BILL HALEY

The Father of Rock & Roll

Wagner Verlag ISBN: 978-3-86683-901-4

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“The hoopla surrounding the purported fiftieth anniversary of rock & roll didn’t quite ring true. Bill Haley might have lobbied for 2001 ... fifty years after he’d covered Rocket ‘88’; or 2002 ... fifty years after he’d recorded Rock The Joint; or 2003 ... fifty years after he broke into the pop charts with Crazy Man Crazy, a record that fit every criterion of rock ‘n’ roll. But, of course, Bill Haley said not a word; he had died neglected and alone on the Mexican border in 1981, and even at the time of his death he was wondering why he’d be written out of the story.“ (Colin Escott, Nashville)

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On April 12th 1954, Bill Haley & His Comets created the “National Anthem Of Teenagers” (Lillian Roxon) with “Rock Around The Clock”, - the song which became the best-selling rock single of all time. It was not until July 6th 1954 when Elvis Presley cut his first disc - “That’s Alright” - which became only a local hit in Memphis. During the same year, Bill Haley & His Comets received their first gold record for their million-seller “Shake, Rattle & Roll” and “Dim Dim the Lights”, would be one of the first white artist´s entry to the Rhythm & Blues charts. Bo Diddley was a year away from scoring his first hit. The same applied to Chuck Berry. Buddy Holly was sixteen and playing with school friend Bob Montgomery as a Western swing duo. Little Richard did various odd jobs, whereas Fats Domino did not change his New Orleans R&B to a more mainstream rock & roll approach until 1955. Last but not least, Jerry Lee Lewis was still performing country music in the honky tonks of Louisiana.

In 1955, Bill Haley’s highly controlled, syncopated chorus of sounds, all driven by a wild, primitive, but always thundering beat, was introduced worldwide in the box office smash teenage drama “Blackboard Jungle” starring Glenn Ford and a young Sidney Poitier. This film was the ignition for “Rock Around The Clock” becoming synonymous with rock & roll. With sales now exceeding 200,000,000 copies, it was recorded by more than 500 artists in 32 different languages. It has also been featured in 40 motion pictures and, of course, as the title track to the TV series “Happy Days”

 

CONTENT OF THE BILL HALEY BIOGRAPHY

“THE FATHER OF ROCK & ROLL”

 

Bill Haley, of all the rock & roll pioneers, is the one who deserves the utmost respect; for not only did his “Rock Around The Clock” start the age of rock & roll; he also laid the foundation to what we recognize today as “teenage culture”. 
But more so, he was the archetype of the modern rocksinger. Not visually, in the manner of what Elvis Presley was to become a couple of years later, but artisticially, as Bill Haley was the:
01. First band leader to form a “Rock ´n´ Roll” group.
02. First Rock ´n´ Roll star to write his own music.
03. First Rock´n´ Roll star to reach the national charts with music he wrote and recorded.
04. First Rock ´n´ Roll star to own his music publishing companies.
05. First Rock ´n´ Roll star to own his record label and recording company.
06. First white artist to be elected as the “Rhythm and Blues Personality of the Year”
07. First Rock ´n´ Roll star to sell a million records.
08. First Rock ´n´ Roll star to receive a gold record.
09. First Rock ´n´ Roll star to go on a world tour.
10. First Rock ´n´ Roll star to sell a million records in United Kingdom
11. First Rock ´n´ Roll star to star in a full length motion picture.
12. First White Rock ´n´ Roll star to tour with all-Black supporting artists.
13. First Rock ´n´ Roll star to appear on a network television show.

The greatest accomplishment of Bill Haley & The Comets lies in paving the way for all the others that followed. From 1952 until 1960 Bill Haley & His Comets scored 30 hits in the US/UK charts. In 1957, at the beginning of Bill Haley´s first UK tour, he was greeted by 4,000 fans at London´s Waterloo train station. The following 1958 European tour, included appearances in Germany, (which began approximately three weeks after Elvis Presley had been shipped to Germany, to complete his military services.) and caught the attention of the world press:
The Haley concerts held at the West Berlin Sportspalace erupted in mass rioting and was a daily news item. The East German newspaper “Neues Deutschland” condemned him: “the rock & roll gangster Haley celebrated an orgy of American un-culture”. The West German paper, “Rheinische Merkur” reported: “he, of all people, the Comet of instinct-unchainment started a major offense to taste, stand and self respect. All that, in the bishopric of Essen, on the day of the papacy vote”. The Soviet paper “Moscow Prawda” declared him “a secret weapon of the west against socialism” as rock & roll. Whereas the FBI, under the infamous J.Edgar Hoover: (best known for his wiretapping of whom he viewed as “suspicious” people) started an investigation into theories and accusations of what was feared and suspected as ‘communist music’. Asa Carter, head of the “Alabama White Citizens Committee” charged the “National Association for the Advancement of Colored People” (NAACP) with seducing and corrupting white teenage girls by promoting rock & roll. He is quoted with saying in 1956: “With its basic heavy beat of the Negroes, it appeals to the base in man; it brings out animalism and vulgarity”. He then promised to initiate a “... campaign to force radio stations and jukebox owners to boycott this immoral music”. Perhaps the culmination of all this hysteria, was the opinion published as the headline of the prestigious New York Times on March 28th 1956:
“Rock & Roll Called ´Communicable Disease´” in which the Hartford, Connecticut psychiatrist Francis Braceland declared rock music ´cannibalistic and tribalistic ... it is insecurity and rebellion. It impels teenagers to wear ducktail haircuts, wear zoot suits, and carry on boisterously at rock & roll affairs”.
While classical Cellist Pablo Casals described the music of Bill Haley in the 1950s as “distillation of all disgustments of our time”. The German music expert Barry Graves (recognized in the dual cultural circles of Berlin and New York) in hearing Haley´s style during the first rock & roll revival at the end of the 1960s, conversely declared: “The definitive rock & roll style (is) blended from country & western, dixieland-jazz and rhythm & blues”.
Haley himself, taking a calm, confident and somewhat more level headed approach, explained: “I thought, if I were to take a Dixieland melody and leave out the emphasis on the first and third beat, but emphasize the second and fourth, and add a beat to which the listeners can clap or even dance - that would serve their wishes. The rest was easy—I took catchy phrases like ‘Crazy Man, Crazy’ and made songs out of them with the method, I just explained.”
In 1960, Bill Haley signed a lucrative recording contract with Warner Bros., not that the label he was on until then - DECCA (now part of Universal Music) did not want to keep the star which served them well with 30 hit singles and strong albums sales; but the offer by WARNER BROTHERS was its attempt at building an artist roster by signing a number of well-established stars. So, after scoring with a pair of instrumental hit singles “Joey´s Song” (1959) and “Skokiaan” (1960) Bill Haley signed with Warner Brothers’ new label venture after fulfilling his DECCA contract with the album “Strictly Instrumental”, which pointed the Comets in a new direction, with it´s Billy Vaughan influenced approach, thus making the music of Bill Haley interesting beyond the strictly teenage radio audience. Bill Haley signed with Warner Brothers, along with the Everly Brothers, who had similarly departed Cadence Records. But when Don and Phil Everly scored a number one hit in the US with “Cathy´s Clown” in 1960, Haley’s single release of “Tamiami” b/w “Candy Kisses” only reached the lower end of Billboard´s Top 100. 
The musical hit-making machinery Bill Haley & His Comets always possessed, began losing momentum, as the musical market began to favor the younger, good looking clean cut, but not neccessarily untalented teen idols of the time: fellow Philadelphians Fabian, Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell, Bobby Vee, and New Jersey’s Bobby Darin, and Ricky Nelson ... the time of the wild amimalistic rockabilly/rock & roll sound of the likes of Bill Haley, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly was for various reasons, appearing to be over. Public tastes were again changing, and after a TV appearance on Dick Clark´s “American Bandstand” performing “Tamiami” and “Rock Around The Clock,” Bill Haley & His Comets’ star began waning slowly, while softer sounds began usurping public attention in the record industry and on the airwaves. 
A retroactive tax debt Bill Haley´s led to an ill-advised business decision to flee the United States and relocate “Bill Haley Y Sus Cometas” across the international border to Mexico City, where Bill Haley established his new residence and business headquarters; while his Philadelphia based booking agent Jolly Joyce continued to book and manage Haley’s career as before.
Haley soon began establishing himself as a recording artist on the Orfeon label, and as a new supper club and casino star attraction on the Mexican nightclub circuit, introducing the new American “Twist” dance craze, ironically beating Chubby Checker to this international market! Their fame in Latin America increased with cameo appearances in several Mexican movies loosely based on the “Blackboard Jungle” theme! (The movie which introduced “Rock Around The Clock” to the world, as major feature in it´s soundtrack.) Bill Haley and The Comets soon scored a major hit with “Florida Twist” in 1960 for their new Mexican Orfeon label, which to date remains the best selling single in Latin America; while “Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley & His Comets became the best selling rock single of all time, worldwide with estimates of between 50 and 90 million copies being sold to date. “Bill Haley y Sus Cometas” continued recording in Mexico on the Orfeon, Maya and Dimsa labels up until 1966, having a string of hits with their interpretations of the new American twist and surf music trends of the “swinging sixties”, as well as rearranged treatments of swing band instrumental favorites. Introducing them to the Latin American public for the first time:
“Jalisco Twist” (1962), “Avenida Madison” (1963) and the albums such as “Surf, Surf, Surf” (1964) and “Whisky A-Go-Go” (1966). This new-found success filled the pockets, literally speaking, of the physicially heavier Bill Haley during the sixties ... but not as much as he had hoped for. After a disagreement over royalties with the Orfeon / Dimsa / Maya label corporate group, he chose not to renew his option for further recordings. Also in 1966, he was booked by his new European agent Patrick Malynn for an appearance at the Alhambra theatre in Paris. He was booked as the opening act on a package show starring the younger UK recording chartbreakers of the time, the artists all being the new innovators of the “British Invasion”. The Paris press already wondered about the mis-cast Haley, who would try to ‘steal’ the show from the long haired groups, with his antique kiss curl’. On the 24th and 25th of September 1966, Bill Haley & The Comets appeared on stage, before Jimmy Cliff, The Walker Brothers, The Pretty Things and The Spencer Davis Group in the city on the Seine. 
Haley was greeted with banners, “Bill Haley” cheers were still audible in the backstage dressing rooms of the young beat musicians. Although his stage spot was to be only a 20 minute set, he was given, encore after encore and finally after one hour, Bill Haley & The Comets were allowed off the stage, with their dinner jackets soaked from sweat! The Walker Brothers (“The Sun Ain´t Gonna Shine Anymore”) were greeted by the French with booing and were heckled through out their set. The other bands, The Spencer Davis Group and Manfred Mann endured the same experience ... they simply could not follow Bill Haley and his final number “Rock Around The Clock”, on stage!
In 1968 “the national anthem of the teenagers” (Dick Clark) “Rock Around The Clock” made the international charts again, and managed to reach the number 1 spot on some British radio station charts. 1969 gave Bill a minor hit with Nashville songwriter Tom T. Hall’s composition “That´s How I Got To Memphis” in Canada. In 1970 released on the criticially acclaimed album for Sonet Records, “Rock Around The Country” – Bill Haley waxed “Me & Bobby McGee”. Later Kris Kristofferson admitted this to be one of the best versions of his song. The album being recorded in Music City / USA - Nashville, Tennessee. 
Yet, as it was proven a year before in 1969 at Madison Square in Garden New York City, on “Richard Nader’s Rock & Roll Revival” when Haley received a 8 ½ minute standing ovation, the public loved him more for his rock & roll. His next album on another new label, in 1973 had been decided to be simply titled: “Just Rock & Roll Music” and featured a selection of songs spanning the rhythm & blues catalog of the 1950s; as well as an understated flirt with more country music, plus more recycled selections from Haley’s old rock & roll sound; instead of trying to modernize his style for the 1970s. This formula worked, and it was commercially a far bigger success, than its predecessor on Sonet Records, “Rock Around The Country”.
On November 26th 1979 Bill Haley & The Comets performed at the Royal Variety Show - a Command Performance for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Second. A lot had happened in the 25 years since Bill Haley & His Comets had stepped into a New York recording studio to cut “Rock Around The Clock”.
On February 9th, 1981 Bill Haley died of an apparent heart attack at his home in Harlingen, Texas. He was only 55 years old...
What lay before, during, after, and in between the many successes and phases of Bill Haley’s career? What was behind the professional image of ‘the star’ Bill Haley? And what led to an untimely death at the age of 55? These a few of the questions this book shall attempt to address. And perhaps one more can be answered in the process: WHO was this man that invented rock & roll?

 

REVIEWS

UK Rock ´n´ Roll Magazine Issue 95 March 2012

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.



BILL HALEY - FATHER OF ROCK N ROLL

Otto Fuchs (Wagner Verlag)

NOW DIG THIS MAGAZINE Issue No. 338

MAY

(2011, by Chris Woodford)

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.


Vintage Rock


Edition 3 (2012)

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.

 

As first published on Wyman Stewart´s: http://writerinterview.blogspot.co.at/

 INTERVIEW: OTTO FUCHS ON BILL HALEY




This is the first of a 3 part interview on Bill Haley, His Comets, and Otto Fuchs, author of Bill Haley--The Father of Rock n' Roll.  What you read in the 3 interviews is a small fraction of what you will read in Otto's Bill Haley biography.

BILL HALEY---THE FATHER OF ROCK N’ ROLL

 

What is a fanography?  A fanography, to coin a new literary category, is a book like Otto Fuchs’ Bill Haley—The Father of Rock n’ Roll.  A fanography is a biography written with the fun and excitement you expect from a fan, while including the facts and details, a professional biographer includes.  Otto Fuchs shares his knowledge of Bill Haley and His Comets with us, in an extensive three part interview.  Otto’s 2014 revised edition biography of Bill Haley is now in fine bookstores everywhere.  The book is 1,070 pages, covering the life of Bill Haley, his Comets, and their time together.  Links to a book review of the biography and related posts are noted, elsewhere.  Without further ado, let the interview begin!

 

 

First, is the 2014 revised edition Bill Haley biography appearing in a German edition, as well as, English?

 

Otto Fuchs: “No. The English edition, published in 2011, is basically a very revised edition of an originally (in the German language) released book entitled “Bill Haley – Vater des Rock and Roll”, published by Wagner Verlag. The German book, tells Bill Haley´s life story in 498 pages, plus it contains full interviews with The Comets Marshall Lytle (bass, 1952 – 1955), Joey Welz (piano, 1964) and Bill Turner (lead guitar, 1974 – 1976). The 2011 edition differs, first of all, in language. Secondly, in adding interviews with Joey D´Ambrosio (sax, 1953 – 1955), Dick Richards (drums, 1953 – 1955), Al Rappa (bass, 1959 – 1969), Johnny Kay (lead guitar, 1960 – 1967, and again in 1972), Bill Nolte (drums, 1968 – 1972), Mal Gray (bandleader and rhythm guitarist, 1979 – 1980), plus an interview with Bill Haley´s youngest daughter Gina, who is an accomplished singer, songwriter and musician in her own right. 

Gina also promoted her father´s music, and the 2011 English book, with two appearances at the “Shake, Rattle and Roll Weekender Festival” in Great Yarmouth and the “Kings of Rock and Roll Weekender Festival”, in Weston-Super-Mare, in the year of the book´s publication. That was, so far, her only dates on which she did full shows with her father´s music. Plus the first shows, to sing his material in an entire concert.

Gina, is only 38, now. Close to my age – we got on really well, when I accompanied her to both shows to England, and are close friends to this day. I also do not plan to release the 2014 Revised edition of “Bill Haley – The Father of Rock n' Roll” in German, as I hope to reach a wider audience with an English book. Plus, I hope to get Bill Haley more credit in his home country the US, with an English book. By now, the 2007 published German book is not one I am very fond of. Think it needs a lot of revision, and maybe another 500 pages to make it worth reading!”

 

What inspired you to write about Bill Haley and why a biography?

  

Otto Fuchs: “I think it was “Rock Around The Clock”. I was 11, watching an Austrian charts show. In the Top 10 was a remix of old Rock and Roll Standards – I am talking about Jive Bunny and The Mastermixers. The song was called “Swing The Mood” and was basically a swing / rock and roll medley. Of course, since the people behind the project were from England, where Bill Haley is still fondly remembered, they featured the man. It was the first time I heard him sing “Rock Around The Clock” to edited footage of his arrival at Southampton, with the ship Queen Elizabeth, then his train journey to London on the “Bill Haley Special” – where he was greeted by 4,000 people, at Waterloo station. I felt cheated.  
Until then, I thought Elvis Presley was the King of Rock and Roll. But this man Bill Haley, must have been The King at some time also, I figured. So I began my personal research, finding more out about the man, and trying to obtain more music by him. The idea for the book came as a promise to my dad at the Dallas airport in 1993, when we flew to Harlingen, Texas. He had spent a lot of money on getting us to the USA, and I was in charge of choosing the cities to go to. I picked destinations such as Memphis, Tennessee; Lubbock,Texas; Tupelo, Mississippi; Boothwyn, Pennsylvania; Harlingen,Texas and so on. So besides promising to write an article for a German magazine simply entitled “Rock and Roll Music Magazine”; I also had the idea born, of dedicating a full book to my hero, Bill Haley!”

 

Could you tell us about Bill Haley’s yodeling and how he ranked as a yodeler?

 

Otto Fuchs: “Bill Haley replaced Kenny Roberts in an immensely popular Cowboy band named “The Down Homers”. Kenny Roberts who was a top yodeler was cited in John Swenson´s Bill Haley biography “The Daddy of Rock and Roll” as saying: “Bill should have thrown a few yodels into his rock and roll act at the end. That would have really getting them going.

Jerry Lee Lewis did, and he is far from being as good as Bill Haley, as a yodeler. Bill Haley won the 1947 “Indiana State Yodeling Championship” and if you listen to his recordings of tunes such as “Yodel Your Blues Away” and “A Yodeler´s Lullaby” you understand why. He was on top, with his technique and impressed people, such as Elton Britt, when opening for them.”

 

Before Bill Haley and His Comets gave us Rock n’ Roll, what was Haley’s other bands and what kind of music did they play?

 

Otto Fuchs: “He started as a solo act at the Booth Corner´s auction mart, in Boothwyn, Pennsylvania; having his first appearance there, in 1943. He then teamed up with a fiddler from the Vaudeville days named Ben “Pop” Guthrie. Later he formed the Texas Range Riders, going professional in 1944 when spotted by Arlee Elsworth, who fronted the Cousin Lee Band. He was immediately hired, and had the chance to open with them for Roy Rogers and The Sons of the Pioneers, with 10,000 people in the audience.

With financial help from his future wife Dorothy Crowe, Bill Haley traveled to an audition to become the replacement for Kenny Roberts, who got drafted – in The Down Homers. He broke away with other musicians from that outfit to form The Range Drifters. When they disbanded he worked for a traveling medicine show, then became a driving force as a radio personality for WPWA in Chester, Pennsylvania. 

There, he formed the Four Aces of Western Swing, The Saddlemen, and in late 1952, “Haley´s Comets”. Bill made Cowboy music, coming pretty close to Rockabilly with some of his waxings, not counting his work with The Saddlemen. But given the fact that Hank Williams´ “Move It On Over” is seen as a rural route to Rockabilly; some Haley recordings made between 1948 and 1950 should also be seen as such.”

 

If you had to pick a year, which year did Bill Haley and His Comets music, transition into Rock n’ Roll?

 

Otto Fuchs: “In 1951, when Bill Haley and The Saddlemen cut their version of Jackie Brenston´s “Rocket 88”, Dave Miller, legendary producer and President of the Miller International, Somerset, and Essex Music Group, in Media, PA, said about it: “Rocket 88 was the first true Rock and Roll song recorded by a white artist; the record that launched hundreds of blue-eyed cats in the world of black music. On that day, Bill Haley crossed over from an unknown country music singer to being the world´s first King of Rock and Roll.” I share a similar opinion, only dating Bill Haley´s reign as King of Rock and Roll, to a little later date.”

 

As an author, is it frustrating to realize Bill Haley worked hard on behalf of so many others, yet he gets little credit for this?  Your book tells us, Bill Haley brought many Black artists, of his day, to mainstream audiences. He did so by touring with them, recording their music, and acknowledging them.  Bill Haley campaigned successfully to make Rock music for teens, acceptable to parents.  Bill Haley inspired Elvis, along with others, yet the historical importance of this, is little noted, nor long remembered.  (Words in italics are based on my reading of the biography, but are not intended to quote the book directly.)

 

Otto Fuchs: “I know Gina Haley approached Dick Clark who scored a blockbuster with his Elvis biopic starring Kurt Russell, on making a film about her dad. Clark refused. To a large extent I think, Bill Haley was, yes, the first to produce Rock and Roll music, a fusion of white elements and black elements. Rock and Roll is not a sole black product. It was Bill Haley himself who stated: “Too much publicity, absolutely too much publicity has been given to the fact that rock and roll is rhythm and blues music. And it is not.  It very definitely isn´t, anymore than it is western music. It is a combination as you say of both (…)” Maybe some people, can´t live with it!”

 

While researching Bill Haley’s life, did you discover unexpected surprises or interesting new facts about him or his music?

 

Otto Fuchs: “First I must state, that the book owes a lot to previous Haley biographers such as John Swenson, John von Hoelle and John W. “Jack” Haley, Chris Gardner, James F. Cullinan and Jim Dawson. Without their work, the book would be much smaller in scale and volume. Some of their research was so great, that it only needed adaption, and maybe re-interpretation with the added interviews. And yes, there were some surprises. Some even only published, so far, in the 2014 revised edition.”

 

Why do you think Bill Haley’s star faded in the USA, before the 1950’s came to an end?

 

Otto Fuchs: “In 1957 he toured Australia and the United Kingdom. In 1958 he toured Europe and parts of Northern Africa, in 1959 Brazil. They were constantly on the road, not only on other continents. But also, due to public demand in the US. The band definitely spent too much energy on concerts, instead of on good material to be recorded. None of their Decca songs are poor, but in the year 1957 they began to lack good material! It´s not solely that others were younger and sexier, look at Fats Domino!”

 

Did Bill Haley’s star fade in Europe also?

 

Otto Fuchs: “Yes chart wise, but he was always drawing huge live crowds!”

 

When and how did Bill Haley’s career revive, as an Oldies act, in the USA?

 

Otto Fuchs: “That began with the Richard Nader instigated Rock and Roll Revival Shows in 1968. The shows were first held at the Felt Forum, Madison Square Garden, in New York. Bill Haley received an 8 ½ minute standing ovation. Stopping the show cold, before Chuck Berry would go on! I was in touch with Mr. Nader, and we were assembling an interview. Sadly Richard Nader passed away, before it was conducted.”

 

What was the status of Bill Haley’s career, both in Europe and the USA, at the time of his death?

 

Otto Fuchs: “There was a lawsuit which Sandra Shekell won on behalf of the Jolly Joyce Agency, when Bill Haley dealt with a serious agency which paid him higher fees, instead of sticking with the Joyce agency. This agent was able to get him the concerts he deserved. This lawsuit lost, led to Bill Haley never appearing live again in the US, after 1974.  He toured Europe extensively, being in great demand. Also, (he toured) after going into semi-retirement in 1976, having undertaken a tour without Rudy Pompilli. Rudy Pompilli had died of lung cancer. In 1979 he played at the Royal Variety Show in London for Queen Elizabeth The Second.

In 1980 he undertook a successful tour through South Africa. When he died, he had cancelled a major European tour. He was still a big star at the time of his death. I think, he largely was forgotten due to the fact there was never good management after his death. Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash have this kind of management, never to be forgotten. Bill Haley does not, and sadly he is gone, and cannot bring it back again, as he did through several comebacks during his lifetime!”

 

How did poor management lead to Bill Haley’s self-exile in Mexico in the Sixties, and his little-known (in the USA and Europe), recording career, while living in Mexico?

 

Otto Fuchs: “Yes Bill Haley had to flee the U.S., because of severe debts. But Mexico was not solely a tax exile. Bill Haley fell in love with Mexico, and the life it offered him and his new family, he had with Martha Velasco. The reason to leave the U.S., was laid by Bill Haley´s manager Lord Jim Ferguson: On October 2nd, 1958, while Bill Haley and His Comets were on tour in Europe, Lord Jim Ferguson spent $50,000 and bought a collection of pavement art paintings for the art gallery, charging them to Bill Haley’s hotel account. Bill ordered him to sell the paintings straight back, but they only raised $5,000, so Ferguson was promptly sent back home in disgrace. The Comets, with a number of their concerts canceled, because of the sudden death of the Pope, became stranded in Italy with no means of paying their bills or of getting home. Haley wired Ferguson to tell him to raise money and wire $50,000 to their hotel in Paris later that week. Haley’s relief is heard on a live recording issued on Big Beat Records, telling the French audience how good it is “finally to see your beautiful city”. But that relief was short-lived, as the tour became a financial disaster. 

When Bill returned home, he found out that Ferguson had obtained the money from the local Mafia. The next few years, Bill repaid his loan and the extortionate interest completely, but as his finances declined, he completely wrecked his personal and corporate finances. Ferguson continued to run the art gallery, under his name alone, until 1967. He lived his last days out in a modest trailer home and died of a heart attack-stroke combination at the age of 64 in 1969. It is all too easy to lay the blame for Bill Haley’s downfall at Ferguson’s feet. He was bad at business and was more of an enthusiast than a professional. But few people who knew him have said a bad word about him.”

 

Was Bill Haley a star in Mexico, Central America, and South America during his Mexico exile?

 

Otto Fuchs: “Haley soon began establishing himself as a recording artist on

the Mexican “Orfeon” label, and as a new supper club and casino star attraction on the Mexican nightclub circuit, introducing the new American “Twist” dance craze and ironically, beating Chubby Checker to this international market! 

His fame in Latin America increased with cameo appearances in several Mexican movies loosely based on the “Blackboard Jungle” theme. They soon scored a major hit with “Florida Twist” in 1960 for their new Mexican Orfeon label, which to date remains the best-selling single in the history of Latin America, while “Rock Around The Clock” by Bill Haley and His Comets concurrently became the best selling rock single of all time worldwide, with estimates of between 50 and 90 million copies being sold to date. 



“Bill Haley y Sus Cometas” continued recording in Mexico on the Orfeon, Maya and Dimsa labels (presently owned by Sony Latino) up until 1966, having a string of hits with their interpretations of the new American Twist dance and surf music trends of the “swinging sixties”, as well as rearranged treatments of swing band instrumental favorites, introducing them to the Latin American public for the first time, including “Jalisco Twist” (1962), “Avenida Madison” (1963) and albums such as “Surf, Surf, Surf” (1964) and “Whisky A-Go-Go”.

 

Rudy Pompilli was a great saxophone player and long-time member of the Comets.  How did the 1976 death of Rudy Pompilli affect Bill Haley?

 

Otto Fuchs: “Bill Turner, the lead guitarist of Bill Haley and The Comets nailed it, when he told me in an interview for the book: “The day that Rudy Pompilli died, that was the beginning of the day that Bill Haley began to die...and ironically, I think Bill died five years to the day that they buried Rudy...and that was a very sad chapter indeed...and that was the beginning of the end of the Comets."

 

Was there lesser known, but notable song gems, Bill Haley recorded, in different periods of his career?

 

Otto Fuchs: “Absolutely, for instance “Jealous Heart” is a ballad Bill Haley recorded in 1967 at the club JD´s lounge in Phoenix, Arizona with a Mexican trio. Sadly the song remained unissued until the 1999 Bear Family Records box-set “The Warner Bros. Years and More”. It´s a beautiful rendition, and the favourite of the Bill Haley songs, of his daughter Gina, who sings it at every live show dedicated to her dad´s memory. Bill also cut a beautiful version of “She Thinks I Still Care” in Spanish; further, he made a musical testimony with the autobiographical “God Bless Rock and Roll”. This was his final single in1980. I am in good company when I refer to “Me and Bobby McGee” sung and recorded by Bill Haley in 1970: Kris Kristofferson finds it astonishing also – he wrote the song. 

“Cryin´ Time” is another great gem, recorded live as part of two Live LP´s recorded in Sweden for Sonet Records. “That´s How I Got To Memphis” from 1969 (re-recorded in 1979) is outstanding as well. And this shows that Haley also had potential and maybe a promising career, as a country singer, had he chose to follow this path.”

 

The title, Bill Haley—The Father of Rock n’ Roll places Bill Haley at the beginning of Rock music.  Should we view Bill Haley as more than the Father of Rock

 

Otto Fuchs: “Bill Haley should have the word on this, and I´d like to cite him, from an interview made shortly before his death: “Well … as an entertainer … the fellow who started it all … and I hope contributed to the happiness, perhaps, of the world, a little bit.”

 

The revised edition of your Bill Haley biography still includes your interview with Gina Haley (Bill Haley’s youngest daughter).  In the revised edition you add interviews with Jack, William, and Pedro Haley.  What do their interviews give readers of the revised edition that was missing from the original edition?

 

Otto Fuchs: “First of all, the perspective of children to their father. Secondly, a lot of blanks to the Bill Haley Story are filled in. Third, his children have a great understanding of their dad.  Jack Haley also co-wrote the Bill Haley Biography “Sound and Glory” – so he was a must to be interviewed. I think William Haley could have given us more information, but we´ll have to be patient. He will share this knowledge very likely in his own book on Bill Haley, coming out shortly!”

(A book worth adding to our wish list, readers!)

 

Is there anything you feel we should know about Bill Haley, we have not discussed, before we move on to the Comets?

 

Otto Fuchs: “Wyman, thanks – I think you ask very good, challenging and interesting questions. More can only be discussed in a book.” 

 

Bill Haley--The Father of Rock n' Roll

 

Otto Fuchs has done more than write a biography on Bill Haley, although he does that, as well.  In Bill Haley--The Father of Rock n' Roll, Otto goes out of his way to cover, The Comets.  Included in the biography, you will find many Comets interviews; most, personally done by Otto, himself.  In addition, he selected and got permission to publish, key interviews done by others, on Bill Haley.  The Comets warrant an interview devoted to their history.  Below, you will find Otto as generous in his comments on The Comets, as individuals and a group, as he was in part one, on Bill Haley.  Away we go to that interview....!

 

 

The Comets

 

 

Who were the original Comets?

 

Otto Fuchs: “I think the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gives the best answer to it. In 2012 two line-ups of The Comets were inducted: Billy Williamson (steel guitar, 1949 – 1964), Johnny Grande (piano, 1949 – 1962), Joey D´Ambrosio (sax, 1953 – 1955), Dick Richards (drums, 1953 – 1955), Marshall Lytle (bass, 1952 – 1955), Franny Beecher (lead guitar, 1954 – 1962), Al Rex (bass, on and off 1950 – 1957), Danny Cedrone {not a full-fledged member, but a close friend of Bill Haley, and audible on many of the early recordings, most notably remembered for his immortal signature solo on both “Rock The Joint” (1952) and “Rock Around The Clock” (1954)}, Rudy Pompilli (saxophone, 1955 – 1976) and Ralph Jones (drums, 1955 – 1960).

 

Are any original Comets living as of June 2014?

 

Otto Fuchs: “Yes Al Rex, the Saddlemen´s and Comets´ bassplayer. Dick Richards (drums) and Joey D´Ambrosio (sax) who just undertook a European tour as part of a supergroup with Bill Haley´s daughter Gina Haley featuring 1970s Comet Bill Turner. Another ever popular Comet – namely Al Rappa (bass, 1959 – 1969) still performs with a band featuring Joey Welz (piano, 1964) as Bill Haley´s Comets!”

 

Danny Cedrone played lead guitar on some of Bill Haley’s early Rock songs.  His tragic, accidental death came soon after his famous Haley recordings.  Should we consider the creative guitarist, Danny Cedrone, an original Comet or a great session musician, employed to record with Haley?

 

Otto Fuchs: “I personally see him as a Comet, though he did not tour with Bill Haley. But I think Danny Cedrone was crucial to the early sound of Bill Haley and The Comets. Plus he influenced Franny Beecher, Johnny Kay and Bill Turner who followed him in the band!”

 

Were you able to interview all the original Comets, before they passed away?

 

Otto Fuchs: “No, I missed out on Franny Beecher and Johnny Grande. Maybe I still have the chance to interview Al Rex, one day!”

 

Did there exist, numerous Comets line-ups, while Bill Haley lived and performed?

 

Otto Fuchs: “Not during his lifetime, from 1977 – 1978 Nick Masters aka Nick Nastos (lead guitar), Bill Nolte (drums), Ray Parsons (rhythm guitar), Rey Cawley (bass) – who all had worked with Bill Haley as “Comets”; featuring sax-player Jim Robertson, toured in the US as Bill Haley´s Comets. Bill Haley, himself, was in semi-retirement. 

After his death a reunion occurred in 1981 which lasted until 1982, which consisted of Franny Beecher (lead guitar), Al Rappa (bass), Dave Holly (drums), Ray Parsons (rhythm guitar), Joey Welz (piano) – featuring again Jim Robertson. 

Then Al Rappa (bass) and John “Bam Bam” Lane had the name trademarked and appeared with additional musicians as Bill Haley´s Comets; before they individually led their Comets lineups. Both line-ups are still active today. While Lane passed away, there is actually one band led by Lenny Longo, which features non-Haley

musicians appearing as Bill Haley´s Comets. 



Bill Haley´s Original Comets Johnny Grande (piano), Franny Beecher (lead guitar), Joey D´Ambrosio (sax), Dick Richards (drums), Marshall Lytle (bass), featuring Englishman Jacko Buddin filling in for Bill Haley on vocals, toured from 1989 – 2005. 


Bill Haley´s son William now appears as Bill Haley Jr. and The Comets, with Bill Turner on steel guitar! Basically there was one band named The Comets, with personnel line-up changes occurring, from 1952 – 1980.”

 

Did you get to interview all the significant Comets, who recorded or toured with Bill Haley?

 

Otto Fuchs: “I think so, but to my taste they could have been higher in number!”

 

While reading the Bill Haley biography, I found it interesting, not all the original Comets were partners in the band, with Bill Haley.  Could you please explain this?

 

“Bill Haley, Johnny Grande and Billy Williamson had a partnership with their manager Lord Jim Ferguson. They shared the income equally. I think it wouldn´t have been possible to make a 6 to 7 piece band work, with all members being partners. Elvis Presley didn´t have a partnership with Scotty Moore and Bill Black. So I think there must have been more reasons, than solely money for Joey D´Ambrosio (sax), Dick Richards (drums) and Marshall Lytle (bass) to quit.

 

How did this lead to the Jodimars band?

 

Otto Fuchs: “I think they more or less thought that they could make more money on their own, and they did. So that was the reason for The Jodimars to be formed!”

 

What’s the origin of the Jodimars’ band name?

 

Otto Fuchs: “JOey, DIck and MARShall.”

 

Did the Jodimars release any music?

 

Otto Fuchs: “Yes they were signed to Capitol Records, and there are three great CD compilations out on their music!”

 

Were the Jodimars together for long?

 

Otto Fuchs. “Not really, by 1959 they had disbanded.”

 

Who replaced the Jodimars members in the Comets?

 

Otto Fuchs: “Al Rex who had worked with Bill Haley as part of The Saddlemen returned on bass, Don Raymond and Dean Tinker filled in on drums, until Ralph Jones took over on that instrument until 1960. Rudy Pompilli replaced Joey D´Ambrosio on saxophone!”

 

During his lifetime, did the Comets ever perform without Bill Haley?

 

Otto Fuchs: “Yes, it was quite common that The Country Gentlemen a band led by Nick Masters aka Nick Nastos, who became part of The Comets after Al Rappa (bass) and John “Bam Bam” Lane (drums) left The Comets in 1969, did gigs as Bill Haley´s Comets during a tour, on dates Bill Haley did not participate in. And again, from 1977 – 1978 when Bill Haley was in semi-retirement.”

 

Which Comets line-up stayed together the longest?

 

Otto Fuchs: “The second line-up. Long serving members were in all, but the first Original line-up. Notably Rudy Pompilli (sax, 1955 – 1976), Al Rappa (bass, 1959 – 1969), Johnny Kay (lead guitar, 1960 – 1967, again in 1972), Nick Masters aka Nick Nastos (steel and lead guitar, 1962 – 1974) and of course, the partners Johnny Grande (piano, 1949 – 1962) and Billy Williamson (steel guitar, 1949 – 1962). Not to forget Ray Parsons who joined on rhythm guitar in 1970, and left after a 1979 tour.”

 

Will you please tell us a little about Rudy Pompilli and his importance to Bill Haley and his importance, over the years, to the Comets band?

 

Otto Fuchs: “Rudy Pompilli was integral to the sound of The Comets. He and Bill Haley were best friends. Rudy stayed with the band through thick and thin. Rudy was with Bill Haley, through the good and the bad. Bill Haley financed new furniture to Rudy´s house in the decade of the 1960s / 1970s. In John Swenson´s book it somehow seems as if Bill Haley was an unthankful friend. But I think there was mutual respect, understanding, gratitude and love towards each other. When Rudy died, Bill Haley found it impossible to go on, and withdrew from the public eye, for a full two years. I think his last comeback came to be, out of respect for what he and Rudy had worked for, and to meet financial needs.”

 

We think of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, when it comes to delirious crowds, who scream and jump out of their seats.  Yet, Bill Haley and His Comets were the first Rockers to create a scene, almost everywhere they went, were they not?

 

Otto Fuchs: “Yes, and some live transcripts from Alan Freed shows, and even a 1974 Live album cut at the now demolished Hammersmith Palais in London, prove this. Bill Haley wrote the book on being a rock star, long before Elvis. John Lennon is quoted as saying “Before Elvis, there was nothing”. John should have had it changed to “Before Elvis, there was Bill Haley”, and to a certain extent he did – he was later quoted to say about Bill Haley – “The man who started it all!”

 

I know it’s hard to re-create in words what takes place on a stage.  You do this well in your Bill Haley biography.  Can you give us examples of Comets’ stage antics, which were sure to excite crowds?

 

Otto Fuchs: “Most of the wild stage antics were done by the bassplayer and the saxophonist, the drums were important to create excitement also. At some point, Bill Haley and the rest of the band would be on their knees or on their back. It must have been both charisma and feeling for interacting, and staying true to the music to have this success on stage. And of course, back then, the music was entirely new. No one had dared to play music, that way, before! Rudy Pompilli would sit on the bass, while Al Rex would push him from one side of the stage to the other. The bassman would play the double bass like a guitar, or upside down, or ride on it. The saxophonist played, lying on the floor, hitting the highest notes. Plus, all the songs, ”were performed at a much higher pace onstage, than in the studio.”

 

Your Bill Haley biography is filled with Comets information.  We can’t cover everything.  Is there more we should know about the Comets, which my questions have failed to cover?

 

Otto Fuchs: “One last thing, all musicians who shared the stage with Bill Haley as The Comets from 1952 until 1980 should be seen as what they were. They were contributors to the success of Rock and Roll and Bill Haley.  Contrary to what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame published, the band did not break up in 1962, but went on until the final curtain fell for Bill Haley!”

 

BILL HALEY--THE FATHER of ROCK n' ROLL

 

Finally, we arrive at part 3, an interview with Otto, about Otto Fuchs and the writing of Bill Haley—The Father of Rock n’ Roll.  This interview is in keeping with one of this blog's central themes, focusing on writers and writing.  Criticism from many quarters comes with being a published writer; as well as being, an unpublished writer, for many.  Otto offers an interesting perspective on that and other matters.  Readers may find this interesting also; so let’s ROCK ON….!

 

 

Otto Fuchs Research and Writing Journey

 

Let us start with three important life events, preparing you for your Bill Haley journey.  They are:  1.) While a young teen, your parents’ belief in you, allowed you the freedom to write for Rock magazines. 2.) Writing for those magazines turned you into a fine interviewer.  3.) Your father’s financial support enabled you to make the journey to Bill Haley’s birthplace.  That’s a lot of ground to cover in a brief space.  Still, will you please briefly describe the importance of the above, in “making Otto Fuchs” a Rock writer and biographer of Bill Haley?

 

Otto Fuchs: “First, the love of the music. To this day, I prefer Rockabilly / Rock and Roll to any other music. I also dress 1950s. Second and third, is the endorsement of my dad. My father believed in me one-hundred percent. He made me feel, that only I, could stop me from achieving what I wanted to achieve. So I guess that´s the three main parts. It makes me sad, that my dad didn´t live to see my book being published. But maybe somewhere up in Rock and Roll Heaven, he tells Bill Haley about it.”

 

Did you ever aspire to be a Rock singer or musician?

 

Otto Fuchs: “Yes, I only got as far as being a bassplayer as part of a Rockabilly band. Sorry, but I know some jokes on bassplayers, from other musicians. But I quit before the band appeared in public, as I worked in banqueting, in a five-star hotel in Vienna. I never had the weekends or evenings off to rehearse. I have a deep voice, so I guess if I could play guitar, or would have some musicians to back me – I would give it a try, on say - two Johnny Cash songs. Solely for private listening pleasure though.”

 

How and when did you discover Bill Haley and His Comets music?

 

Otto Fuchs: “Rock Around The Clock” I first heard at the famous fun fair in Vienna – the Prater was ten I believe. It got back to me, when used in the remix “Swing The Mood” by Jive Bunny. Finally when I really was into it, my father was so kind to spend money for me on a dozen rare LP´s by a special mail-order record shop from Germany. I still fondly remember me and my dad listening to those records. As my father also grew up with Bill Haley, it was great to see his reaction on some of the lesser known Bill Haley material. I miss my dad a lot.”

 

As an Austrian, how many countries did you visit in writing your Bill Haley biography, including your homeland?

 

Otto Fuchs: “Let me count, well we´ve been to the US twice including Bill Haley´s birthplace Highland Park, visiting his house Melody Manor in Boothwyn, Pennsylvania, his house in Harlingen, Texas – the Orfeon Studios in Mexico. I lived two years in London, guess that´s the most relevant places to have been for the book.”

 

Did you offer Bill Haley’s biography to major publishers, before turning to Wagner Verlag to publish your book?  If not, what advantages do you see in going with Wagner Verlag?

 

Otto Fuchs: “Not the English version, the German one would have been published byHannibal Verlag, who specializes in music books. But they felt they should have published it in 2005, at the anniversary of Rock and Roll (Rock is fifty) – and thought it could not be successfully marketed there-after. After the publication at Wagner,Backbeat Books showed interest. Bill Turner a Comet, who also proofread my book, approached them. But at the end, they turned down licensing the book, also. The advantage (with Wagner Verlag) is to have the book out, instead of having a thick manuscript at home.”

 

Have you received feedback from readers of the original edition of your Bill Haley biography?  If so, what were their reactions to the book?

 

Otto Fuchs: “Yes, there are some Amazon reviews – the greatest honour is having a five star one by Bill Haley´s son Jack Haley. Who also wrote the Bill Haley biography “Sound and Glory” with John von Hoelle. The most demolishing is the one by future fellow-Haley biographer W. Sockwell.”

Jack Haley's Amazon review comments 

 

How do you handle criticism of your biography? 

W. Sockwell's Amazon Critique Comments (Otto refers to this link in his reply.)

 

Otto Fuchs. “That´s the one. With a glass of Four Roses Bourbon. No seriously, the German book had half the volume of the English edition. So a lot of people criticized it for being too brief, with not enough new information. 
Now W. Sockwell blames mine for being “War and Peace”
. Peter Guralnick´s “Last Train To Memphis” and “Careless Love” on Elvis Presley keeps me in good company.

I can live with it. 

To be honest, W. Sockwell was bitter the day that Jack Haley turned him down for an interview. Just read his other comments, in the comments section, on Amazon. I wish him all the best with his book.  At the end of the day – he has to like his own book. I like mine, also.”

 

Note:  We look forward to this Bill Haley biography's release.

 

Does the new edition include an index at the end of the biography to help readers?

 

Otto Fuchs: “Yes it does! Thanks to Gina Haley, who stressed the importance of having an index (to me). Credit due, when it is due. The index on persons, song titles, albums and TV shows / Movies was done by Bodo Nies.  He is a fellow writer for the German“Rock and Roll Musik Magazin”.

 

Do you think there is more important information still to be discovered on Bill Haley or his Comets band members? 

 

Otto Fuchs: “Certainly.  And I think people like Chris Gardner and W. Sockwell, plus others, will unearth things very shortly.  So maybe, another revised edition of my book to be due …”

 

With all the Comets information you uncovered, have you considered writing a separate book on Bill Haley’s Comets or turning your Comets interviews into an e-book?

 

Otto Fuchs: “Never, I think that must be done by a record collector, type of person. Plus there is a lot of competition between individual members of the band, especially the ones still running their “Bill Haley´s Comets”. There were even lawsuits from the Bill Haley´s Comets featuring Al Rappa and John “Bam Bam” Lane to the Original Bill Haley´s Comets and vice-versa. So maybe these musicians do not want to share a book on themselves.”

 

Given the monumental task of writing a biography on Bill Haley, was there ever a point, where you wanted to give up?

 

Otto Fuchs: “After fatal criticism on the German Haley book I wrote, but in the end, that was what kept me going writing the English one.”

 

What did you find to be the greatest challenge(s) in researching Bill Haley, as well as, the Comets?

 

Otto Fuchs: “We had just had our daughter, when I was working on the Haley book. So I had to do phone interviews on a park bench.  For instance, with Gina Haley and Al Rappa, at 4 in the morning, because of the time difference with the US; also, to not disturb our daughter. Not the safest situation, even in Austria.”

 

Are there areas of Bill Haley’s life you still have questions about?  Also, are there questions you still wish to ask Comets; living or dead?  (Rudy Pompilli comes to mind or Danny Cedrone.)

 

Otto Fuchs: “Too many, honestly, there is so much I still would like to know.”

 

Today, do you feel like you know Bill Haley, the man and the star?

 

Otto Fuchs: “To a certain extent yes.”

 

Before we end this interview, would you like to share some last thoughts with us, on the research and challenges, of writing a biography on Bill Haley; which, also includes an extensive history of the Comets band?

 

Otto Fuchs: “Yes, it´s hard to please the fans of the person you are writing about. To quote Rick Nelson: “You can’t please everyone, so sometimes you´ve got to please yourself.”

 

 

Personal Note:  Thank you, Otto Fuchs, for the chance to interview you concerning your Bill Haley biography.  I am in awe of your accomplishment.

 

Otto Fuchs: Wyman, it was an honour and a pleasure. Thanks for your great review on the 2011 edition. People like you, make it worthwhile writing. Thanks, so much.”