Anatomy of a Song # 2

I enjoyed doing our post, “The Anatomy of a Song”, so I am going to do another couple, but tonight a real “Biggy”.  I will take a look at the song that defined and brought the 50’s into Rock and Roll.  This song, more than any other song, would give validity to the “new” music of that era and create the Rock and Roll, that would continue for another 40 years.
Rock around the Clock
by Max C. Freedman and James E Myers (Jimmy De-Knight)

The song was written in 1952 in the 12-bar blues format.  It is widely recognized that Rocket 88 was the first Rock and Roll record, but “Rock around the Clock” really started the Rock and Roll era.

Max Freedman was 60 years old when he wrote the song.  The song was first recorded in 1954 by Sonny Dae and his knights an all white novelty band it was a regional success, but it did not sound at all like the recording that would sweep the world.

The song was given to Bill Haley in wake of the success of “Crazy Man Crazy” and the actual recording was April 12, 1954, Sonny Dae and his Knights recorded it on March 20, 1954.  This is a little controversial;  from what I first read, the “A” side was “Thirteen Women” and the “B” side was “Rock around the Clock“.

1955BillHaleyComets
Haley first recorded this song on April 12, 1954 at his first session for Decca Records.  Haley went to New York to cut his first Decca session.  The Musicians were: Billy Williamson on steel guitar, Johnny Grande on piano, Joey d’Ambrosia on tenor sax, Danny Cedron on lead guitar and Marsha Lytle on bass.  A session drummer, named billy Gussack played on this recording. Haley recorded the song a few other times, but this recording was the original single.
The recording would reach # 7 on BB, August 1954, but it would be re-released when it was used as the theme song for the Glenn Ford movie (introducing Sidney Portier) Blackboard Jungle and it would reach # 1 July of 1955 and would stay there for 8 consecutive weeks.
1955blackboardjungle
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1954SonnyDaeKnights
Sonny Dae and his Knights / 1954 first recording of Rock around the Clock
This version has sold over 30 Million copies, it is #158 on Rolling Stones top 500 Rock and Roll Songs and it changed the way we danced and listened to music in 1955.
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I will add one more song.  When I first heard this song, May 1957, I just had to have it.  I played it until it was almost worn out.  Was a big hit, not really, it cost $25 to make and introduced a 17 year old guitar player name James Burton to the world, with one of the best lick’s ever recorded.
Dale Hawkins Louisianna Hay Ride
It was recorded in Shreveport Louisiana at Radio Station KWKH for $25 Dollars.  They had the best Mono tape machine in town and a great engineer Bob Sullivan, but it had to be recorded in the early morning downtime. They had only an hour until they swathed towers.  It took Dale Hawkins (Ronnie Hawkins Cousin) and his band about 3 months to get it all together.
 Dale Hawkins / 1957 live /
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The most famous cover version would be by Creedance Clearwater Revival in 1968, # 11 BB and it started a long career for CCR.
John Fogerty from Premonition 1998 with the Rickenbacker /
1998JohnFogerty
–o–
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4 responses to “Anatomy of a Song # 2

  1. When I read the first words of your post I knew you were talking about “Rock Around the Clock.” Of course the synchronous events of Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” and Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline” hitting the charts in September, 1955 didn’t hurt! A month later the Comets added a new singer, Elvis Presley, to their tour (Haley suggested he sing fewer ballads) and the revolution was underway.

  2. I aways favoured CCR’s version of Susie Q. It presented a sharp contrast to the earlier “bubble gum, rock around the malt shop” era of rock. It seemed to me that rock was evolving and was taking on a more mature shape.

  3. Hope you’ll keep the ‘anatomy of a song’ posts coming!!

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