Bill Haley (1925-1981)

United States - Scott #2732 (1993)
United States – Scott #2732 (1993)

American rock & roll singer Bill Haley was born July 6, 1925 in Highland Park, Michigan, as William John Clifton Haley. He is credited by many with first popularizing this form of music in the early 1950s with his group Bill Haley & His Comets and million-selling hits such as “Rock Around the Clock”, “See You Later, Alligator”, “Shake, Rattle and Roll”, “Rocket 88”, “Skinny Minnie”, and “Razzle Dazzle”. From late 1954 to late 1956, the group placed nine singles in the Top 20, one of those a number one and three more in the Top Ten. Bandleader Bill Haley had previously been a country music performer; after recording a country and western-styled version of “Rocket 88”, a rhythm and blues song, he changed musical direction to a new sound which came to be called rock and roll.

Although several members of the Comets became famous, Bill Haley remained the star. With his spit curl and the band’s matching plaid dinner jackets and energetic stage behavior, many fans consider them to be as revolutionary in their time as the Beatles were a decade later. Following Haley’s death, no fewer than seven different groups have existed under the Comets name, all claiming (with varying degrees of authority) to be the continuation of Haley’s group. As of the end of 2014, four such groups were still performing in the United States and internationally. Bill Haley has sold over 25 million records worldwide.

In 1929, the four-year-old Haley underwent an inner-ear mastoid operation which accidentally severed an optic nerve, leaving him blind in his left eye for the rest of his life. It is said that he adopted his trademark kiss curl over his right eye to draw attention from his left, but it also became his “gimmick”, and added to his popularity. As a result of the effects of the Great Depression on the Detroit area, his father moved the family to Bethel, Pennsylvania, when Bill was seven years old. Haley’s father William Albert Haley was from Kentucky and played the banjo and mandolin, and his mother, Maude Green, who was originally from Ulverston in Lancashire, England, was a technically accomplished keyboardist with classical training. Haley told the story that when he made a simulated guitar out of cardboard, his parents bought him a real one.

One of his first appearances was in 1938 for a Bethel Junior baseball team entertainment event, performing guitar and songs when he was 13 years old.

Bill Haley

In the mid-1940s, Bill Haley performed with the Down Homers and formed a group called the Four Aces of Western Swing. The group that later became the Comets initially formed as Bill Haley and the Saddlemen circa 1949–1952, and performed mostly country and western songs, though occasionally with a bluesy feel. During those years Haley was considered one of the top cowboy yodelers in America. Many Saddlemen recordings were not released until the 1970s and 1980s, and highlights included romantic ballads such as “Rose of My Heart” and western swing tunes such as “Yodel Your Blues Away”. The original members of this group were Haley, pianist and accordion player Johnny Grande and steel guitarist Billy Williamson. Al Thompson was the group’s first bass player, followed by Al Rex and Marshall Lytle. During the group’s early years, it recorded under several other names, including Johnny Clifton and His String Band and Reno Browne and Her Buckaroos (although Browne, a female matinee idol of the time, did not actually appear on the record).

Haley began his rock and roll career with what is now recognized as a rockabilly style in a cover of “Rocket 88” recorded for the Philadelphia-based Holiday Records label in 1951. It sold well and was followed in 1952 by a cover of a 1940s rhythm and blues song called “Rock the Joint” (this time for Holiday’s sister company, Essex Records). Slap-back bass, one identifying characteristic of rockabilly, was used on the Comets’ recordings of “Rocket 88”, “Rock the Joint”, “Rock Around the Clock”, and “Shake, Rattle, and Roll”. The bass guitarist would literally slap the back of the instrument with his hand, for an impromptu drum effect. Slap-back had been used by bassist Al Rex, although to a lesser extent, on the Saddlemen’s “Yodel Your Blues Away”. Slap-back bass was a necessity for the group, because in its early years (prior to the fall of 1952), it did not feature a stage drummer, so the bass provided percussion in addition to the bass line.

“Rock the Joint” and its immediate follow-ups were released under the increasingly incongruous Saddlemen name. It soon became apparent that a new name was needed to fit the new musical style. During the Labor Day weekend in 1952, the Saddlemen were renamed Bill Haley with Haley’s Comets, inspired by the supposedly official pronunciation of Halley’s Comet — a name suggested by WPWA radio station program director, Bob Johnson, where Bill Haley had a live radio program from noon to 1 pm).

[url=https://flic.kr/p/27Ltbfd][img]https://farm1.staticflickr.com/913/42510061464_a6065e463f_o.jpg[/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/27Ltbfd]BillHaley[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/photos/am-jochim/]Mark Jochim[/url], on Flickr
Bill Haley and His Comets

Members of the group at that time were Haley, Grande, Williamson and Lytle. Grande usually played piano on record, but switched to accordion for live shows as it was more portable than a piano and easier to deal with during musical numbers that involved a lot of dancing around. Soon after renaming the band, Haley hired his first drummer, Earl Famous. Displeased with lineup, Haley sought out Dick Boccelli (also known as Dick Richards), who turned down the job, but recommended a young drummer Charlie Higler. Soon after, Haley asked Richards again, who then accepted the role. During this time (and as late as the fall of 1955), Haley did not have a permanent lead guitar player, choosing to use session musicians on record and either playing lead guitar himself or having Williamson play steel solos.

In 1953, Haley’s recording of “Crazy Man, Crazy” (co-written by him and his bass player, Marshall Lytle, although Lytle would not receive credit until 2001) became the first rock and roll song to hit the American charts, peaking at number 15 on Billboard and number 11 on Cash Box. The title was a phrase Haley said he heard from his teenage audience. The single was again released on Essex. Haley later claimed the recording sold a million copies, but this is considered an exaggeration. “Crazy Man, Crazy” was the first rock and roll song to be televised nationally when it was used on the soundtrack for a 1953 television play starring James Dean. Soon after, the band’s name was revised to Bill Haley & His Comets.

In the spring of 1954, Haley and His Comets left Essex for New York-based Decca Records, where they were placed under the auspices of veteran producer Milt Gabler, who would produce all of the band’s recordings for the label and who had been involved in creating many proto-rock and roll recordings by the likes of the Andrews Sisters and Louis Jordan dating back to the 1940s. Their first session, on April 12, 1954, yielded “Rock Around the Clock”, which would become Haley’s biggest hit and one of the most important records in rock and roll history. Sales of “Rock Around the Clock” started slowly, since it was the B-side of the single, but it performed well enough that a second Decca session was commissioned.

Bill Haley and His Comets - Shake, Rattle and Roll LP on Decca
Bill Haley and His Comets – Shake, Rattle and Roll LP on Decca

“Shake, Rattle and Roll” followed, a somewhat bowdlerized cover version of the Big Joe Turner recording of earlier in 1954. The single was one of Decca’s best-selling records of 1954 and the seventh-best-selling record in November 1954.

In March 1955, the group had four songs in Cash Box magazine’s top 50 songs: “Dim, Dim the Lights, (I Want Some Atmosphere)”, “Birth of the Boogie”, “Mambo Rock”, and “Shake, Rattle and Roll”.

Haley’s “Shake, Rattle and Roll” never achieved the same level of historical importance as “Rock Around the Clock”, but it predated it as the first international rock and roll hit. It did not attain the Number 1 position on the American charts, but it became Haley’s first gold record. Elvis Presley recorded the song in 1956, combining Haley’s arrangement with Turner’s original lyrics, but his version was not a substantial hit. Late in 1954, Haley recorded another hit, “Dim, Dim The Lights”, which was one of the first R&B songs recorded by a white group to cross over to the R&B charts. Johnnie Ray had reached Number 1 with “Cry” in 1952.

The belated success of “Rock Around the Clock” is attributed to its use in the soundtrack of the film Blackboard Jungle, which was released on March 19, 1955. The song, which was re-released to coincide with the film, now shifted to the single’s A-side, rose to the top of the American musical charts that summer and stayed there for eight weeks, the first rock and roll record to do so.

Bill Haley & His Comets rehearse at the Dominion Theatre in London, where they will open their British tour. The Comets include accordion player Johnnie Grande, bassist Al Rex, and saxophonist Ruddy Pompilli.
Bill Haley & His Comets rehearse at the Dominion Theatre in London, where they opened their first British tour in February 1957. The Comets include accordion player Johnnie Grande, bassist Al Rex, and saxophonist Ruddy Pompilli.

Ambrose’s acrobatic saxophone playing, along with Lytle on the double bass — literally on it, riding it like a pony, and holding it over his head — were highlights of the band’s live performances during this time. Their music and their act were part of a tradition in jazz and rhythm and blues, but it all came like a thunderclap to most of their audience. In late 1954, Haley and His Comets appeared in a short subject entitled Round Up of Rhythm, performing three songs. This was the earliest known theatrical rock and roll film release.

In 1955, Lytle, Richards and Ambrose quit the Comets in a salary dispute and formed their own group, the Jodimars. Haley hired several new musicians to take their place: Rudy Pompilli on sax, Al Rex (a former member of the Saddlemen) on double bass, and Ralph Jones on drums; in addition, lead guitarist Franny Beecher, who had been a session musician for Haley since Danny Cedrone’s death in the fall of 1954, became a full-time Comet and Haley’s first performing lead guitarist (Cedrone had played the guitar solo on the original recording of “Rock Around the Clock” and died shortly after the recording session for “Shake, Rattle and Roll” in the summer of 1954). This version of the band became more popular than the earlier manifestation and appeared in several motion pictures over the next few years.

Other hits recorded by the band included “See You Later, Alligator” in which Haley’s frantic delivery contrasted with the Louisiana languor of the original by Bobby Charles, “Don’t Knock the Rock”, “Rock-a-Beatin’ Boogie”, “Rudy’s Rock” (the first instrumental hit of the rock and roll era) and “Skinny Minnie”.

“Rock Around the Clock” Brunswick, 1956 single

Bill Haley and the Comets performed “Rock Around the Clock” in an a capella and a lip-synched version on the NBC television program Texaco Star Theater, hosted by Milton Berle, on May 31, 1955. Berle predicted that the song would go to Number 1: “A group of entertainers who are going right to the top.” Berle also sang and danced to the song, which was performed by the entire cast of the show. This was one of the earliest nationally televised performances by a rock and roll band and provided the new musical genre a much wider audience.

Bill Haley and the Comets were the first rock and roll performers to appear on the CBS television musical variety program The Ed Sullivan Show, or Toast of the Town, on Sunday, August 7, 1955, in a broadcast from the Shakespeare Festival Theater in Stratford, Connecticut. They performed a live version of “Rock Around the Clock” featuring Franny Beecher on lead guitar and Dick Richards on drums. The group made a second and final appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday, April 28, 1957, performing “Rudy’s Rock” and “Forty Cups of Coffee”.

Bill Haley and the Comets appeared on American Bandstand, hosted by Dick Clark on ABC television, twice in 1957, on the prime-time show on October 28 and on the regular daytime show on November 27. The band also appeared on Dick Clark’s Saturday Night Beechnut Show, also known as The Dick Clark Show, a prime-time TV series from New York on March 22, 1958, during the first season (performing “Rock Around the Clock” and “Ooh, Look-a There, Ain’t She Pretty”) and on February 20, 1960, performing “Rock Around the Clock” and “Tamiami”.

In 1956, the group appeared in two of the earliest full-length rock and roll movies with Alan Freed: Rock Around the Clock and Don’t Knock the Rock. The Platters were co-stars in the first movie, and Little Richard appeared in the second.

The band’s popularity in the United States began to wane in 1956–1957 as sexier, wilder acts such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard began to dominate the record charts (although Haley’s cover version of Little Richard’s “Rip It Up”, released in direct competition with Little Richard’s original recording, outsold the original). After “Skinny Minnie” hit the charts in 1958, Haley had little further success in the United States, although a spin-off group made up of Comets musicians dubbed The Kingsmen (no relation to the later group of “Louie, Louie” fame) had a hit with an instrumental, “Weekend”, that same year.

Promotional poster for Bill Haley;'s first Australian tour in 1957.
Promotional poster for Bill Haley;’s first Australian tour in 1957.

Overseas, however, Haley and his band continued to be popular, touring the United Kingdom in February 1957, when Haley and his crew were mobbed by thousands of fans at Waterloo station in London at an incident which the media dubbed the “Second Battle of Waterloo”. The group also toured Australia in 1957, and in 1958 enjoyed a successful (if riot-dominated) tour of the European mainland. Bill Haley & His Comets were the first major American rock and roll act to tour the world in this way. Elvis, who was on military duty in Germany, visited them backstage at some shows. On a free day in Berlin they performed two songs in the Caterina Valente movie Hier Bin ich Hier Bleib Ich (Here I Am Here I Stay).

Back in the U.S., Haley attempted to start his own record label, Clymax, and establish his own stable of performers, notably Sally Starr (the hostess of a Philadelphia television children’s program) and the Matys Brothers. Members of the Comets were commissioned to work as session musicians on many of these recordings, many of which were written or co-written by Haley and members of the Comets. The Clymax experiment only lasted about a year. In 1959, Haley’s relationship with Decca collapsed; after a final set of instrumental-only recordings in the fall, Haley announced he was leaving Decca for the new Warner Bros. Records label, which released two more albums in 1960, which were moderately successful. In 1960 Franny Beecher and Rudi Pompilli left the Comets to start their own record label. Replacing Beecher was a 20-year-old guitarist, John Kay, from Chester, Pennsylvania. Beecher later returned briefly to play with the Comets, when his record label failed to take off, sharing guitar duties with Kay. Kay left the band in 1966 but returned in the early 1970s for an aborted world tour. He appeared in the Wembley show, which was filmed and released as the London Rock and Roll Show.

In 1961–1962, Bill Haley y sus Cometas (as the band was known in Hispanic America) signed with the Orfeón label of Mexico and scored an unexpected hit with “Twist Español”, a Spanish-language recording based on the twist dance craze, which was sweeping America at the time. Haley followed up with “Florida Twist” (#3 MEX, according to Billboard Hits Of The World for April 21, 1962), which was for a time the biggest-selling single in Mexican history. Although Chubby Checker and Hank Ballard were credited with starting the twist craze in America, in Mexico and Latin America, Bill Haley and His Comets were proclaimed the Kings of the Twist.

Thanks to the success of “Twist Español” and “Florida Twist”, among others, the band had continued success in Mexico and Latin America over the next few years, selling many recordings of Spanish and Spanish-flavored material and simulated live performances (overdubbed audience over studio recordings) on the Orfeon label and its subsidiary, Dimsa. They hosted a television series, Orfeon a Go-Go, and made cameo appearances in several movies, lip-synching some of their old hits. Haley, who was fluent in Spanish, recorded a number of songs in the language, but most of the band’s output during these years was instrumental recordings, many utilizing local session musicians playing trumpet. There was also some experimentation with Haley’s style during this time; one single for Orfeon was a folk ballad, “Jimmy Martinez”, which Haley recorded without the Comets.

Bill Haley and Elvis Presley backstage in Germany, 1957
Bill Haley and Elvis Presley backstage in Germany, 1957

In 1966, the Comets (without Bill Haley) cut an album for Orfeon as session musicians for Big Joe Turner, who had always been an idol to Haley; no joint performance of “Shake, Rattle and Roll” was recorded, however. In a 1974 interview with BBC Radio, Haley said Turner’s career was in a slump at this time, so he used his then-considerable influence with Orfeon to get Turner a recording session. The Comets’ association with Orfeon/Dimsa ended later that year.

By 1967, as related by Haley in an interview with radio host Red Robinson in that year, the group was “a free agent” without any recording contracts at all, although the band continued to perform regularly in North America and Europe. During this year, Haley — without the Comets — recorded a pair of demos in Phoenix, Arizona: a country-western song, “Jealous Heart”, on which he was backed by a local mariachi band (similar in style to the earlier “Jimmy Martinez”), and a late-60s-style rocker, “Rock on Baby”, backed by a group called Superfine Dandelion. Neither recording would be released for 30 years. In 1968, Haley and the Comets recorded a single for the United Artists label, a version of Tom T. Hall’s “That’s How I Got to Memphis”, but no long-term association with the label resulted.

In order to revive his recording career, Haley turned to Europe.

By the late 1960s, Haley and the Comets were considered an “oldies” act. The band’s popularity never waned in Europe. The group signed a lucrative deal with Sonet Records of Sweden in 1968 and recorded in a new version of “Rock Around the Clock”, which hit the European charts that year. The band recorded a mixture of live and studio albums for the label over the next decade.

In the United States in 1969, promoter Richard Nader launched a series of rock and roll revival concert tours featuring artists of the 1950s and 1960s. At one of the first of these shows, held at the Felt Forum at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Haley received an eight-and-a-half-minute standing ovation following his performance, as Nader related in his recorded introduction to Haley’s live album Bill Haley Scrapbook, which was recorded a few weeks later at the Bitter End club in New York.

Rock 'n Roll Stage Show - Decca LP
Rock ‘n Roll Stage Show – Decca LP

The band appeared in several concert films in the early 1970s, including The London Rock and Roll Show (for which Haley’s 1960–66 lead guitarist, John Kay, briefly rejoined the band — he’s the one with the eye patch) and Let the Good Times Roll. After 1974, tax and management problems prevented Haley from performing in the United States, so he performed in Europe almost exclusively, though he also toured South America in 1975. The band was also kept busy in the studio, recording numerous albums for Sonet and other labels in the 1970s, several with a country music flavor. In 1974, Haley’s original Decca recording of “Rock Around the Clock” hit the American sales charts once again, thanks to its use in the film American Graffiti and the television program Happy Days.

In February 1976, Haley’s saxophone player and best friend, Rudy Pompilli, died of cancer after a nearly 20-year career with the Comets. Haley continued to tour for the next year with a succession of new sax players, but his popularity was waning again, and his 1976 performance in London was critically lambasted in the music media, such as Melody Maker. That year, the group also recorded an album, R-O-C-K at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio for Sonet Records. In early 1977, Haley announced his retirement from performing and settled down at his home in Mexico. According to the John Swenson biography of Haley, the musician was quoted as saying that he and Pompilli had an agreement that if one died, the other would retire.

The Comets continued to tour on their own during this period.

In 1979, Haley was persuaded to return to performing with the offer of a lucrative contract to tour Europe. An almost completely new group of musicians, mostly British, including saxophonist Pete Thomas, were assembled to perform as the Comets. Haley appeared on numerous television shows and in the movie Blue Suede Shoes, filmed at one of his London concerts in March 1979. A few days later, a performance in Birmingham was videotaped and aired on UK television; it was released on DVD in 2005. During the March tour, Haley recorded several tracks in London for his next album for Sonet, completing the work that summer in Muscle Shoals; the album, Everyone Can Rock & Roll, issued later in 1979, was the last release of new recordings by Haley before his death.

Bill Haley and the Comets, 1956
Bill Haley and the Comets, 1956

In November 1979, Haley and the Comets performed for Queen Elizabeth II, a moment Haley considered the proudest of his career. It was also the last time he performed in Europe and the last time most fans saw him perform “Rock Around the Clock”.

In 1980, Bill Haley and His Comets toured South Africa, but Haley’s health was failing, and it was reported that he had a brain tumor. The tour was critically lambasted, but surviving recordings of a performance in Johannesburg show Haley in good spirits and good voice. Nonetheless, according to the Haley News fan club newsletter and the Haley biography Sound and Glory, planned concerts (such as a fall 1980 tour of Germany) and proposed recording sessions in New York and Memphis were cancelled, including a potential reunion with past members of the Comets. Haley returned to his home in Harlingen, Texas, where he died in his sleep of an apparent heart attack on February 9, 1981, at the age of 55.

Martha, Bill’s widow, who was with him in these troubling times, denies he had a brain tumor as does his old, very close friend, Hugh McCallum. Martha and friends related that Bill did not want to go on the road any more and that ticket sales for the planned tour of Germany in the fall of 1980 were slow. According to McCallum, “It’s my unproven gut feeling that that [the brain tumor] was said to curtail talks about the tour and play the sympathy card.”

His drinking problem was getting worse. By this time, Bill and Martha fought all the time and she told him to stop drinking or move out. He then did move out into a room in their pool house. Martha still took care of him and sometimes, he would come in the house to eat, but he ate very little. “There were days we never saw him,” said his daughter Martha Maria. In addition to Haley’s drinking problems, he was having serious mental problems, as well; Martha Maria said, “It was like sometimes he was drunk even when he wasn’t drinking.” After he’d been jailed by the Harlingen Police, Martha had the judge put Haley in the hospital, where he was seen by a psychiatrist, who said Bill’s brain was overproducing a chemical, like adrenaline. The doctor prescribed a medication to stop the overproduction, but said Bill would have to stop drinking. Martha said, “This is pointless.” She took him home, however, fed him and gave him his first dose. As soon as he felt better, he went back out to his room in the pool house, and the downward spiral continued until his passing.

Bill Haley in 1954
Bill Haley in 1954

Haley’s death certificate listed “Natural causes: Most likely heart attack” as the ‘Immediate Cause’ of death. The next lines, ‘Due to, or as a consequence of” were blank.

Haley made a succession of bizarre, mostly monologue late-night phone calls to friends and relatives in which he seemed incoherently drunk or ill. Haley’s first wife has been quoted as saying, “He would call and ramble and dwell on the past, his mind was really warped.” A belligerent phone call to a business associate was taped and gives evidence of Haley’s troubled state of mind.

Media reports immediately following his death indicated Haley displayed deranged and erratic behavior in his final weeks, although little is known about Haley’s final days beyond a biography by John Swenson, released a year later, which described him painting the windows of his home black. After a small funeral service, Haley was cremated, although his widow Martha would not say what was done with the ashes.

Bill Haley was married three times:

  • Dorothy Crowe (December 11, 1946 – November 14, 1952) divorced, two children;
  • Barbara Joan Cupchak (November 18, 1952 – 1960) divorced, five children;
  • Martha Velasco (1963 – February 9, 1981) three children.

He had at least ten children. John W. Haley, his eldest son, wrote Sound and Glory, a biography of Haley, and had another child, Sharyn, with his first wife, Dorothy Crowe. His youngest daughter, Gina Haley, is a professional musician based in Texas. Scott Haley is an athlete. His youngest son Pedro is also a musician.

He also had a daughter, Martha Maria, from his last marriage with Martha Velasco.

Bill Haley and the Comets performing live in Liége, Belgium, 1974.
Bill Haley and the Comets performing live in Liége, Belgium, 1974.

Bill Haley Jr. (Haley’s second son and first with Joan Barbara “Cuppy” Haley-Hahn) publishes a regional business magazine in Southeastern Pennsylvania (Route 422 Business Advisor). He sang and played guitar with a band called “Bill Haley and the Satellites,” and released a CD in 2011. He also has occasionally appeared with the “Original Comets” at the Bubba Mac Shack in Somers Point, New Jersey, from 2004–2011, and at the Twin Bar rededication ceremony in Gloucester City, New Jersey, in 2007. In February 2011, he formed a tribute band “Bill Haley Jr. and the Comets,” performing his father’s music and telling the stories behind the songs. Bill Haley Jr. and the Comets currently perform at venues throughout the United States at festivals, car shows, casinos, and upscale retirement communities. In March 2014, the band completed a successful three week tour of New Zealand. Bill Jr. appeared in the UK at Hemsby Rock ‘n’ Roll Weekenders in the spring of 2015, and returned in October 2016.

In April 1981, Bill Haley & His Comets returned to the British musical charts once again when MCA Records (inheritors of the Decca catalogue) released “Haley’s Golden Medley”, a hastily compiled edit of the band’s best-known hits in the style of the then-popular “Stars on 45” format. The single reached Number 50 in the UK but was not released in the United States.

In 1987, Bill Haley was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His son Pedro represented him at the ceremony. He received had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960, for his contributions to the music industry at 6350 Hollywood Boulevard. The Comets were separately inducted into the Hall of Fame as a group in 2012, after a rule change allowed the induction of backing groups. Bill Haley and His Comets were also inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. In July 2005, the surviving members of the 1954–1955 Comets represented Haley when Bill Haley and His Comets were inducted into Hollywood’s Rockwalk, a ceremony also attended by Haley’s second wife and youngest daughter. The Comets placed their handprints in cement; a space was left blank for Haley.

Songwriters Tom Russell and Dave Alvin addressed Haley’s demise in musical terms with “Haley’s Comet” on Alvin’s 1991 album Blue Blvd. Dwight Yoakam sang backup on the tribute.

The 1954–1955 contingent of Haley’s Comets continued to perform for many years around the world. They released a concert DVD in 2004 on Hydra Records, played the Viper Room in West Hollywood in 2005, and performed at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater in Branson, Missouri, beginning in 2006–2007. As of 2014, only two members of this particular contingent were still alive (Joey Ambrose and Dick Richards), but they continued to perform in Branson and in Europe. At least two other groups also continued to perform in North America under the Comets name as of 2014.

Bill Haley & the Comets - Rock Around the Clock LP
Bill Haley & the Comets – Rock Around the Clock LP

In February 2006, the International Astronomical Union announced the naming of asteroid 79896 Billhaley to mark the 25th anniversary of Bill Haley’s death.

In March 2007, the Original Comets opened the Bill Haley Museum in Munich, Germany. On October 27, 2007, ex-Comets guitar player Bill Turner opened the Bill Haley Museum for the public.

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. Liner notes for a 2003 CD release by Hydra Records entitled Bill Haley and Friends Vol. 2: The Legendary Cowboy Recordings reveal that several additional Cowboy label single releases were planned for the Four Aces, but this never occurred.

A number of previously unreleased Haley country-western recordings from the 1946–1950 period began to emerge near the end of Haley’s life, some of which were released by the Arzee label, with titles such as “Yodel Your Blues Away” and “Rose of My Heart.” Still more demos, alternate takes, and wholly unheard-before recordings have been released since Haley’s death. Notable examples of such releases include the albums Golden Country Origins by Grassroots Records of Australia and Hillbilly Haley by the British label, Rollercoaster, as well as the aforementioned German release by Hydra Records. In 2006, Bear Family Records of Germany released what is considered to be the most comprehensive (yet still incomplete) collection of Haley’s 1946–1950 recordings as part of its Haley box set Rock n’ Roll Arrives.

On June 16, 1993, at ceremonies in Santa Monica, California, and Cleveland, Ohio, the United States Postal Service released a 29-cent sheet stamp (Scott #2725) and a 29-cent booklet stamp (Scott #2732) as part of its Legends of American Music series. The sheet stamp, perforated 10, was printed using photogravure by Stamp Venturers in a quantity of 14,285,715. The booklet stamp saw a print run of 32,947,000 copies in photogravure by Multicolor Corp. for the American Bank Note Company, perforated 11 horizontally.

Promotional portrait of American rock and roll band Bill Haley & His Comets as they wear matching jackets, black pants, and white shoes, January 1957. Group leader Bill Haley (1925 - 1981) sits in the center playing the drums. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Promotional portrait of American rock and roll band Bill Haley & His Comets as they wear matching jackets, black pants, and white shoes, January 1957. Group leader Bill Haley (1925 – 1981) sits in the center playing the drums. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Flag of the United States, 1959-date
Flag of the United States, 1959-date
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