Seventy years ago the music scene was much different than it is today. Big Band music and crooners like Bing Crosby, Perry Como, and Pat Boone ruled the AM radio dial. Country music fans listened to the likes of Hank Williams Sr and what was called Hillbilly music. And then there was a thing called Race Music – what later became known as R&B.
Race Music was a form of music seldom heard on mainstream radio…that is until the likes of men like Bill Haley came along and dared to cross the colour line.
On a dreary Niagara Falls afternoon Bill Haley Jr and the Comets gave a performance in the Events Center at the Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino reliving those early days of Rock and Roll.
It was a chance for some audience members to relive their teen years – which they did complete with dancing in front of the stage – and it was a chance to learn just how it all got started – this thing called Rock and Roll.
After opening the show with “Razzle Dazzle”, Bill Haley Jr informed the crowd that they were going to go way back to the beginning…to the days even before there was a Bill Haley and the Comets – back to the time of Bill Haley and the Saddlemen.
After performing “Rock the Joint”, “The Rocking Chair on the Moon” and “Dance with the Dolly with the Hole in Her Stocking”, the band sang the song that is considered to be the first Rock and Roll hit – “Rocket 88”.
Next came “Real Rock Drive”, “Blues Comet Blues”, and the song that got Bill Haley and His Comets their first big record contract – “Crazy Man Crazy” – a song whose title was taken from the response of a teen after hearing Haley’s music.
“Shake Rattle and Roll” – the first Rock and Roll mega hit got fans on their feet. While Bill Jr did most of the singing, a couple of the band members took a turn on the microphone. Michael put down his guitar for a rendition of The Big Bopper hit “Chantilly Lace”.
Bill Jr returned to the microphone for “Rock a Beatin’ Boogie” – the song that reportedly DJ Allen Freed was listening to when he coined the phrase Rock and Roll.
Then came “Mambo Rock”, “Rudy’s Rock”, bassman Christopher with the Elvis Presley song “That’s Alright Mama”, “Rip it Up”, and “See You Later Alligator”.
In 1954 the executives at Decca Records proclaimed that they had the next mega hit for Bill Haley and the Comets – a ditty called “13 Women (and I’m the Only Guy in Town)”. The song was a flop but the song that Bil and the guys recorded for the B-side of the single turned out to become not only a mega hit but is number three on the all time singles list behind “White Christmas” and the Princess Diana tribute “Candle in the Wind” – “Rock Around the Clock”.
The show ended with “Saints Rock ‘N’ Roll’.
Only an hour in length the show featured more than just music. Bassman Christopher played a stand up bass and as Bill Jr said he acted like the 40 pound bass was a dance partner…and sometimes a toy…as he moved all about the stage as easily as the sax man. Christopher even jumped off of the stage and ran around the Events Center with the bass held high. Then there was the climbing, lying, and sitting all over the bass for a thoroughly entertaining exhibition. But then again only the drummer Rich stayed in one spot during the show.
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