form a rock ´n´ roll band, the first rocker to pen his own tunes … there are frankly too many ´firsts´ in this man´s stellar career to mention. While many Bill Haley biographies have come before, Fuchs takes the story one giant leap forward, detailing Haley´s rise and fall, exploring the darker corners of his life to fill in the blanks and examining his premature death. Exhaustive research, several eye-opening interviews and the ability to tell a good yarn make this a must read for anyone interested in the real story of ´50s music.
Anno XVII – No 78
L´autore ci ha inviato questo mega lavoro dedicato al mitico padre del rock ´n´ roll, il grande Bill
Haley. Un volume, formato tascabile, di 890 pagine scritto in inglese. Un percorso accurato sulla vita di questo personaggio dalla nascita fino alla fine della sua carriera. Ma il libro non é solo un semplice racconto biografico bensí una interessante raccolta bensi una interessante raccolta di ricordi, opinioni e stralci d´epoca attraverso varie interviste. Fra gli intervistati anche la figlia piú giovane di Bill, Gina Haley. L´intero libro e accompegnato da varie foto in bianco/nero, alcune anche molto particolari.
Otto Fuchs, classe 1978, é nato in Austria ed é fra I piú giovani collaboratori della rivista tedesca Rock ´n´ Roll Music Magazine. La sua grande passione per il r´n´r e le leggende che hanno fatto la storia della musica lo ha portato a realizzare questo degno tributo alla memoria di Bill Haley.
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