(First posted August 21, 1998. Last updated: February 1, 2015)
The Bill Haley Who's Who
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Comet claims | Errors
Rumors and Legends |Aliases
Bill Haley may have been the original King of Rock and Roll, but he didn't go it alone.
Over the years, dozens of talented musicians worked alongside Haley on stage and in the recording studio. Some of these people became longtime fan favorites, and their work is celebrated to this day. Others stayed behind the scenes, virtually anonymous but no less valuable to Bill Haley's career and enduring popularity. And Haley had the good fortune to share the recording studio with a number of jazz legends such as Panama Francis and Milt Hinton.
This feature started out in 1998 as a "where are they now" round-up of as many of Haley's Comets and related musicians as I could find. As information about many people continued to elude me, I decided to expand this feature into a full-fledged Who's Who. Some of the entries have little more than dates and instrument played, while others have more to offer. My goal is to record exactly who worked with Bill Haley and the various groups that spun-off from the Comets -- as well as identify a few individuals who did not.
Also, although they may not have any direct Haley connection, the numerous musicians connected to the underappreciated Comets spin-off group The Jodimars are also included in this Who's Who, since many have at one point worked with Bill Haley or the later Comets reunion. I have also included a number of people from Lou Graham to Big Joe Turner who used The Comets -- in whole or in part -- as their backing group.
Any corrections and additions -- as well as additional information about the people listed -- are welcome. I hope I haven't declared anyone deceased who is not! If you have any additional information, please contact me.
European singing superstar Catarina Valente, centre, is just one of many talented singers and musicians who have worked at one point with Bill Haley and the Comets. Here she is pictured with Haley and longtime sax man Rudy Pompilli in a scene from the 1958 film
Hier Bin Ich, Hier Bleib Ich.
Special note:. Over the years, a number of people have claimed to have been with The Comets; some of these claims have been disproven while others remain unconfirmed. These individuals are listed here.
This list has grown over the better part of a decade now, and there are many people who I wish to thank. Listing everyone, however, has become impractical and even though I have attempted to do so in the past, I fear that by leaving people out I might cause unintended offence, so suffice it to say if you have sent me any information on any of the people below, please accept my sincere thanks. Special thanks, however is due to the following people, whose hard work provided a launching point for this listing. First, thanks to Jack Haley and John von Hoelle, co-authors of Sound and Glory, the best Bill Haley biography ever; their listing of musicians provided a valuable starting point. Also thanks to Chris Gardner, whose exhaustive recording session files and archives have been invaluable research tools to me for the better part of two decades now. Hugh McCallum, the president of the International Bill Haley and His Comets Fan Club, produced an incredibly detailed newsletter, Haley News; some years ago I was fortunate enough to be provided with copies of many issues of this newsletter, which filled in many blanks. I also wish to thank the many current and former members of The Comets and family members -- every contingent -- for helping me add names, subtract others, and correcting information where necessary. And lastly, thanks to Bob Timmers, curator of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame website, for hosting this extensive list all these years and putting up with my revisions.
Why does this list exist?In the fall of 2007, I saw a comment on a MySpace page by a musican who I had listed in the "Comet Claims" section, in which I was accused of starting rumors. By way of response I'll explain why this listing even exists.
First and foremost, it is a tribute to everyone who has ever been involved with Bill Haley. Haley surrounded himself with some of the best musicians in the business. And it doesn't matter if a musician appeared in the Comets for 10 years or for one night: they deserve to the listed here. And you might even find some surprises: did you know a member of Lynard Skynard worked with Haley? Or that one of the Righteous Brothers recently recorded backing vocals for a single by The Comets? Or that one of the last card-carrying Comets to tour with Haley also worked with Sha Na Na? And where does Jayne Mansfield and Rod McKuen fit into all this?
The purpose of this list is also to keep the facts straight. The catalyst for turning this list from a "Where Are They Now?" into a full listing was a series of e-mails I received from family members claiming their dad or grandfather worked with Bill Haley. In all these cases I had to break some hearts and tell them, no, it wasn't your father who played drums on "Rock Around the Clock". I wanted to create a list that made it clear who played with Bill Haley and when. Or, as the case may be, who worked with the post-Haley Comets groups, or the related groups such as the Jodimars. I want this list to be as complete as possible, so I do not discriminate whether a Comets musician worked with Haley, Joey Rand, Al Rappa, John Lane, Joey Welz, or the 1954-55 Original Comets.
I'm not out to start rumors; just to set the record straight. If a person's involvement with Haley, the Comets, or any related groups has been confirmed, then they should be listed here. There are a few indivduals who have been reported by third parties as having been involved with Haley, yet I can find no evidence of this. Some claims have not yet been proven. And a few claims can be disproven outright. These are listed below. If you want to know why I do this, read about the person who has been claiming to be Rudy Pompilli, even though Rudy died in 1976!A quick note on terminology. Since there have been several groups of Comets operating since Haley's death in 1981, I need to specify who is who. I am aware that there are legal issues involving the use of the name The Comets and Bill Haley's Comets, so in order to be clear, I specify Al Rappa's Comets, John Lane's Comets, and Joey Rand's Comets. For the group that includes members of the 1954-55 Comets, I try to use that term when possible, though I may occasionally lapse into using the name "The Original Comets" as this term has been used on CD releases and for European tours by that contingent. No judgement on the legitimacy of any Comets venture is implied by either the use of terminology or by the listing of musicians herein (or, for that matter, should any omission indicate same). Despite of Lane's death I continue to refer to his band as the John Lane Comets to differentiate it from Mr. Rappa's group or that featuring the 1954-55 musicians.
It also needs to be said that just because someone is listed below that doesn't mean they or anyone else is actually making a claim that they were a member of the Comets. This is also an issue that was raised in the MySpace posting. There were only a relative few individuals who were actual card-carrying Comets; Haley used many session musicians and even stage performers (not the least of which is Danny Cedrone, the guitar player on the original "Rock Around the Clock", who was never, and was never claimed to be, a member of The Comets; similarly, Franny Beecher did not become a full member of The Comets until the year after he started working on Haley recording sessions). But all of the names below are those who are known to have (or have been claimed to, as the case might be) performed with Bill Haley (etc.) in some capacity.
If anyone spots an error on this list, or can provide updated information about anyone listed below, please contact me at the e-mail link at the top of this page. Nothing here is set in stone, and if I've made a mistake in good faith, please correct me.
Update November 2010: For this update I have checked weblinks (deleting those that are no longer working; all remaining links are current as of this date) and updated some information, however there will still be outdated information (some material dating back to the late 1990s). Once again I encourage anyone listed below (or who knows people listed below) to please contact me so I can update the information. This is particularly important for the dozen or so names listed below for which I've been unable to uncover information.
THE BILL HALEY WHO'S WHO
Lou ABBOTT. Drummer for Joey Rand's edition of Bill Haley's Comets in 1984-85. He continues to perform and has released a CD called Big Beat Blues. His Web site can be found at singingdrummer.com.
Carmen ABUNDES. One half of the singing duo Las Hermanas Vicary with her sister, Victoria. Besides touring and performing with Haley and the Comets during a 1961 tour of Mexico, the sisters provided vocals on the Haley recording of "Twist Lento" for Orfeon Records. As of early 2008, she was living in the Las Vegas area.
Victoria ABUNDES. The other half of the singing duo Las Hermanas Vicary (see above for details). As of early 2008, she was living in Florida.
Tonyo ADONII. Listed in Sound and Glory as playing drums for Bill Haley at some point. No other information has been located.
Walt ALDRIDGE. Played guitar synthesizer for Haley's final recordings in 1979 for the Everyone Can Rock and Roll album. Today he's regarded as a top country songwriter, with hits by Reba McEntire, Pam Tillis and Ronnie Milsap to his credit. He still works in the studio, and is also a producer. He co-founded the group The Shooters.
Jerry ALLISON. Drummer for Buddy Holly and the Crickets. According to legend, the Crickets once backed Haley for a show; see Holly's entry under "Rumors and Legends".
James 'Slim' ALLSMAN. Guitar player Allsman befriended Haley while appearing on one of Bill's radio programs in the late 1940s. Together, they formed the Four Aces of Western Swing, with Allsman on lead guitar. Allsman later left the Four Aces and joined with future Comets Billy Williamson and Johnny Grande to form the Southern Swingsters, circa 1949. He also worked with Jimmy Collett in the Arizona Ramblers. Allsman owned what was claimed to be Haley's first electric guitar, and reportedly auctioned it for some $35,000 at Sotheby's before he passed away a few years ago.
Tommy ALLSUP. Has been erroneously listed as working with Bill Haley. Click here for more information.
John ALTMAN. Noted British-born film score composer, also known for his work with Monty Python and The Rutles. Altman joined the Original Comets on stage during their July 2005 performance at the Viper Room in West Hollywood. Altman played soprano saxophone during "The Saint's Rock and Roll".
Lou AMBERS. Session musician for the June 1965 recording session for APT Records. Ambers played trumpet on "Haley a Go Go", "Tongue Tied Tony" and other tracks.
Joey AMBROSE. See D'Ambrosio, Joey.
Don ARNONE. Sat in on lead guitar for the June 1965 recording sessions at New York's Bell Sound Studios for APT Records. A well-known jazz guitarist, Arnone's body of work included recordings with the Tal Farlow Quartet and Tony Mottola. In 1958, he worked as a session musician for several Buddy Holly and the Crickets recordings, including "Rave On." He was recording as recently as 1992.
Ron ATWOOD. Rhythm guitarist for the Comets in May and June of 1972, standing in for Ray Parsons. Also known as Ron Wayne Atwood, he continues to perform and record, and released a CD entitled Outlaw Cowboy, which included a version of "A Little Piece at a Time," which was written for Bill Haley's 1971 album, Rock Around the Country. At last report he was living in Oklahoma. Photo courtesy Ron Wayne Atwood.
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Matt B. Stage name for the current (2010) guitar player for the Al Rappa/Joey Rand edition of Bill Haley's Comets.
Abie BAKER. Bass player for the 1964 recording session that briefly reunited Bill Haley and Decca Records for "The Green Door." Baker was an active session musician, working with acts from Ruth Brown to The Coasters. His son is jazz guitarist Mickey Baker.
George BAKER. Sax player for the Comets during 1976, Baker had the unenviable task of succeeding the late Rudy Pompilli. A good friend of Herb Hutchinson's, Baker was trained by fellow Comet Bill Turner, but came down with a cold prior to the tour and was heavily criticized for his performance. Turner reports Baker has retired from sax playing.
Gus BACKUS. Former member of the Del-Vikings who performed with the 1954-55 Comets at a 2007 celebration marking the 75th birthday of Paul Wurges.
Lou BALDINO. An individual claimed to have played drums on the original Decca recording of "Rock Around the Clock". Click here for more information.
Alan BANKS. Keyboard player for Joey Rand's version of Bill Haley's Comets during the period 1984-86. At last report, Banks was living in Lake City, Florida.
Everett BARKSDALE. Rhythm guitarist at the 1965 recording session for APT Records that produced "Haley a Go Go." A popular session musician in his later years, Barksdale began his career in the 1930s playing with bands in Detroit and Chicago. He worked with Art Tatum and other jazz greats and was known for his acoustic guitar work. He continued to work into the 1970s. Born in 1910, Barksdale died in 1986.
Julian 'Bashful Barney' BARNARD. Barnard was Haley's bass player in the Four Aces of Western Swing and was often a featured vocalist on songs like "Behind the Eight Ball." Nicknamed "Bashful Barney", he passed away in 1990.
George BARNES. Briefly served as lead guitarist for The Jodimars in the 1950s, standing in for Chuck Hess. A session musician for some 40 years, Barnes' career dated back to the 1930s when, at the age of 14, he formed the George Barnes Quartet. He later joined NBC as a conductor/arranger. In the 1950s, he joined with Carl Kress in a popular duo, and later worked with Bucky Pizzarelli. He recorded a number of instrumental albums in the 50s and 60s. Prior to his death in 1977 he recorded two albums' worth of material for Concord Records. A Web site devoted to him can be found here.
David BARONE. Played piano for the Everyone Can Rock and Roll sessions in 1979 at Fame Studios. At last report, he was performing as a Contemporary Christian artist.
Dave BATES. Replaced Ed Ward as the Comets' drummer in the spring of 1962, and stayed with the group until that August when he was replaced by Dave Holly. In March 1962 he was also replaced by Sticks Evans for the Twisting Knights live sessions.
Blaine BATTS. Drummer with Al Rappa's edition of Bill Haley's Comets during the groups 1988 tour of Florida. His brother is Warren Batts.
Warren BATTS. Lead guitarist with Al Rappa's edition of Bill Haley's Comets since the 1990s. As of early 2012 was still performing music in the Richland City, Ind. area. His brother is Blaine Batts.
Paul BAYS. Lead guitarist with Joey Rand's edition of Bill Haley's Comets, circa 1986.
Franny BEECHER. Lead guitar 1954-1962. One of rock and roll's premiere guitarists, Franny joined Haley after cutting his teeth with Benny Goodman, Buddy Greco, as well as Slim Allsman's Arizona Ramblers. With Goodman, he played at the inauguration of President Harry S. Truman. Beecher was considered a session musician for his first year working for Haley, filling the shoes of Danny Cedrone, who had died. Beecher made one of his first public appearances with the band on the Toast of the Town show with Ed Sullivan. Beecher developed a gimmick - a high-pitched little kid's voice that he would sometimes use when singing. Haley used this gimmick in the opening of "See You Later Alligator," "Rip it Up," and "Billy Goat", and Beecher got almost a whole song to himself in 1959's "ABC Rock". In 1960, he briefly left the Comets to work with Rudy Pompilli and Ralph Jones in a group called the Merri-Men. He returned to the Comets in 1961 but left again in early 1962, returning in the spring of that year to make a final set of recordings with Haley at the Roundtable Club in New York. Retired from music for a time after resigning from the Comets, though in 1975 he performed with sax player Rudy Pompilli not long before Rudy's death. He later toured with a Comets reunion group organized in 1977. In 1982 he rejoined some of his former Comets colleagues for another reunion that included a recording session that produced the single "Bring Back the Music"/"The Hawk Talks," the latter being an instrumental spotlighting his guitar work. In 1987, he reunited with the original 1954-55 Comets for a tribute to Dick Clark and continued to perform with them until the summer of 2006 when it was announced that he had retired from touring. Beecher continued to perform occasionally until he entered his 90s and ill health prevented him from continuing. He made his final public appearance at a concert by Bill Haley Jr. in 2012, though he was unable to travel to Cleveland when the Comets were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that year. Beecher died on Feb. 24, 2014 at the age of 92.
Kenny BENDER. Drummer for the Al Rappa version of Bill Haley's Comets in the 1980s. According to newspaper coverage of an April 1989 performance in Daytona Beach, Fla., Bender is said to have been with the band for five years at that point, making him a veteran also of the Rappa/John Lane Comets. I found one online source, however, that suggested Bender also played with the competing Joey Rand version of the Comets circa 1983, but this may have been an error.
Tony BENSON. Played drums for Haley during his 1975 tour of Brazil as a last-minute replacement for Freddie Moore, who couldn't get the time off college. He worked with Bill Turner's Blue Smoke Band from 1972 to 1984, after which he entered the video store business though he continued to play with Blue Smoke occasionally. At last report, Tony lived in New Jersey and plays drums with trios at local clubs when he wasn't working as a grounds maintenance man for the Staten Island Zoo.
Pat BERG. Played rhythm guitar for the Comets during October-November 1967.
Julian BERT. Piano player during Haley's final Orfeon recording sessions in Mexico in early 1966. Bert also played piano with the Comets when they backed Big Joe Turner around the same time. As of early 2001 Bert was a member of Millennia, a group that backed Greg Waters and performed at the Festival de Jazz de Acapulco.
Cappy BIANCO. See Olivier, Joe.
Ed BLACK. Rhythm guitarist for the Phoenix-based group The Superfine Dandelion, who in August 1967 backed Bill Haley on the recording "Rock on Baby" which sat unreleased for 32 years. Black went on to be a high-profile session man for the likes of Linda Ronstadt and Karla Bonoff. He is now deceased.
Jerry BLAINE. A record distributor for Essex Records, Blaine was one of the background singers on Haley's 1953 recording of "Crazy Man Crazy" - he was apparently visiting the recording studio and was drafted to participate. Blaine was the owner of the Jubilee and Josie labels and produced hits by the Orioles and other doo-wop legends. He died in 1973.
Mark BLAIR. Played drums for either the Al Rappa or John Lane versions of Bill Haley's Comets. At last report, he was with the band Crooked Shooz.
Alex BLAND. British sax player who briefly stood in for Joey D'Ambrosio during a fall 2001 tour by the 1954-55 Comets when Joey had to drop out.
Slim BLAND. Briefly played rhythm guitar for the Saddlemen in the early 1950s. Bland was a member of the Bland Brothers, who appeared on radio and TV. He may have later relocated to Florida and continued his musical career, but this has not been confirmed. His full name might have been Marty Bland, but this is uncertain.
Jimmy 'Little Red' BLOUNT. A former member of Louis Prima's band, trombonist Blount joined the Jodimars in 1958, but left after a short time. At last report, he had retired from his job with the State of Georgia and was performing in Dixieland Jazz bands.
Bill BORELLI. Recorded with the Saddlemen, playing second piano alongside Johnny Grande at the 1950 Atlantic Records recording session that produced "Why Do I Cry Over You" and "I'm Gonna Dry Every Tear With a Kiss." He is listed as co-writer of the hit 1952 song "Here in My Heart."
Ricky Lee BRAWN. Drummer for the Stargazers, The Big Six and other well-known British rockabilly and swing groups, Brawn produced the 1954-55 Comets' 1997 recording sessions that produced the CD The House is Rockin' for Rockstar Records. Brawn plays drums and provides backing vocals on several tracks on the album. Brawn also played drums backing Marshall Lytle at a 1991 recording session that was released in 1994 as the CD Air Mail Special, credited to Marshall and the Shooting Stars. He has also sat in on some Comets shows, and once did "duelling drums" with Dick Richards. Married to Helen Shadow.
Bill BROOKS. Branson, Mo.-based gospel music singer and star of The Promise. In 2007, he provided backing vocals for the 1954-55 Comets on their novelty single, "When I Die, Just Bury Me at Wal-Mart (So My Wife Can Come and Visit Me!)".
Randy BROOKS. Also a Branson, Mo.-based gospel music singer and actor in The Promise, who like Bill Brooks provided backing vocals for the 1954-55 Comets on their novelty single, "When I Die, Just Bury Me at Wal-Mart (So My Wife Can Come and Visit Me!)".
Reno BROWNE. (Real name: Josephine Clarke). One of the silver screen's first female western superstars, Browne has an unusual place in the world of Bill Haley. In 1950, Haley and the Saddlemen recorded the single "My Sweet Little Girl from Nevada"/"My Palomino and I" for Cowboy Records. The song was released under the name Reno Browne and Her Buckeroos to tie in with the height of her popularity, although Browne herself was not involved in the recording session (I list her here as she is credited on the record and publicity at the time suggested she performed on the record). Browne, who also acted under the name Reno Blair, was once married to cowboy star Lash LaRue, had a comic book named after her, and continued to be a popular attraction at western film festivals into the 1980s. She died of cancer in 1991 in Reno, Nev. For more information, there is a Web page dedicated to her here. Photo courtesy Chuck Anderson.
Wes BUCHANAN. Buchanan teamed up with Marshall Lytle in the late 1950s in an attempt to revive the Jodimars. Recorded the single "One Grain of Sand"/"Time is Endless" which was issued under the name Marshall & Wes & The Jodimars. He went on to record for the Columbia and Pep labels and was produced by Marty Robbins. He scored a hit in the 1970s with "Windows Have Pains." He died in 1985.
Jacko BUDDIN. Vocals, other instruments 1989-early-2000s. Former member of the Dynamite Band, he joined the 1954-55 Comets in the late 1980s to sing Bill Haley's vocals when they launched their first tour of the UK. The British singer's work is spotlighted in the 1999 Rollin' Rock CD, Still Rockin' Around the Clock and its follow-up, Aged to Perfection. By 2002, Buddin no was no longer performing with the Comets on North American tours, but continued to perform with the group during their European and UK tours for a couple of years after; a 2003 performance featuring Buddin was released on DVD as The Fathers of Rock and Roll. Although his rhythm guitar was often more a prop than a played instrument, Buddin did play drums with the Comets whenever Dick Richards was called upon to sing, and he also played duet piano with Johnny Grande on performances of "The House is Rockin'." His current activities are unknown.
Jim BUFFINGTON. Philadelphia-based drummer who did session work on first Jodimars recording sessions in July 1955 that produced the demos "Rock-a-Beatin' Boogie," "Flip, Flop and Fly" and possibly "The Big Beat." The first two songs would sit unreleased until 1995, while "Big Beat" is still unreleased.
Buddy BURR. Bass player for the 1954-55 Comets who replaced Marshall Lytle beginning in 2011.
David BYRD. Piano player for the 1954-55 Comets who joined the group in Branson in the fall of 2006 as the second replacement for the late Johnny Grande. He was still with the Original Comets as of 2012.
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Bobby C. Stage name for the current (2010) bass player with the Al Rappa/Joey Rand edition of Bill Haley's Comets.
Dimitri CALLIS. Lead guitar player for the John Lane version of Bill Haley's Comets as late as 2002. Callis' guitar skills are spotlighted on the band's CD, Almost Live. Prior to working with Lane, Callis was a member of the Four Seasons from 1971-73 and appeared alongside Frankie Valli on a number of TV shows of the time.
The CAMEOS. Backing vocalists during Haley's 1963 recording sessions for Newtown Records.
Guy CAMPBELL. Steel guitar player for The Down Homers alongside Bill Haley in the mid-1940s. Campbell is also believed to have participated in the group's 1946 Vogue recording sessions, in which Haley for years was rumoured to have also taken part in. He is now deceased.
Mike CANNON. Mike Cannon joined The Comets in early 1967 to play organ for the band.
Irma CARLON. According to discography information compiled by the late Herbert Kamitz, The Comets backed Irma Carlon on the RCA single "No Es Maravillosa"/"Mitad del Corazon" in the early 1960s. No other information available. This is the only known occasion where the Haley organization did any direct work for RCA, home label of rival King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley.
Patrick CARMICHAEL. Drummer for the John "Bam-Bam" Lane version of Bill Haley's Comets, who was hired to replace Lane after his death in 2007.
Ray CAWLEY. Bass 1969-1974. A popular member of the Comets in the early 1970s, who inherited the bass antics of Al Rappa, Al Rex and Marshall Lytle before him. He was also a featured vocalist. Prior to joining The Comets he had been a member of Nick Nastos' group. When Haley retired in 1977-78, Cawley toured the U.S. with an official edition of Haley's Comets alongside Nastos, Buddy Dee and Ray Parsons. Cawley died in a car crash with his wife in the summer of 1980. Reportedly, Cawley and Bill Haley once made some private recordings for Ray's family.Photo courtesy Jared Cravens.
Danny CEDRONE. Session lead guitar (off-and-on) between 1951 and 1954. Perhap's Haley's most famous session musician of the early 1950s, Cedrone made his Haley debut at the 1951 Holiday Records recording session that produced "Rocket '88." He alternated his recording sessions with Haley with being a member of The Esquire Boys. Haley wrote "Rock-a-Beatin' Boogie" for Cedrone to use with this band. On April 12, 1954, Cedrone did session work on the famous "Rock Around the Clock" session, and his guitar solo (previously used on "Rock the Joint") has become iconic. He died in July 1954 after he fell down a flight of stairs, less than two weeks after recording "Shake Rattle and Roll"/"ABC Boogie" with Haley. It is reported that Cedrone was about to sign a record deal with RCA when he died. In 1998, Cedrone's family lobbied to get him named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but was unsuccessful, though in 2012 Cedrone's name was included when the Comets were inducted. An album of rare recordings, Guitar Virtuoso was released by the Cedrone family in 2008.
Curly CHALKER. Real name Harold Lee Chalker. Curley played steel guitar on Haley's acclaimed 1970 LP Rock Around the Country, recorded in Nashville for Sonet. A respected session man, considered to be one of the best steel guitar players of all time, he also recorded with the likes of Lefty Frizell, Hank Thompson (I'm uncertain if this is the same Hank Thompson who worked with the Comets), Merle Travis and Carl Smith, and was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 1985. His recording career was cut short by a stroke and he died in April 1998 at the age of 66. The liner notes for Rock Around the Country misspell his name as Curley Chawker. Photo courtesy Tom Bradshaw.
Patrice CHEVALIER. Played lead guitar, backing Marshall Lytle for the 1991 recording sessions that produced the Marshall and the Shooting Stars CD Air Mail Special. A former member of the group Tricky, he at last report was performing with the Lo Fi Funksters.
Johnny CLIFTON. See Alias section.
Ed CLINTON. Lead guitarist with the John Lane edition of Bill Haley's Comets in 1995 and 1996. Clinton was at last report a member of the Stone Broke Band.
The COASTERS. Notable RnB/Rock and Roll group of the 1950s who were closely associated with Leiber & Stoller. Their hits included "Poison Ivy", "Love Potion No. 9", and "Charlie Brown." In 2007, a clip appeared on YouTube purporting to show "Bill Haley's Comets" backing "The Coasters" on a performance of "Poison Ivy". The clip does not indicate which contingent of Comets this was (it wasn't the 1954-55 Comets, however), nor which contingent of Coasters this was, either.
Lou COLBE. Bass player who joined the 1954-55 Comets in late 2009/early 2010, succeeding Marshall Lytle. Originally from Las Vegas and now based in Branson, Mo., Colbe has worked with Sammy Davis Jr., Sonny and Cher, Dean Martin, Kay Starr, and Ed Ames.
B.J. COLE. Played steel guitar backing Marshall Lytle for the 1991 recording sessions that produced the Marshall and the Shooting Stars CD Air Mail Special. He has worked in the studio alongside the likes of Bjork, The Verve, Emmylou Harris, k.d. lang, Garth Brooks, Marc Bolan and ... Benny Hill? He has also released a CD with Luke Vibert.
Jimmy COLLETT. Arizona-born singer and fiddler. Some sources say he played fiddle on the 1950 Bill Haley recordings "My Palomino and I" and "My Sweet Little Girl from Nevada", which were issued under the name Reno Browne and Her Buckaroos. He recorded many country and rockabilly sides for the Cowboy, Arcade and Skyrocket labels when he wasn't working as a dentist. He died in 1995.
Mike COLLINS. Drummer for the Phoenix-based rock group The Superfine Dandelion who backed Haley on the unusual recording "Rock on Baby" in 1967.
Chris COLUMBY. Guitarist who worked with one of the post-Haley versions of the Comets. No other information has been located.
James COMPTON. Played piano backing Marshall Lytle for the 1991 recording sessions that produced the Marshall and the Shooting Stars CD Air Mail Special. Compton's career has included touring with The Darts, being a founding member of Ronnie and the Rex, and he's also served as musical director on a number of West End shows including Forever Plaid, Elvis the Musical and Leader of the Pack.
Al CONSTANTINE. Played accordion for Haley's country group The Four Aces of Western Swing in the mid-1940s. He is still with us as of 2014 and has appeared on radio reminiscing about his time with Haley.
COOK BROTHERS. The Comets backed the Cook Brothers on a 1960 single for the Arcade label: "Teenage Love Affair"/"Always Together."
Shorty COOK. Real name Everett Hinderer. A member of the Down Homers in 1946 along with Bill Haley. Cook later co-wrote "Four Leaf Clover Blues", which was one of Haley's first recordings with the Four Aces of Western Swing. Cook worked at a music store in Fort Wayne, Indiana until his death in 2001.
Lloyd CORNELL. Bass player Lloyd Cornell worked alongside Bill Haley in the Down Homers in the mid-1940s, and later joined Haley's short-lived group, The Range Drifters. Cornell is reportedly deceased.
Brian CORRELL. Lead guitarist for the Al Rappa contingent of Bill Haley's Comets in 2008. He has also produced several videos for the group. Prior to joining the Comets, Correll was the final lead guitarist for Dennis Yost and The Classics IV. He has a website here.
Carmen COSENTINO. Singer, guitarist and musical director of John Lane's version of Bill Haley's Comets since 2005. When he isn't performing, at last report he runs a cafe in New Jersey.
COUNTRY SHOWMEN. See Alias section.
Paul COWAN. Drummer who played with the Rappa/Lane version of Bill Haley's Comets in the late 1980s. Cowan enjoyed a 40-year career that included time with the Sidestreet Band, The Cruzers and 36 other bands before he retired from drumming in 1998.
Alex CRAVEN. Bass player for the John Lane version of the Comets. Craven has a Web site here.
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Joey D'AMBROSIO aka. Joey Ambrose. Joined Haley's Comets at age 19, after working with the likes of Spags Spagnola and Mike Guera. Big Joe Turner once called him, "The palest nigger to ever blow a blue note" -- and that was considered a great compliment. In 1955, Ambrose jumped ship and helped create The Jodimars. Later, he entered into the casino industry and was a pit boss/floor supervisor at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas for 25 years. In the 1960s, he worked with a band called The Satellites. He continues to work as a session musician today, and in 1987 he reunited with his Comets and Jodimars colleagues. Joey became popular for his uncanny vocal impersonations of Louis Prima and Louis Armstrong. As of 2014 he continues to work with the Original Comets out of Branson, Mo. and on European tours, including a 2014 tour with Bill Haley's New Comets. With the passing of Marshall Lytle in 2013, Joey became the last surviving musician of the original "Rock Around the Clock" recording session in 1954. A variant spelling of his name is Joey D'Ambrosia. Photo by Alex Frazer-Harrison.
Max DAFFNER. The Jodimars' drummer from 1955-c.1957. In August 1999, and again in early 2000, Daffner reunited with his old Jodimars bandmates for 1954-55 Comets recording sessions in Las Vegas, on which he played drums. He also played drums on tour for the 1954-55 Comets at a few dates in early 2001. At that point, he lived in Vegas and had worked recently as a sales representative for an industrial products company when he wasn't performing with big band orchestras. Some online sources erroneously state that Daffner also was a member of Bill Haley and the Comets, but there is no evidence he ever worked with Haley directly.
Geoff DAILEY. Geoff Daily was called in to re-record some of Geoff Driscoll's saxophone work following Haley's March 1979 recording sessions in London, England. Some sources spell his last name Daley.
Steve DANIELSON. Spent six months touring with one of the post-Haley versions of Bill Haley's Comets in the mid-1990s before retiring from music and getting into the computer business.
Peter DAVENPORT. Steel guitar player. One of the founders of the British rockabilly group The Stargazers, Davenport became an honorary Comet in the late 1980s when he was hired to play steel guitar for the original Comets, taking the place of Billy Williamson (around this time, the Stargazers also performed with Marshall Lytle during a tour of Japan, with Davenport playing lead guitar on "Rock Around the Clock"). He can be heard on the 1993 Hydra Records CD We're Gonna Party. In 2007 he joined Bill Haley's New Comets, a German-based tribute production, and continues to play steel with them on European tours, most recently in 2014 during a special tour that featured Gina Haley, Joey Ambrose and Dick Richards.
Chalmers DAVIS. Haley's bass player during his final recording sessions in 1979 at Fame Studios. He also played second piano on some tracks. At least report, he was working as a session keyboardist and had toured with Little Richard.
Sonny Jim DAVIS. According to Hugh McCallum's Haley News fan club newsletter, a minor Comets fandom controversy erupted in mid-1967 when Bill Haley, in an attempt at finding a new sound (and possibly to reflect the sound on some of the later Orfeon recordings), hired Sonny Jim Davis to play trumpet at live gigs. According to the Haley Fan Club newsletters of the time, Davis was also hired to be lead singer for Comets gigs without Haley. The trumpet experiment appears to have been unsuccessful, as Davis left the group after August 1967.
Dave DAY. Birth name David Fatalsky. The Comets backed Pittsburgh-based Day on the single "Calypso Rock"/"Blue" which was released on the Casa Blanca and Kapp labels as Dave Day and the Red Coats (sources differ as to whether this recording dates to 1956 or 1959, but Billboard indicates a 1956 release). Both songs were co-written by Day and Bill Haley. Day also recorded under the names Davey Day and Dave "Diddle" Day. According to music bibliographers Carl and Nancy Janusek, in their liner notes for the album Rock 'n' Roll Fee Bee, Day was hired by Haley's manager, Jim Ferguson, to play rhythm guitar and sing with the Comets at some point in the 1950s, but I have been unable to find additional confirmation of this.
Jack DAY. Real name John DeStefano. Philadelphia-based country artist backed on a 1960 single "Rappin' the Bass"/"Rattle Bone Boogie" on the Arcade label. The A-side is actually an instrumental featuring the Comets and it's not known if Day participated in recording it. The b-side is a vocal. Day died in July 2006.
Al DEAN. Real name Albert DeNittis. Replaced Rudy Pompilli on tenor sax when Rudy quit the Comets for a brief time in 1960, and can be heard on a few recordings made for Warner Brothers, including "Let the Good Times Roll, Creole." He reportedly retired from show business around 1970. His brother, Tyrone DeNittis, ran the group The Tyrones, which recorded a number of Haley-published songs and were part of Haley's talent and booking stable. Dean may have also recorded with the group.
Buddy DEE, aka. Wayne DeMint. Played drums for Haley for a couple of years in the early 1970s. Later, when Haley went on sabbatical in 1977-78, Dee toured with a version of Haley's Comets alongside Nick Nastos, Ray Parsons and Ray Cawley. Photo courtesy Jared Cravens.
Jimmy DeKNIGHT. See Myers, James.
Rita DELMAR. Vocalist who worked with Rusty Keefer on his 1955 single "Rock-a-Way"/"Aintcha", which was backed by The Comets. She also recorded the song "Teenage Heart." The Keefer release was for years believed to have taken place in 1957, but the online archives of Billboard magazine reveal it was actually released in the fall of 1955.
Joe DENICK. Guitarist Denick reportedly played briefly for Bill Haley at some point before Franny Beecher joined the Comets in the fall of 1954. Denick apparently passed on the opportunity to become a full-fledged Comet because he got a better job offer. There's no indication he ever recorded with Haley and it's not known at present whether he worked with Haley while Danny Cedrone was still alive, or during the period when Beecher was a session musician only. Earlier, Denick worked alongside Beecher in a country group called the Buckaroo Ramblers. Joe Denick died on March 3, 2006 at the age of 85. Some sources spell his last name DeNick.
Joe DENNIS. Billed as "Smiling Joe Dennis", Dennis played electric guitar with The Western Aces, a variant of Haley's Four Aces of Western Swing group, in the late 1940s, according to an item in an issue of Billboard.
Doles DICKENS. Bass player who worked on Haley's June 1960 recording sessions for Warner Brothers, standing in for Al Rappa. Dickens can be heard on "Let the Good Times Roll Creole" and "So Right Tonight." Dickens worked with the Mello-Harps, the Phil Moore Four, the 5 Red Caps, Mahalia Jackson and the Doles Dickens Trio and recorded a song called "We're Gonna Rock This Morning" for Decca Records in 1949. He died in 1972.
Paul Taylor DIFFEN. Played double bass backing Marshall Lytle for the 1991 recording sessions that produced the Marshall and the Shooting Stars CD Air Mail Special. A member of Sugar Ray Ford and the Hotshots, Diffen has worked with Wanda Jackson, Charlie Gracie and Sid King.
DOR. See Rod McKuen.
Geoff DRISCOLL. Played sax for The Comets during Haley's spring 1979 tour of Britain and Europe and he appears in the film Blue Suede Shoes as well as the Birmingham show that has been released to DVD. He also participated in the March 1979 recording sessions that became part of Haley's final LP, Everyone Can Rock and Roll, though some of his sax work was rerecorded later by Geoff Daily according to the Haley News newsletter. As of 1994, Driscoll was a member of the Ashley Hutchings Big Beat Combo.
Neal DRUMMOND. A friend of Haley's who played guitar with him on radio station WSNJ in Bridgeton, N.J. circa 1947. He was still alive as of several years ago.
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Ronnie EADES. Played sax on Haley's final studio recordings in 1979, alongside Ed Logan. Part of the "Fame Gang," Eades joined The Rossington Band in 1987 after recording for some 400 artists ranging from Elvis Presley to Paul McCartney.
John EDDIE. The 1954-55 Comets backed Eddie on a performance of "Shake, Rattle and Roll" at the 1987 Philadelphia Music Awards. He is a well-known folk rocker in that part of the US.
Dallas EDWARDS aka. Dale Edwards, Dal Edwards. Joined the Comets briefly in 1967 to replace lead guitarist Johnny Kay, and later worked for Joey Rand's version of Bill Haley's Comets in the 1980s. He was touring with Rand in November 1982 when he drowned in a Daytona Beach, Fla. hotel swimming pool. He may have also used the name Dallas (or Dal) Kniffen.
Sonny EDWARDS. Sax player for the John Lane Comets in the early 2000s.
Jimmy ENGLISH. Lead guitar player for Haley's final recording sessions in Muscle Shoals, Alabama in 1979. Part of the Fame Studios team, English recorded with many top artists including Johnny Cash, David Allen Coe, George Jones and The Pointer Sisters.
Little ERNIE. Pianist Little Ernie is believed to have stood in for absent Johnny Grande when The Comets backed popular kiddie show host Sally Starr on her Clymax LP Our Gal Sal in 1958, though some sources indicate Grande participated too (possibly as producer). Ernie had previously worked alongside Rudy Pompilli and continued to work with him on solo gigs in the late 1960s.
Sticks EVANS. Drummer for the Comets during March 1962 when they performed several dates at the Roundtable Club in New York which produced the live LP Twistin' Knights at the Roundtable on Roulette Records. A long-time session drummer, Evans worked with the likes of Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Lavern Baker, Phil Spector and Kai Windings.
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Brian FAHEY. Drummer who launched his professional career working for the Joey Rand edition of Bill Haley's Comets in the 1980s. There is a Web page that indicates Brian was with the group in the late 1970s, but there is no record of a Brian Fahey working with Haley. Brian went on to work with The Varmints and at last report was a member of The Paladins.
Earl FAMOUS. Replaced Charlie Higler as drummer for the Comets in the spring of 1953. Some sources, however, suggest that Famous might have predated Higler. If this is true, than Famous, not Higler, was the first stage drummer for Bill Haley and the Comets.
Bill FAYE aka Billy Moon. Played rhythm guitar for Haley for a few tours in early 1968. Better known as Billy Moon, Faye has performed in a number of groups since the 1960s such as The 8th Wonders, Whiskey Ring, Rom and Koffee. He continues to perform, write songs and record and has released numerous CDs of his work in recent years. He has a Web site at www.gypsymoonmusic.com. Photos courtesy Louis Torres and Billy Moon.
Dave FENDER. Played lead guitar on a number of recordings attributed to Bill Haley's Comets featuring Al Rappa and Joey Welz, c. 2008. It's not known if Fender was a member of Rappa's group or a session musician.
Lou FIEST. Drummer for a reunion of Bill Haley's Comets that gathered in 1981 to perform a tribute to Haley on NBC's Tomorrow show. No other connection to Haley has been confirmed.
Bill FISHER. Guitar player on several breakaway Comets recording session in the late 1950s, including the Kingsmen recording "Week End" and the Lifeguards recording "Everybody Out'a The Pool." He was a member of the touring contingent of the Kingsmen that performed when "Week End" became an unexpected hit and the original Comets members couldn't reveal their involvement. Fisher later played guitar for a 1960 Bill Haley recording session at Warner Brothers, which produced the songs "So Right Tonight" and "Let the Good Times Roll, Creole" around the time he was also a member of the Royalaires. Fisher died of cancer in 1999, but was still playing guitar until the end. Some sources spell his last name Fischer.
Giovanni FOCACCIA. Italian-born guitar player, bass player and singer who performed with the Al Rappa version of the Comets from 1992. He was still with the group in 2010. Photo courtesy Giovanni Focaccia
D.J. FONTANA. At a performance by the 1954-55 Comets in Jackson, Tenn. in the early 2000s, Elvis Presley's legendary drummer sat in with the band.
David 'Panama' FRANCIS. The legendary jazz drummer and leader of the Savoy Sultans was long rumoured to have played session drums for Haley's original 1954 Decca single "Shake, Rattle and Roll"/"A.B.C. Boogie," however this has been debunked by producer Milt Gabler and other sources. He reportedly also played drums for Haley for his 1965 remake of "Burn That Candle" on APT Records. This involvement has yet to be confirmed or denied, which is why I'm keeping Francis in this section for now. He also worked with Bobby Darin, Ray Charles, Buddy Holly and others, appearing on many rock and roll classics along the way. Francis continued to perform into his 80s and appeared in the Madonna video, "Secrets." He died in November 2001 at the age of 82.
Rob FRASER. Bass player with Joey Rand's edition of Bill Haley's Comets in the early 1980s (circa 1983). He is still a professional bass player. His website is at www.robfraserbass.com. His last name has been mispelled as Frazer in at least one article on the Rand Comets.
Stan FREE. Piano player on Haley's June 1965 sessions for APT Records. A popular session man, Free also recorded with The Monkees and other groups in the 1960s.
Merle FRITZ. Steel guitar player with Haley's first band, the Four Aces of Western Swing, circa 1947-48. Fritz at last report was living in New Jersey.
Ritchie FROST. Session drummer hired by Marshall Lytle for a 1958 recording session in an attempt to revive The Jodimars. Frost also drummed for Ricky Nelson in the 1950s and later the Righteous Brothers, and he provided percussion on the Beach Boys' classic Pet Sounds album. Frost was part of Nelson's TV show band. The 1958 Jodimars recordings sat unreleased until 1995.
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John GARBO. See John Melinchock.
Chris GARDNER. If you're a Haley fan, you've probably seen Chris Gardner's name on the liner notes of Bear Family's boxed sets, or other releases such as Rollercoaster's Rock the Joint. Gardner is one of the world's foremost authorities on Bill Haley. He's also a musician, having spent many years playing piano for The Stargazers a rockabilly-style band strongly influenced by the work of Bill Haley & His Comets. In 1989 he sat in with the 1954-55 Comets for a show (and possibly at a later concert where he played the accordion), and later helped finance Marshall Lytle's project with a mixture of Stargazers and session musicians, Marshall and the Shooting Stars. He also played piano on a version of "Eat Your Heart Out Annie," recorded by Marshall Lytle with the Stargazers and released in the late 1990s on the first Rockabilly Hall of Fame CD. Chris is webmaster of the Bill Haley Central Web site and portal, and his exhaustive index of recording sessions and discography is considered a primary resource for Haley researchers such as myself (many of the names on this Who's Who are listed due to being included in Gardner's index). Photo courtesy Chris Gardner.
Gene GARF. Session pianist hired by Marshall Lytle in a 1958 attempt to revive The Jodimars. Garf fronted the Gene Garf Quartet, and also recorded with the Texas Playboys, Ricky Nelson and Henry Mancini. Garf was part of Nelson's TV show band. A Gene Garf is also credited with composing music for the TV series My Three Sons but that may be a different person. Garf's Jodimars recordings weren't released until 1995.
Mike GARRISON. Lead guitarist for the Joey Rand edition of the Comets in the mid-1980s.
GINGER and JOHNNY. Husband-and-wife singing duo -- Ginger Shannon and Johnny Montana -- who recorded a number of singles for Jack Howard's Arcade Records in the late 1950s-early 60s, including some that used members of The Comets as session musicians. Some sources erroneously identify "Johnny" was Rusty Wellington, a longtime friend of Haley's who had once recorded a version of Haley's "Rockin' Chair on the Moon." Ginger was once a member of The Down Homers and left the group around the time in 1943 that Kenny Roberts joined the group (this was three years before Haley joined). She was one of the first female slap-bass players. Some of The Comets and related musicians known to have worked with the duo include: Al Rex, Franny Beecher, Nick Nastos, Rusty Keefer, Al Constantine, Shorty Long, The Keefer Sisters and Chuck Hess. Ginger and Johnny continued their musical career into the 1960s and 1970s, touring Europe and Puerto Rico. At last contact by this author, the couple lived in the Pocono Mountains region of Pennsylvania. Photo courtesy Peggy Wellington.
Loretta GLENDENNING. This singer was the first female singer to collaborate with Bill Haley on a released recording. She appears on the 1951 Holiday Records single "I'm Crying"/"Pretty Baby." Two other recordings are believed to have been made at this session, but have never been located. In July 2002, a woman named Lorette Glendenning Murray was killed in a motor vehicle accident in New Brunswick, Canada. I have never been able to confirm if this was the same person.
Michel GOHLER. See Mickey LeBeau.
Jim 'Ed' GORBEY. Listed in Sound and Glory as playing bass for Haley at some point. No other information has been located.
John GORDON. Replaced Jim Lebak on bass for Haley's final tours in the fall of 1979 and the spring of 1980.
Charlie GRACIE. Early rockabilly singer/guitarist who began his career around the same time Haley moved to rock and roll. Best known for his songs "99 Way", "Sway", and "Butterfly" (which was covered by Andy Williams and was a major hit for the crooner), Gracie maintained close ties to the original Comets. In 1987, when the 1954-55 Comets reunited for a special show, they backed Gracie on a performance of "Butterfly". A recording exists of this, but has yet to be commercially released. Gracie continues to perform and was the subject of a documentary that aired on PBS a few years ago.
David GRAF. Guitarist with one of the post-Haley versions of Bill Haley's Comets. Whether he was with Joey Rand, Al Rappa or John Lane's groups is unknown. As recently as 2000, Graf was known for his acoustic guitar jazz and R & B work.
Lou GRAHAM. Real name Lewis Lyerly. North Carolina-born vocalist and bass player, Graham was a popular young singer who often performed with Bill Haley and the Saddlemen in the early 50s as a guest vocalist. The Saddlemen backed him on a number of recordings, including "Long Gone Daddy," in 1952. In 1958, the Comets once again backed Graham on his recording of "Wee Willie Brown" which was later reissued by Rollercoaster Records. Graham is also believed by some to have also played bass for the Comets at some point, though other sources say otherwise. Graham died in late 1998.
Johnny GRANDE. Piano and accordion 1949-1962, rejoined Comets 1987-2006. Grande's Latin-style looks and pencil-thin moustache made him the Comets' resident sex symbol in the 1950s. But behind the scenes his role was far more important, as he was apparently the only member of the original Comets who could read music at the time! Grande was one of the original partners in the Saddlemen. Grande was rarely given a chance to solo on record, with the notable exception of the accordion instrumental "A Rockin' Little Tune" in 1956 and some great piano work on "The Walkin' Beat" in 1958 (released 1964); he also got some piano solo work during the Orfeon Records era. It's not known exactly when he left the Comets - some sources say during or following a fall 1962 tour of Germany, but other sources say he did some work with Haley in 1963. In 1987 Grande reunited with fellow members of the Comets from the 1950s and continued to perform, tour, and record with the reunited 1954-55 Comets for nearly the next 20 years. This co-founder of the Saddlemen and original partner in The Comets passed away on June 3, 2006 after a brief fight with cancer; he continued performing with the Original Comets in Branson until only a few weeks before his death.
Carrie GRANT. Powerful-voiced female singer Carrie Grant collaborated with the Comets on the Newtown single "Let the Girls Sing"/"Mish Mash" in 1963, which was released as Carrie Grant and the Grandeurs. There has been debate whether the Comets actually backed Grant on this session, however Bill Haley did record his own version of "Mish Mash" in Mexico.
Tiny GRASSO. Mentioned in several 1940s issues of Billboard as a member of Haley's early group The Range Drifters, circa 1945-46. No other information has been located.
Bill GRAY. Played fiddle in Haley's very first group, The Texas Range Riders, circa 1943. He helped in the research for the Sound and Glory biography in the early 1990s.
Bob GRAY. Rhythm guitarist claimed to have worked with Haley at some point. Click here for more information.
Charlie GRAY. Part of Haley's stable of recording artists when he ran the Clymax record label., Gray was backed by The Comets on the 1958 single "Completely Satisfied"/"Wastin' Time."
George GRAY. Played guitar in Haley's very first group, The Texas Range Riders, circa 1943. He was married to Bill Haley's sister and lived with the Haley family during the early 1940s. He helped in the research for the Sound and Glory biography in the early 1990s.
Mal GRAY. Featured vocalist and Comets band leader during the late 1970s. Gray was the lead vocalist on the unreleased (and reportedly never completed) 1979 Comets recording, "The King," and also participated in the Royal Command Performance for Queen Elizabeth in November 1979. A former member of Sha Na Na, Gray claims to have worked with all the top rock and roll acts of the 1950s, except Elvis. In the 1990s, he was lead vocalist and director of the American Pie Rock 'n' Roll Theatre Show in Britain, and at last report fronted the band The Wild Angels. In the fall of 2000, Gray performed at a festival on the Isle of Wight. The Wild Angels released a CD called D'You Know What I Mean?. Gray can be seen performing Chuck Berry's "The Promised Land" on the various recently DVD releases of a Comets concert recorded in Birmingham, England in March 1979.
Lloyd GREEN. Green played steel guitar and dobro on the 1972 Nashville sessions that produced the Sonet LP Just Rock and Roll Music. Green continued to be a much-in-demand session musician through the 70s and 80s. At last report he had been focusing more on writing new music than performing.
Scott GREGORY. See Alias section.
Billy GUSSAK. Session drummer 1953-1955, also drummer for some Jodimars recording sessions, 1955. Gussak was first hired to back Haley while the Comets were still at Essex records, and he played drums on "Rock Around the Clock" as well. He later broke ties with Haley to become session drummer for The Jodimars. Arthritis later forced him to retire. He lived in California and died in 1994. His last name is often misspelled, usually as Guesack.
Arlo GUTHRIE. Famous folk singer of the 1960s, best remembered for his epic "Alice's Restaurant." In the mid-1980s, he performed a special July 4th set with Joey Rand's edition of Bill Haley's Comets.
Ben 'Pop' GUTHRIE. An early mentor of Bill Haley's, the elderly Guthrie was a carpenter who played fiddle at country shows. He and Haley often worked together circa 1943, and their comedy-music routines were popular.
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Reed HADLEY. Played bass for the John Lane and Al Rappa version of Bill Haley's Comets for 14 years, making him one of the longer-serving musicians to have worked with any of the post-Haley bands. Hadley can be seen singing with the Lane/Rappa Comets circa 1988-89 on the DVD Best of the Rock 'n' Roll Palace. At last report, Hadley was playing with a rockabilly-country group called the Double-Clutchin' Weasels. See their Web site here.
Owen HALE. Drummer during Haley's final recording sessions in 1979 that resulted in the LP Everyone Can Rock and Roll. Hale at last report was still a sought-after session musician and a member of Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Wanda HALE. Harmonica, vocals. While Haley worked with a number of female singers during his career, Wanda Hale was the only credited female session musician on one of this recordings. Hale played harmonica and provided background vocals for Haley's final recording sessions in 1979 which produced the Everyone Can Rock and Roll album for Sonet. She is now deceased.
Bill HALEY JR. Bill Haley had many children, but only one got the name. And Bill Jr., a singer and guitarist, has not only performed on stage with members of the Original Comets, he has also recorded an album of original music with the Satellites (Already Here) and in 2011 launched a new show performing many of his father's famous songs. This led to him forming a new group -- Bill Haley Jr. and the Comets -- and recording an album of his dad's classics in 2013, featuring 1970s Comet Bill Turner on steel guitar. This group has toured internationally. For more information, visit his band's website here, or check them out on Facebook here. Photo courtesy Bill Haley Jr.
Gina HALEY. Bill Haley's youngest daughter, Gina Haley has followed her own musical paths since the 1990s, recording an acclaimed album of original works, and also working with producer Michael Sembello and other noted musicians. She also sang in a group called The Bridge before forming her own group, the Gina Haley Band. In recent years, Gina has become a proponent of her father's work, and on July 6, 2005, got the opportunity to sing with the Original 1954-55 Comets during their show at the Viper Room in West Hollywood. She has also worked as an actress and continues to work on various musical projects. In the spring of 2011 she toured Europe with both Phil Haley & His Comments and Bill Haley's New Comets, performing many of her father's songs, and she appears on albums by both groups released in 2012-2013. In 2014 she took part in another successful New Comets tour, this time performing alongside Original Comets members Joey Ambrose and Dick Richards.
John "Jack" HALEY. Bill Haley's eldest son, Jack Haley co-wrote the moving biography Sound and Glory (1990) which profiled his father's career. Often noted for his resemblence to his dad, he agreed to get on stage and sing with the Original Comets during a March 2005 performance in New York City marking the 50th anniversary of Rock Around the Clock being used in the film Blackboard Jungle.
Martha Velasco HALEY. Bill Haley's third and longest marriage was to a woman who was hired to be a dancer and singer for The Comets during an early 1960s tour of Mexico. It has been speculated that it is her voice that provides unidentified female vocals on some Orfeon recordings such as the 1966 remake of "Skinny Minnie." She is still alive and active today.
Bruce HAMBLIN. Bass player who worked with one of the post-Haley Comets groups that was formed in the early 1980s. One Web site suggests Hamblin was with the group in the late 1970s, but there is no record of a Bruce Hamblin working with Haley, so it must have been after 1981. Hamblin went on to work in the rockabilly group The Varmints and later Trio Grande. He died in 1996.
Jackson HANEY. Guitarist and singer who joined the 1954-55 Comets in the summer of 2006, following the retirement of Franny Beecher. He is originally from Borger, Texas and continued to perform with the Comets before leaving the band in 2011. As of spring 2012 he was working on his own Branson, Mo., production, Jackson Haney's American Sock Hop
Gor HART. Provided backing vocals for the 1998 Comets CD The House is Rockin'.
Betty HARTELL. The Comets backed Betty Hartell on a 1959 Arcade Records recording session for the single "A Fallen Star"/"Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?"
Bob HAYES. A business associate of Haley's in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Hayes worked with Haley's music publishing companies Seabreeze Music Inc. and Valleybrook Publications Inc. He later replaced Lord Jim Ferguson as the Comets' personal manager in 1958. In 1960 or 61, the Comets backed Hayes on a couple of songs apparently recorded during their time at Warner Brothers records. The two songs, "Pistol Packin' Mama" and "Jack in the Box," sat unreleased until 1999, and the full story behind these recordings remains a mystery.
Martin HEAPHY. Provided backing vocals for the 1998 Comets CD The House is Rockin'.
Dorothy HEAVLOW. A neighbor of Haley's during his childhood, Heavlow played accordion in Haley's very first band, the Texas Range Riders, circa 1943. She helped in the research for the Sound and Glory biography in the early 1990s.
Mike HENNE. Guitarist for Joey Rand's edition of Bill Haley's Comets in the early 1980s.
John HENNESSEY. Played guitar for the Al Rappa edition of The Comets in the early 2000s. He also worked as a building painter.
Ernie HENRY. Played organ on some of Haley's 1965 recordings for APT Records. Not to be confused with jazz musician Ernie Henry who died in 1957.
Curley HERDMAN. This country singer and fiddler recruited the Saddlemen (including possibly Bill Haley) to back him on a recording of Haley's "Rose of My Heart" in 1951. Variant spelling: Curly Herdman.
Charlie 'Fingers' HESS. aka. Ty Heston, Chuck Hess. According to some sources, briefly played guitar with Bill Haley and the Saddlemen (other sources say it was actually Haley's short-lived group, the All-Western Sextet) in the early 1950s, and was the lead guitarist for the Jodimars in 1955 and 1956. He also worked as a solo artist, recording a classic version of "Guitar Boogie" called "Chuck's Boogie" which was later re-issued by Rollercoaster Records. Despite undergoing a heart transplant in the mid-1990s, Hess continued to perform into the '90s under the name Ty Heston, playing a special guitar hooked into a machine called a GOVOX, making him a virtual one-man-band. Hess died in the fall of 1999 on his way home after a concert. He lived in Lessburg, Fla.
The HIGHLIGHTS. See Alias section.
Charlie HIGLER. Higler was the first drummer hired by Haley after renaming his band The Comets. (Some sources, however, suggest that Higler actually replaced another drummer named Earl Famous.) Higler, who was only a teenager at the time, was only with the group for a brief time before being replaced by the more mature Dick Richards. Higler is still playing drums and a few years back paid the 1954-55 Comets a visit at one of their shows, reuniting with his old bandmates.
Karl HIMMEL. Played drums on Haley's classic 1970 LP Rock Around the Country. Best known for his work with J.J. Cale and Neil Young, in 1998 Himmel played drums on the album Secrets of the Heart by Bobby Charles -- the writer and original performer of "See You Later Alligator."
Milt HINTON. Legendary bass player and photographer who worked as a session musician for Haley on the 1965 sessions for APT records. Hinton worked for the likes of Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington and John Coltrane in a career dating back to the 1930s. He died on Dec. 21, 2000 at the age of 90. In 1991, many of his photographs were published in Overtime: The Jazz Photographs of Milt Hinton. In 2001, selections from this book were reprinted in a book of art postcards of the same title. Photo courtesy Don Mopsick.
Buddy HOLLY. Legend has it that Holly once backed Bill Haley for a concert. See Rumors and Legends
Dave HOLLY. Drummer for Haley during the early-mid 1960s. In 1981-82, he performed with a reunion of Bill Haley's Comets that included Franny Beecher, Al Rappa, Joey Welz, Joey Rand and Ray Parsons. In the late 1980s-early 1990s, he may have joined Nick Nastos in a group called Emenon (though Nastos' involvement is denied by his family), and there were reports he was working as a maitre d' at a restaurant in Titusville, Fla. at about this time. Holly's name is often misspelled as "Holley." Photo courtesy Jared Cravens.
Jack HOWARD. Haley's manager for many years also occasionally performed comedy skits with Bill during the late 1940s. He operated the Arcade Records label, and continued to work with Haley's music publishing ventures until his death in 1976. In 1961-62 members of the Comets, plus future Comet Nick Nastos, recorded "Bulldoggin' the Steel" and "A Faithful Guitar", which were issued under Howard's name.
Chuck HUFFMAN. Lead guitarist for the Comets for part of 1972 during a period when Nick Nastos was not with the group. Huffman appears in the film Let the Good Times Roll, the only known recording of him with the band.
Herb HUTCHINSON. Played both lead and rhythm guitar for the Comets during the mid-1970s. In 1986, he ran a clothing boutique with his wife, but Bill Turner reports he later operated a music store in Ocean City, N.J. about a decade or so ago before becoming a minister.
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Cliff JACKSON. Listed in Sound and Glory as playing drums for Haley at some point. No other information has been located.
JACK the Sax. See Miller, Jack.
Vince JAMES. Guitarist for the Jodimars in 1957 and 1958, replacing Chuck Hess. James plays guitar on the 1957 single "Shoo Sue."
Kenny JONES. Guitarist who worked with either the Al Rappa or John Lane versions of Bill Haley's Comets. At last report, Jones continues to perform and has released several CDs. His Web site can be found here.
Ralph JONES. Drummer 1955-1960. Ralph was the first Haley drummer to both perform on stage and participate in recording sessions. He was hired to replace Don Raymond. Jones also worked on some of the Comets spin-off projects, including The Kingsmen, for which he wrote "Conga Rock" (later recorded by Haley as "Conga Twist"). In 1960 he left the Comets, along with Rudy Pompilli and Franny Beecher, to form The Merri-Men, and was the only one of the three not to rejoin the Comets later. In the late 1970s, he participated in a Comets reunion project and in the 1990s did session work with Joey Welz. He underwent heart bypass surgery and this prevented him from participating in the 1954-55 Comets' reunion in the 1990s, but he was still able to appear at a Comets concert in Atlantic City in 1998. His home movies of the Comets on the road are much in demand by documentary filmmakers, including the only known color footage from the set of Rock Around the Clock. One of the more beloved Comets, he passed away on June 1, 2000 in Chester, Penn. at the age of 79.
R. JONES Also billed as Bobby Jones, this is Ralph Jones' son who, following in his father's footsteps, is a drummer with the Al Rappa version of the Comets as of 2010.
The JUMPING JAGUARS. See Errors section.
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Joey KAY. Drummer for the Comets during the first half of 1969. Replaced by Bill Nolte. From at least 2006, Kay was playing drums with the Al Rappa version of the Comets, and he was still with the band as of 2009.
Johnny KAY aka. John Kaciuban. Lead guitarist 1961-1967. Hired to replace Franny Beecher, Kay had the benefit of working with Franny for a number of months before being set on his own. He was also a featured vocalist with the Comets during the 1960s. His last studio recordings with Haley as a full member of the Comets were made in 1966 in Mexico; an eye injury forced him to leave the band in early 1967. He continued to work with the Comets off and on over the next few years, however. In the fall of 1968, he played rhythm guitar for a United Artists recording session and returned to the band to tour as lead guitarist for a few months. In 1970, he sat in with the band on a few gigs in the Fort Lauderdale area, and he can be seen (complete with mysterious-looking eye-patch) in the 1972 film London Rock and Roll Show which was filmed during a brief return to the group. Became a guitar teacher in the late 1960s and later ran a video-production company in Wilmington, De. Kay also produced several guitar instruction videos and continues to teach the art. Kay also recorded some solo work prior to joining Haley, some of which was reissued by the Rollercoaster label in the 1980s. Since 2007, Kay has been back in the recording studio with his band, Johnny Kay's Rockets. In 2009, he released Songs from the Cradle of Rock 'n' Roll, a collection of all-new material, which was followed by new recordings for Bill Haley and Friends Vol. 4: The Story of a Comet and, in 2010, he released the album, The Rite Mix and in 2011, Ready 2 Rock! His musical website can be found here.
Stan KAY. Brother of Johnny Kay, drummer Stan Kay has fond memories of Bill Haley, including sitting in with the band on a few shows and performing songs like "Rock-a-Beatin' Boogie". Later, Kay occasionally drummed for the Comets at non-Haley gigs in the 1960s when Dave Holly was unavailable and once also filled in for Al Rappa on bass. He also worked in a band with Ray Parsons. More recently, he was been working on a number of recording projects with his brother as part of the reformed Johnny Kay's Rockets. Photo courtesy Stan Kay
Ron E. KAYFIELD. Guitar player with the Al Rappa version of Bill Haley's Comets as of spring 2012.
Arrett 'Rusty' KEEFER. Played numerous instruments on stage and in recording sessions for Haley during the 1940s and 1950s, including guitar, bass and violin. He also provided the distinctive bass opening vocal on 1954's "Dim, Dim the Lights," and is listed as co-writer on many Haley recordings. In 1955 (date confirmed by Billboard; originally thought to be 1957), the Comets backed Keefer and singer Rita Delmar on the single "Rock-a-Way"/"Aintcha", released on the Coral label credited to Rusty Keefer and His Greenlights. Keefer died in 1967.
The KEEFER SISTERS. Daughters of Rusty Keefer who recorded the 1960 single "Wee Willy Water Dilly"/"Wedding Bouquet" (Lawn Records) backed by The Comets. They may have also provided some vocal backing on other Haley recording sessions at this time for the Warner Brothers label, such as "So Right Tonight."
Tom KEEL. Played session piano for the Comets during the 1975 Sonet recording sessions that produced Rudy Pompilli's solo LP, Rudy's Rock: The Sax That Changed the World.
Mitch KEIRSEY. Guitar player and singer who joined the Original Comets in 2011, replacing Jackson Haney.
Hank KERNS. A longtime friend of Bill Haley and the Comets, German musician Hank Kerns reportedly sat in for bass player Al Rappa for some European performances during the late 1960s. Kerns recorded many songs in his growly rockabilly style, and recorded the English-language tribute song "Bill Haley We Remember" after Bill died. Kerns continued to perform until his death in April 2010. Photo courtesy Dietmar Windisch
Doug KERSHAW. In 1970, the Comets, minus Bill Haley and Rudy Pompilli, backed singer/fiddler Kershaw during a television appearance. No other information has been located.
Ricky KING. Credited as "special guest guitarist" on a 2009 CD release by Bill Haley's Comets featuring Al Rappa and Joey Welz entitled Rock and Roll Survivors.
Tex KING. Real name Auvil Mitchell. One of the original Four Aces of Western Swing, King played lead guitar for the group and was also a featured vocalist. His work on "Red River Valley" would be finally released in the 1970s, and he sang lead on Haley's first commercially released single, "Too Many Parties, Too Many Pals". He taught Marshall Lytle how to play guitar. He has passed away.
The KINGSMEN. See Alias section.
James KIRKLAND. Played bass guitar for a 1958 recording session commissioned by Marshall Lytle in an attempt to revive the Jodimars. Kirkland played bass for Ricky Nelson and was part of his TV show band. The Jodimars recordings were not released until 1995. As of November 2006 he was reportedly in ill health.
Gary KOREIBA. Branson, Mo.-based star of The Pierce Arrow Theater Show. In 2007, he provided backing vocals for the 1954-55 Comets on their novelty single, "When I Die, Just Bury Me at Wal-Mart (So My Wife Can Come and Visit Me!)".
Tom KOZER. Stood in for Ray Parsons on rhythm guitar during the first four months of 1972.
Peter KRAUS. Extremely popular German singer of the 1950s and 1960s who performed "Rock Around the Clock" backed by the 1954-55 Comets during a star-studded April 2004 concert held in Hanover, Germany to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Rock and Roll and the recording of the song. He also performed several songs with the Comets at a 2005 show in Vienna.
Ivan KRILL. Briefly replaced Dave Holly as the Comets' drummer in June and July 1965 before being replaced by John "Bam-Bam" Lane.
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Mike LAMPE. Bass player for the John Lane version of Bill Haley's Comets in 2002. Lampe at last report was also a member of Dennis Gruenling and Jump Time.
T. Bone LANCE. A 1960s article claimed this bass player worked with the Comets. Go here for more information.
Tony LANCE. Bill Haley's first sax player, Tony Lance's session work can be heard on 1953 Essex tracks such as "Live it Up" and "Farewell-So Long-Goodbye." Lance was reportedly a black musician, one of many to provide valuable session work during Haley's career (and putting paid to racism charges occasionally levelled against Haley by revisionists).
John 'Bam Bam' LANE. Drummer from July 1965 to 1968. Joined Haley during his stint with Orfeon Records in Mexico, and is perhaps best remembered for his five-minute long drum solo on the Sonet live recording of "Caravan" in 1968. After leaving the Comets in 1968, he formed his own group, The Flintstones. In a 1971 edition of the official Haley Fan Club newsletter, Lane said he had a big band LP out on the Reprise label. Lane also reportedly worked for awhile with the contingent of Comets formed in 1978 while Haley was on sabbatical. In the 1980s, he joined with bass player Al Rappa to form an edition of Bill Haley's Comets, which in the late 80s won a court case against another group over the use of the name. By the end of the 1980s, however, Lane had split from Rappa and was leading his own contingent of Comets, along the way recording a live album in 2002, as well as an album of Christmas songs and a couple of singles. Some references and publicity material state Lane joined the Comets as early as 1963, but there is no firm evidence that this is the case. Lane suffered a heart attack during a show in Clearwater, Florida, on New Year's Eve 2006 and died on February 18, 2007. Lane's group continued to tour in 2010, led now by Lenny Longo. For more information on Lane's Comets, go here.
Stacey LANE. Singer who in the early 2000s recorded an album of Christmas songs with the John Lane Comets entitled Someday at Christmas. I don't know if Stacey is any relation to John.
Andy Lee LANG. European rock and roller who recorded a number of songs backed by the 1954-55 Comets in the 1990s and again in early 2001.
Buddy LaPATA. Joined the Jodimars in 1958 as pianist. After the group broke up, he briefly joined with Marshall Lytle to form The Buddy Mars. He is now deceased.
LAS HERMANAS VICARY. Singing duo made up of sisters Victoria Abundes and Carmen Abundes who worked with Bill Haley and His Comets as a supporting act in 1961, including performing songs on stage backed by the band. After a tour, the duo recorded "Twist Lento" (a Spanish-language version "Slow Twistin'") with Haley at a recording session, but due to the sisters being under contract to another label, their involvement was not credited.
Jim LEBAK. Bass player during the mid-late 1970s, who can be seen in the 1979 film Blue Suede Shoes and the March 1979 Birmingham concert video. He reportedly released a solo single in the 1970s. Lebak lived in Bath, N.Y. where he worked part time as a bus driver for a retirement home. He died on Jan. 28, 2014 at the age of 81.
Mickey LeBEAU. a.k.a. Michel Gohler. Saxophone player for the 1982 version of Bill Haley's Comets run by Al Rappa and John Lane. In 1984, LeBeau joined the Clutch band. LeBeau's talents include the flute, keyboards, bass and singing. He was also a member of The Cheerleaders and, at one point, the Beach Boys. He left Clutch in 1988 to study musical arranging and film composition. In recent years he has toured with productions of Grease and West Side Story and also toured with Diahann Carroll. At last report he lived in New York City where he continued to play in Broadway musicals. (Photo courtesy Michel Gohler)
Cousin LEE. Bandleader who took Haley under his wing in the mid-1940s, promoting him as "Silver Yodelling Bill."
LEE JACKSON. In 1976, during his tour of Brazil, Bill Haley met a rock group called Lee Jackson. This group mixed rock and roll with samba music, creating "rock samba." At the time, this combination was thought to be as innovative as the day Haley combined country-western and rhythm and blues to form rock and roll. Haley was invited to be the producer of a Lee Jackson LP, which was originally titled Underground. Historian Chris Gardner says there is little evidence that Haley actually did any producing chores on the album, which was renamed Bill Haley Presents Lee Jackson, other than write a blurb for the back cover and pose for photographs for the sleeve. But as this is the only known recording to actually credit Bill Haley as producer (though he may have produced recordings for the Clymax and Arcade labels years earlier), the listing here is justified. The LP was released on RCA's South American branch and included a hasty samba version of "Rock Around the Clock."
Tony LEE. Played second tenor sax alongside Rudy Pompilli during Haley's final 1961 recording session for Warner Brothers which produced the single "Honky Tonk"/"Flip, Flop and Fly."
Cliff LEEMAN. Maine-born session drummer for the Decca recording sessions that immediately followed the departure of the Jodimars in the fall of 1955. Leeman replaced Billy Gussak. It is Leeman who plays the drum solo on "The Saints Rock and Roll." Leeman also worked occasional sessions before this, such as on "Mambo Rock." Replaced at the end of 1955 by stage drummer Ralph Jones. Leeman may also have done some drumming for the Comets in 1953 while the group was still at Essex Records. Leeman became a well-known swing band drummer in the 1930s through his work with the likes of Woody Herman and the Dorseys. He was known by the nicknames "The Sheriff" and "Mr. Time." Leeman continued to perform into the 1970s, at least. He died in New York in 1986.
Lucas LEIGH. Teenaged piano player who played with John Lane's edition of Bill Haley's Comets during several shows in Lake Tahoe in early 1999. He continues to perform; check out his Web site.
Gert LENGSTRAND. Guest vocalist on the 1968 Sonet live album Bill Haley On Stage. Lengstrand performed "What'd I Say?" Lengstrand was one of Sweden's most popular singers in the 1960s. In 1999, he produced the winning entry in the Grand Prix Eurovision song competition. Photo courtesy Steve Winter.
Jack LESBERG. Boston-born bass player hired for Haley's March 1960 sessions for Warner Brothers, standing in for Al Rappa. Lesberg's work is spotlighted on the atmospheric single "Hawk." Originally a violinist, Lesberg played with many jazz greats including Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Eddie Condon and Sarah Vaughn. He was a music director of jazz parties in Minneapolis and was still recording jazz jam sessions as recently as 1999.
The LIFEGUARDS. See Alias section.
Dave LINKUS was a member of the John Lane/Al Rappa edition of The Comets beginning in the spring of 1986 and stayed with the band about a year. It is believed he played rhythm guitar and might have been a singer with the band. He is reportedly deceased.
Ed LOGAN. Played session saxophones during Haley's final recording dates at Fame Studios in Alabama in 1979. Logan played sax with the likes of Al Green, Joan Baez, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Jose Feliciano, Duane Allman and Stephen Stills, but is best remembered for his work at American Studios in Memphis in 1969 backing Elvis Presley as a member of the Memphis Horns. Logan died in April 2000. Photo courtesy Sandy Logan.
Steve LOMBARDELLI. Sax player for a touring group of Bill Haley's Comets formed in 1978 while Haley was in semi-retirement. From 1979 to 1984, he played with Dr. Harmonica and Rockett88. He later became a music teacher and also worked with a band called The Shakes. I received an e-mail some years ago from someone suggesting Lombardelli might have gone on to become a professional wrestler, but Dr. Harmonica said this isn't the case.
Shorty LONG. Piano player for 1961-62 recording dates where members of the Comets backed assorted artists on the Arcade label. A piano player named Shorty Long worked on some of Elvis Presley's classic 1956 recordings for RCA, most notably "Hound Dog"/"Don't be Cruel." It is assumed, but not 100% confirmed, that this is the same musician.
Lenny LONGO. Current bandleader, lead singer and rhythm guitarist for the onetime John Lane edition of Bill Haley's Comets. Longo played with many national 1950s and '60s acts before joining Lane's Comets in 1999. He recorded several singles in the 1970s and '80s, including "Strange Little Man" in 1972 on the Indy label, Peekee Records and a Bicentennial album for Philen Records in 1976 entitled Happy Birthday America, for which he wrote the title song and achieved sales of over 200,000 copies in the specialty market. He's the featured lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist on the Lane Comets CD, Almost Live. Following Lane's death in February 2007, Longo was named bandleader and his version of the group continued to perform in 2010. Photo courtesy Lenny Longo.
Clifford LYTLE. In the early 1950s, Clifford, brother of Comets bass player Marshall Lytle, occasionally performed with Haley and the Saddlemen, playing rhythm guitar and doing some singing. Clifford died in 1983 in Phoenix, Ariz.
Marshall LYTLE. aka. Tommy Page. Played bass and occasionally guitar 1951-1955, later formed Jodimars 1955-1959; rejoined Comets 1987-2009. Lytle joined the Comets in 1951 while still a teenager, when he replaced bass player Al Rex. A guitar player by training, he was taught bass by Haley. He later became a featured vocalist and songwriter with the group. In 1955, he left the Comets to form The Jodimars with Dick Richards and Joey Ambrose, and continued to work with various versions of the band until the late 1950s, when it finally broke up. Also recorded some solo singles, most notably "Click-Clackin' Heels." At one point he changed his name to Tommy Page and continued performing, later entering real estate. Lytle reunited with the original Comets in 1987 and toured and recorded with the band for more than 20 years, along the way also recording a CD for Vinyl Japan in 1991 backed by The Stargazers, released in 1994 as Airmail Special by Marshall and the Shooting Stars. In 2001, he recorded a hip-hop version of "Rock Around the Clock" and in 2002 became the lead singer for the Comets for all their non-European shows (by 2006 he also was performing lead vocals on European tours, taking over Jacko Buddin). He lived in Florida for many years, later relocating to Branson, Mo. when the Original Comets made it their permanent home base in 2006. In 2009 he published an autobiography, Still Rockin' Around the Clock, underwent surgery to remove part of a leg (which didn't prevent him from performing), and at the end of the year departed from the Comets and began a solo career which included some movie acting work (his first film, Through the Eye, starring Tom Sizemore, was released in October 2011), as well as concerts (teaming up with Bill Turner for a show in October 2010). In 2012, work began on turning his autobiography into a feature film, for which he recorded interviews; that year, he also briefly reunited with the Original Comets to accept induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Lytle died of cancer on May 25, 2013. He has his own RaBHoF tribute page here and maintained his own RaBHoF blog here. Photo by Alex Frazer-Harrison.
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Jimmy MACK. Rhythm guitar player for a 1977 Comets reunion organized by Joey Welz, although Mack had no previous known Comets connection.
Jimmy MAISE. Fiddle player for the Four Aces of Western Swing circa 1948-49. Maise is believed to have played on the rare Center Records single, "Stand Up and Be Counted."
Patrick 'Paddy' MALYNN. Haley's European manager from 1966 to 1981, Malynn provided the Franny Beecher-like vocal intro on the 1968 Sonet re-recordings of "See You Later Alligator" (both live and studio versions), and can be heard on several live recordings introducing the band; he also appears in this capacity in the films The London Rock and Roll Show and Blue Suede Shoes. A recent DVD release of a March 1979 Haley concert in Birmingham shows Malynn introducing the band and presenting Haley with an award. In later years Malynn tried to mount a West End musical play based on Haley's life with hopes of recruiting the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Dolly Parton for the project. He died in a traffic accident in 1999. Photo courtesy Herbert Kamitz.
Jayne MANSFIELD. The Comets may have backed the iconic actress on a TV show in the 1950s. See Rumors and Legends.
Sal MANZ. Played rhythm guitar for the Comets for about a week in September 1968.
Joe MAPHIS. A little-known fact about this legendary guitar player is that he briefly recorded with The Jodimars. When Marshall Lytle attempted to revive the band in 1958, he hired session musicians to back him on a recording session, including Maphis. These tracks remained unreleased until 1994. Maphis was a popular performer and session man for many years, well known for his work with Larry Collins of Collins Kids fame. He died in 1986.
Bobby MARHU. Listed in Sound and Glory as playing rhythm guitar with Haley at some point. No other information has been located.
Lou MARKOWITZ. Played trumpet during the 1965 recording sessions that produced singles for the APT label.
Art MAROTTI. Played session drums and other percussion during the June 1965 APT Records sessions. Marotti also worked with the likes of Claus Ogerman and Jimmy Smith.
Bobby MARTIN. Organist for Bill Haley's 1963 sessions for Newtown Records. Not to be confused with Robert Martin, who performed with Frank Zappa and Bette Midler, although that Martin when contacted recalled a Philadelphia-based arranger with the same name working with him in the late 1960s. Might be the same man.
Dave MARTIN. Piano player credited on the 1964 Decca recording sessions that produced "The Green Door." This contradicts claims that Joey Welz played on the session. Martin may also have played piano earlier that year on the Guest Star sessions that produced the LP Rock Around the Clock King, though this information has not been confirmed. Martin also recorded with Louis Armstrong.
Bob MASON. Guitar player alongside Haley in the Down Homers who later joined Haley's Range Drifters, a short-lived group that predated the Four Aces of Western Swing in the late 1940s.
Nick MASTERS. See Nick Nastos.
The MATYS BROTHERS. Best known for their songs "Muskrat Ramble" and "Who Stole the Keeshka," the Matys Brothers were backed by The Comets on a number of recordings, including "Muskrat Ramble" in 1953, plus "Crazy Street", "Remember", "Sweet Sixteen" and "I'm Alone Because I Love You," which were released on Haley's Clymax label in 1958 and several of which were written by Haley and his team. The brothers were Walt, John, Emil, and Gene. Gene died in 1993, while Emil died on May 5, 2008. Current whereabouts of Walt and John are not known.
Joe MAUDLIN. Bass player for Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Legend has it the Crickets once backed Haley for a show. See Holly's entry in Rumors and Legends.
Ray McCANN. Played guitar in Haley's very first group, The Texas Range Riders, circa 1943.
Slim McCARTHY. Listed in several mid-1940s issues of Billboard as the leader of Bill Haley's early group, The Range Drifters. He reportedly died around 1984. No other information has been located.
Mark McCAULEY. A member of the New South group at the Grand Country Music Hall in Branson, Mo. In 2007, he provided backing vocals for the 1954-55 Comets on their novelty single, "When I Die, Just Bury Me at Wal-Mart (So My Wife Can Come and Visit Me!)".
Bobby McCORMACK. Drummer hired by Joey Welz in the late 1980s to help overdub two 1950s-vintage Haley demos: "Six Year Olds Can Rock and Roll" and "Football Rock and Roll."
Bob McFADDEN. It's been claimed the noted voice actor once recorded a single backed by the Comets. See Comet Claims.
Mike McFADDEN. Leader of the Phoenix-based rock group The Superfine Dandelion which was hired to back Haley on a mysterious 1967 recording called "Rock on Baby," which wasn't released until 1999. McFadden, who was Superfine's lead singer, played lead guitar in the studio and wrote "Rock on Baby" specifically for Haley.
Rod McKUEN. The famous folk singer claims he once recorded a single with the Comets. See Comet Claims.
Dennis McLEOD. Dennis McLeod toured with The Comets, playing guitar, for about a month in the fall of 1967.
Freddie MEADE. Records show a 1965 single by Freddie Meade and the Calendars on the 20th Century Fox label that may have been backed by members of The Comets, although Nick Nastos may have been the only Comet actually involved. No other information has been located.
Bill MEDLEY. Singer Bill Medley rose to stardom in the 1960s as the baritone half of the Righteous Brothers, scoring many rock, pop and RnB hits, including "You've Lost that Lovin' Feelin'". Medley later enjoyed a successful solo career, recording such classics as "I've Had the Time of My Life". Medley continues to perform and is presently based in Branson, Mo. In 2007, he provided backing vocals for the 1954-55 Comets on their novelty single, "When I Die, Just Bury Me at Wal-Mart (So My Wife Can Come and Visit Me!)". His daughter, McKenna Medley, is also a singer and often performed as an opening act for the Original Comets around 2007. The two sang a duet a few years ago on the American TV series, Dancing with the Stars.
Darrin MEDLEY. The son of Bill Medley, Darrin Medley served as lead singer of Paul Revere and the Raiders and, more recently, has worked with his father in Branson, performing the hits of the Righteous Brothers in place of the late Bobby Hatfield. In 2007, he joined his dad in providing backing vocals for the 1954-55 Comets on their novelty single, "When I Die, Just Bury Me at Wal-Mart (So My Wife Can Come and Visit Me!)".
John MELINCHOCK. Lead guitarist/vocalist for the version of Bill Haley's Comets run by Al Rappa from 1988 to 2010; he initially used the stage name John Garbo with the Comets. He is a member of the Fabulous Philadelphia Mojo Kings Dance Band. He has recorded a solo album of Bill Haley songs, Rock the Joint, which is available through cdbaby.com. Image courtesy John Melinchock
The MERRI-MEN. See Alias section.
Joey MICHAELS. The Comets backed Joey Michaels on a 1959 Arcade Records single: "Sixteen Cats"/"Too Blue to Cry."
Gaetano 'Guy' MICHETTI. Played lead guitar with Joey Rand's edition of Bill Haley's Comets in 1984-85. Michetti also performed with Dizzy Gillespie and Arlo Guthrie. At last report, Michetti was playing the role of George in the Beatles tribute band, The Beats, which recorded a CD.
Arom MIKA. Bass player for The Superfine Dandelion, a Phoenix-based rock group (formerly known as The Mile Ends) who backed Haley instead of the Comets on a 1967 recording called "Rock on Baby" that wasn't released until 1999.
Bill MILLER. Joined The Comets in 1967, replacing Dallas Edwards on lead guitar. Miller left the band in early 1968, but returned to the group that July, alternating with guitarist Nick Nastos. Miller played lead guitar on the 1968 recording sessions for United Artists, and once again toured with The Comets in late 1972. Photo courtesy Louis Torres.
Dave MILLER. Producer of Bill Haley's classic tracks for Holiday and Essex Records, 1951-54. He also played clapboard on the 1953 recording "I'll Be True", and participated in the raucous vocal chorus on "Crazy Man Crazy" that same year. Miller made a major miscalculation when he refused to allow Haley to record "Rock Around the Clock" at Essex (Miller later denied this in an interview with Stuart Colman) and was sued by Haley when he tried to issue some older recordings after Haley left for Decca Records. A producer for the likes of Sticks McGhee before he linked up with Haley, Miller went on to create 101 Strings and produce the Eddie Calvert hit "Oh, Mein Papa." He died in 1985.
Jack MILLER aka. 'Jack the Sax.' New Jersey musician who played tenor saxophone during the 1981-82 Comets reunion, replacing Jim Robinson. Played sax on the 1982 Bill Haley's Comets single "Bring Back the Music"/"The Hawk Talks." Jack may also have later performed with the Al Rappa/John Lane edition of Bill Haley's Comets as an unidentified sax player resembling him appeared with the band during their appearance on Rock and Roll Palace, singing lead vocals on "Rock Around the Clock" (liner notes for the album Bill Haley and Friends Vol. 3: The Story of Rock Around the Clock suggest it is him).
Bobby MONK. A two-instrument Comet, Monk played bass for Haley during September 1968, replacing Al Rappa. In October he switched to drums and stayed with the group until January 1969. He also played drums during the October 1968 United Artists recording sessions.
Johnny MONTANA. See Ginger and Johnny.
Freddie MOORE aka. Fred Fusting. Became Haley's drummer in 1974 and participated in the famous London Hammersmith Palais concert released on Antic Records. He was scheduled to tour with Haley in 1975, but had to pull out when he couldn't get the time off college. At last report, he lived in Baltimore, MD., but was apparently no longer playing drums. For some reason there are many websites (as of 2007) indicating that the Comets' Moore became the first husband of actress Demi Moore in 1980. While she did marry a man named Freddie Moore, this is a different individual altogether.
Gianni MORANDI. Popular Italian singer who reportedly recorded "La Gran Carrera" with Bill Haley in 1966 for the soundtrack of the Mexican film Adios Cunado, according to the booklet in the Bear Family Haley box set The Warner Brothers Years and More. At last report,Morandi still performs and records, but it is not known of his duet with Haley has ever been commercially released.
Bobby MORRIS. Played drums for the Jodimars for about a year in the late 1950s, participating in the recording sessions that produced the single "Shoo Sue"/"Story Telling Baby" for Parliament Records. Morris also drummed for Louis Prima and worked in the orchestra at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas during Elvis Presley's big comeback in the late 1960s. He ran a booking agency in Vegas for many years and was semi-retired at last report, though he did meet up some years ago with his former Jodimars bandmates at a Las Vegas concert by the 1954-55 Comets.
Bill MOSS. Singer who recorded a number of songs in the 1950s that may have been backed by The Comets. One of his best-known recordings, "You Look Like Something the Cat Dragged In" was written by members of the band. He may also have been the vocalist on "It Should Have Been Me," a song that was (erroneously?) credited to The Kingsmen when it was reissued by Rollercoaster records in the 1980s. No other information about Moss is available; a gospel singer and an RnB singer by the same name exist, but it's not known if either of these men have the Comets connection.
Tony MOTTOLA. Shared lead guitar duties along with Chuck Hess on a number of 1955-56 Jodimars recordings for Columbia Records, including "Well Now Dig This." A popular jazz player and session musician, Mottola's recording career began in the 1930s with the George Hall Orchestra. He later went on to work with the likes of Enoch Light and was a colleague of Haley session alumni Art Ryerson and Don Arnone. He recorded a number of albums solo and with orchestra, and toured with Frank Sinatra in the early 1980s and also played on The Tonight Show and many TV series. In 1985, he scored the Stanley Lumet film Running on Empty. Mottola died on Aug. 9, 2004 in Denville, N.J. at the age of 86. Photo courtesy Robbie Baldock.
Steve MURRAY. Joined the Comets as drummer in 1979 and appeared in the film Blue Suede Shoes. Murray was also a songwriter and wrote the 1979 Haley recording "Hail, Hail Rock and Roll."
James E. MYERS. aka. Jimmy De Knight. In 1950, the future credited co-writer of "Rock Around the Clock" gained the distinction of being the first musician known to play drums on a Bill Haley recording session. He recorded with Haley during a session for Atlantic Records which produced the singles "Why Do I Cry Over You" and "I'm Gonna Dry Every Tear With a Kiss." He later released two instrumental versions of "Rock Around the Clock" under his own name (including a Cha-Cha version), though claims that he played drums on the Haley Decca recording (recounted in John Swenson's biography of Haley) are unfounded. Myers also dabbled in acting, appearing in small roles in films such as Shaft in Africa and The China Syndrome (although the Internet Movie Database fails to list the latter appearance). He also directed at least one film under the name Jimmy De Knight. In later years, Myers lived in Bonita Springs, Fla., where he maintained a "Rock Around the Clock" museum out of his home and he continued to work on a number of projects, including a modernized version of "Rock Around the Clock" with Joey Welz that was released in 2002. In the 1960s, he wrote an autobiography about his Second World War experiences, Hell in a Foxhole. He died on May 9, 2001 of leukemia. Read more about this larger-than-life figure on the Rockabilly Hall of Fame's tribute page here.
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Nick NASTOS. aka Nick Masters, Nick Nantos. Full name Mathias Nicholas Nastos. Nastos joined The Comets in 1964 to replace Billy Williamson on steel guitar, though he had worked as an Arcade Records session musician alongside members of The Comets for several years before that. Nastos left the group after about a year and formed his own group. He also recorded an album of guitar instrumentals as Nick Nantos and the Fireballers. In 1968, he rejoined The Comets as lead guitarist. In 1969 he brought several members of his group The Country Showmen into the band, including Ray Cawley, Bill Nolte and Ray Parsons. In the late 60s-early 70s, in-between Haley gigs, Nastos toured with The Comets (sans Haley, but including Rudy Pompilli) under the name The Country Showmen. When Haley temporarily retired in the late 1970s, Nastos toured with a version of Haley's Comets alongside Parsons, Buddy Dee and Ray Cawley. After undergoing heart surgery and cancer treatment, Nastos continued to perform, including appearances on the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon and Easter Seals Telethon. Nastos died of cancer on April 28, 1995, though he was still recording shortly before his death. His daughter, Sia La Belle, is a Texas-based musician. Nastos' playing style inspired many musicians, including George Thorogood, and his death was mourned by Willie Nelson and many other fellow musicians. Photo courtesy his son, Jared Cravens.
The NITE CAPS. See Alias section.
Bill NOLTE. Nolte replaced John Lane as drummer in 1969 and stayed with the band until the fall of 1971. Nolte, who had been a member of Nick Nastos' group the Country Showmen prior to joining Haley, and who left the group to continue working with Nastos, was also a fine country western singer, and examples of his work recorded during the 1969 New York Bitter End concert were released on the Warner Brothers Years and More box set. His name was misspelled Bill Wolfe in one issue of Haley News. After leaving the Comets, Nolte continued to perform in Florida and was named to a country music hall of fame in that region. He later worked as a limousine driver. He no longer drums, but has fond memories of his time with The Comets and in October 2010 attended a concert featuring Bill Haley Jr., Marshall Lytle, and Bill Turner. Photo courtesy Bill Nolte.
Andrew NORBLIN. Guitarist who joined the 1954-55 Comets in the spring of 2006 as second lead guitarist alongside Franny Beecher. Norblin, who recorded a version of Beecher's "Goofin' Around" in tribute so a solo album released in the early 2000s, departed the group during the summer, prior to Beecher's retirement.
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Kitty O'BRIEN. Female country singer who performed with Bill Haley on Jack Howard's Cowboy Show in late 1944-1945 in the Philadelphia area. She later signed a recording contract with Hit Records and attempted to launch a movie career.
Rune OFWERMANN played piano on a 1968 recording session for Sonet Records in Sweden. His work can be heard on "Flip, Flop and Fly." According to Chris Gardner, he went on to become a high-ranking executive with Sonet.
Joe OLIVER. See Olivier, Joe.
Joe OLIVIER. Dutch-born musician who Joined the Comets in late 1957 to play second guitar on several Decca recording sessions -- the single "Mary Mary Lou" and several tracks from Rockin' Around the World. In 1958, the multilingual Olivier toured with Haley across Europe and South America where he doubled as an interpreter (per Sound and Glory). He also appears in the film Hier Bin Ich, Hier Bleib Ich filmed during a break the 1958 German tour, and photographs exist of Olivier performing on television, backed by Haley and the Comets. No recordings or images exist of Olivier performing on stage with the Comets during regular concerts during this period, however in 2014 a Belgian TV performance of Olivier singing "Rock the Joint" backed by the Comets surfaced. In 1959, members of the Comets backed Olivier on the single "The Cat"/"La Donna Riccia", which was released under the name Cappy Bianco. He also worked with bandleader Xavier Cugat. In later years, he managed a Howard Johnson's restaurant, worked in catering for American Airlines, ran a dog kennel near Utica, N.Y. and bred champion German shepherds. Many sources spell his name Oliver. He died on Christmas Day, 2001, at his home in Marcy, NY after a battle with diabetes. He was 74. Photo courtesy Lothar Mackenbach.
Clive OSBORNE. British sax player who substituted for Joey Ambrose during the fall 2003 European tour of the 1954-55 Comets when Ambrose suddenly had to return to the US.
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Ray PARSONS. Comets rhythm guitarist and featured vocalist off-and-on between 1970 and 1979. Following the departure of Ray Cawley from the Comets in late 1974, Parsons also briefly played bass for the group. He often acted as "carnival barker" for some shows, and can be seen performing this duty in the 1979 film Blue Suede Shoes, which also shows him performing vocals on "Rockin' Robin'." A March 1979 Comets performance in Birmingham, released to DVD, shows Parsons singing harmony vocals with Haley on "Me and Bobby McGee" and tackling an on-stage interloper. Prior to joining The Comets, Parsons had worked with Nick Nastos. When Haley temporarily retired in 1977-78, Parsons toured with Haley's Comets alongside Nastos, Buddy Dee and Cawley. He released several solo country recordings under the name Dorsey Ray Parsons. In 1981-82, he was a member of a reunion of Bill Haley's Comets that included Al Rappa, Franny Beecher, Dave Holly, Joey Rand and Joey Welz. He also worked with the Rappa/John Lane version of the Comets in 1982, and is also listed as being a member of Rappa's version of the Comets as late as April 1989. In the early 2000s he was living in Colorado. He died on April 10, 2011 in a hospice in Wyoming. Photo courtesy Jared Cravens.
Gary S. PAXTON. Branson, Mo.-based singer, songwriter and producer who wrote and produced the novelty single, "When I Die, Just Bury Me at Wal-Mart (So My Wife Can Come and Visit Me!)" for the 1954-55 Comets in 2007. He also performed backing vocals (along with a number of Branson-based musical stars) on the recording. Also known as Grandpa Rock, as well as "Chaplain to the Branson Entertainment Business", Paxton was a founding member of the Hollywood Argyles, who recorded the classic 1960 song, "Alley Oop". Paxton went on to work with many pop groups of the 1960s and continues to be a prolific songwriter and producer.
Mike PEDICIN. The newly reunited 1954-55 Comets backed Pedicin on a performance of "Shake a Hand" at the Philadelphia Music Awards in 1987, which has never been released commercially (though the Comets later recorded their own version for Hydra Records). Born in 1917, Pedicin likely has had the longest career of any rock and roll or jazz performer, forming his first band in 1940. Best known for his work with the Mike Pedicin Quartet, which rose to fame in the 1950s and was one of the first rock and roll groups to join RCA (before Elvis). Pedicin covered Haley's "Mambo Rock", though "Shake a Hand" is probably his best-known recording.
Roy PERKY. Occasional fiddle player with the Saddlemen, circa 1949-50.
D'Vaughn PERSHING. Piano player who joined the 1954-55 Comets during the summer of 2006, succeeding the late Johnny Grande. Prior to joining the Comets, he worked in Branson, Mo. with Andy Williams. After a few months, he was succeeded by David Byrd.
Barry PETRI. Sax player and singer with the touring contingent of the Comets spin-off group, The Kingsmen, in the late 1950s.
Michael PEWNY. Austrian piano player who performed with the 1954-55 Comets during a TV appearance in Austria a few years ago.
Bill PFENDER. Played session drums for the Comets during the 1975 recording sessions that produced Rudy Pompilli's solo LP and his final recordings, Rudy's Rock: The Sax That Changed the World.
Joe PICCIRILLI. Occasional bass player for the Saddlemen, circa 1949-50. Older brother of Al Rex. According to Rex, Joe played bass on the 1950 Keystone Records session that produced "Deal Me a Hand" and "Ten Gallon Stetson" which had previously been credited to Rex. Piccirilli claims to have worked on at least two more recordings and says he turned down the opportunity to join the Saddlemen full-time due to family commitments (opening the door for his brother). In April 2012, he attended a concert by Bill Haley Jr. in Bridgeport, Penn. alongside his brother. Now in his early 90s, he still lives in Philadelphia and has appeared on the annual Haley Roots radio special in recent years. An e-mail I received refers to him by the name Joe Rex, but I'm not sure whether he ever performed under that name.
Don PLANNER. Provided backing vocals for the 1998 Comets CD The House is Rockin'.
Tom POHORILLA, a.k.a. Thomas J. Pohorilla. Nashville drummer who toured with the Joey Rand version of Bill Haley's Comets in early 1984. "Alive and well," according to an e-mail I received in April 2005.
Al POMPILLI. Cousin of Rudy Pompilli (though Haley also referred to him as Rudy's younger brother), Al played bass for Haley during 1958 and 1959 and appeared in the film Hier Bin Ich, Hier Bleib Ich. He was the first musician to play bass guitar for a Haley recording session. Pompilli also sang with the band -- the only examples of this, the excellent "For You My Love" and "Giddy Up Ding Dong," appear on the CD Vive la Rock n' Roll on Big Beat Records, while a Belgian TV performance of him doing "Giddy Up" has also recently surfaced. Replaced in September 1959 by Al Rappa. Passed away c.1974. Like his cousin/brother, the original spelling of his last name was Pompilii.
Rudy POMPILLI. Played tenor and bass saxophone, clarinet and flute 1955-1976. Haley's longest-serving and most-beloved Comet, Rudy also acted as road manager for many years and was a featured vocalist, too. According to comments on the expanded version of the 1970 album Bill Haley's Scrapbook released to CD, Pompilli, who before joining Haley played briefly with the Ralph Marterie Orchestra, and also worked alongside future Comets drummer Ralph Jones in the Merrymen, was reluctant to join a rock and roll band, but he quickly fell in. Pompilli's 20-year stint was not without interruption. He left the Comets for several months in 1957 due to illness and again in 1960-61 after the death of his father, during which time he, Jones and Franny Beecher recorded as The Merri-Men. John Swenson's biography of Haley also suggests Pompilli quit the band briefly in the mid-1960s; if he did, his absence was brief. His last recording was a solo album on Sonet backed by several Comets -- Rudy's Rock - The Sax That Changed the World -- recorded for Sonet Records in 1975. One of his very last performances in the Philadelphia area in late 1975 reunited him with old friend Beecher and 1970s Comets guitarist Bill Turner. His last tour with Haley was to Brazil in late 1975. Rudy's last name was properly spelled "Pompilii" but this was changed because Haley feared it would always look mispelled. Rudy Pompilli was diagnosed with lung cancer in late 1974 but continued to tour until only a few weeks before his death in February 1976. Warning: In early 2004 I was made aware of a performing musician in the United States who at the time was claiming to be Rudy Pompilli. Pompilli died in 1976, case closed.
Jimmy PONDER. Branson, Mo.-based founder and original member of New South. In 2007, he provided backing vocals for the 1954-55 Comets on their novelty single, "When I Die, Just Bury Me at Wal-Mart (So My Wife Can Come and Visit Me!)".
Elvis PRESLEY. A Haley-Presley connection has been rumored for years. See Rumors and Legends.
Jerry PRICE. Baltimore-based drummer who occasionally played with the 1977 Comets reunion, sitting in for Ralph Jones.
Ronnie PROPHET. Canadian country music singer with a long career dating back some 40 years. In the 1970s, he was the star of his own country music TV series on Canadian TV, Grand Old Country. Now based in Branson, Mo., he stars in The Ronnie Prophet Show. In 2007, he provided backing vocals for the 1954-55 Comets on their novelty single, "When I Die, Just Bury Me at Wal-Mart (So My Wife Can Come and Visit Me!)".
Paul PRUITT. Joined The Comets in September 1971, replacing Nick Nastos. Pruitt stayed with the group until January 1972. Some sources claim he was the youngest guitarist to ever work with Haley, however that record more likely belongs to Johnny Kay. Pruitt died at his home in Clayton, Del. on May 14, 2003.
Tim PURKESS. Well-known bass player with the British rockabilly group The Stargazers, Purkess plays double bass on several tracks on the 1954-55 Comets' 1998 CD The House is Rockin'.
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Johnny QUICK. Has frequently claimed to have been Bill Haley's drummer. See Comet Claims for more information.
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Bennett RABIEGA. Played bass guitar for an overdubbing recording session in the late 1980s run by Joey Welz in order to provide new backing to the 1950s Haley demos "Six Year OIds Can Rock and Roll" and "Football Rock and Roll". A few years ago he was credited on a CD release showcasing Philadelphia-area Christian musicians.
Joey RAND real name J. Graziano. Rand was hired in the early 1980s to serve as vocalist for a Bill Haley's Comets reunion that featured Franny Beecher, Ray Parsons, Joey Welz, and Al Rappa (footage of Rand with the group has appeared on YouTube, uploaded by Welz). After this enterprise ended in 1983, Rand went on the road with his own version of Bill Haley's Comets. This led to legal friction between him and Comets Rappa and John Lane who had their own version of Bill Haley's Comets. Rand attempted to trademark the Comets name, but ultimately lost a lawsuit over the issue, though he did may have performed in Canada under that name afterwards. There were media claims at the time that Rand was a member of the Comets in the 1950s, but there is no evidence to back this up. As recently as early 2001 Rand was performing a show dedicated to 1950's Rock and Roll and Elvis Presley, but indicated in February 2001 that he planned to hang up his rock and roll shoes to concentrate more on his business enterprises. A recording of "Rock Around the Clock" by Rand's Comets was released on the Hydra Records CD Bill Haley and Friends Vol. 3: The Story of Rock Around the Clock in 2007.
Boots RANDOLPH. The famous sax player has been erroneously linked to a Haley recording session. Click here for more information.
Al RAPPA. Bass player 1959-1969. Rappa joined Haley in 1959, replacing Al Pompilli. Besides his robust bass-tossing antics, Rappa was a featured vocalist with the group, and his unique singing style earned him the nickname "The Golden Voice." He also occasionally played trumpet in studio and on stage. Rappa left the Comets in early 1969, but in 1977 he joined several former bandmates in a Comets reunion group. In 1982 he joined another Comets reunion and recorded the single "Bring Back the Music"/"The Hawk Talks" with Franny Beecher, Joey Welz, Ray Parsons and Dave Holly. Later, he joined with drummer John Lane to form an edition of Bill Haley's Comets. In the late 1980s, this group won a court battle against singer Joey Rand over the rights to the Comets name. Rappa split with Lane at some point thereafter, and as of 2010 continued to perform today with his own edition of Bill Haley's Comets (for more information on Rappa's group, go here). One of his claims to fame is the ability to play two trumpets at the same time. The US government's online trademarks database indicates his real name may be Albert Ruppa, but this may be a typo as there's no other source indicating this. Some sources and publicity indicate Rappa joined the Comets as early as 1955, which is incorrect. Rappa's group as of 2010 included Joey Welz, and the two collaborated on a CD entitled Rock and Roll Survivors that was released in 2009. He is reportedly still touring. Photo courtesy Jared Cravens.
Al RAPPA Jr.. The son of the longtime Comets veteran was playing guitar with his father's version of the Comets in 2009, but was no longer with the group in 2010 according to Joey Welz.
RAY CHARLES SINGERS. This vocal group provided vocal chorus backing on the 1954 Essex recording of "Chattanooga Choo Choo."
Ronny RAY. Saxophone player with the Al Rappa version of Bill Haley's Comets in the spring of 1989. A newspaper report on the band's appearance the Daytona Beach, Fla. region in April 1989 states that Ray also performed with the Comets in the 1960s, but there is no confirmation of this.
Don RAYMOND. The first drummer to be hired following the departure of Dick Richards, Raymond's tenure with the Comets lasted only a few weeks in the fall of 1955 (according to Sound and Glory he and Haley did not get along) before he was replaced by Ralph Jones. No recordings or photographs of Raymond with the Comets have been located, however it's possible he may have been filmed with the band during production of the still-unreleased The Pied Piper of Cleveland. Raymond reportedly worked with Desi Arnaz before joining the Comets. A June 1956 newspaper article advertising a Canadian performance by the band lists Don Raymond as a member at that time, but this appears to be an error on the part of the publicist.
Bill REEDER. Branson, Mo. musician who in 2007 played baritone sax with the 1954-55 Comets on their novelty single, "When I Die, Just Bury Me at Wal-Mart (So My Wife Can Come and Visit Me!)".
Paul REVERE. In the 1960s, Paul Revere, with his group, the Raiders, rose to the top of the pop charts with work such as "Cherokee Nation". He also starred in the music TV series, Where the Action Is and today is a headliner at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theatre in Branson, Mo. In 2007, he provided backing vocals for the 1954-55 Comets on their novelty single, "When I Die, Just Bury Me at Wal-Mart (So My Wife Can Come and Visit Me!)".
Al REX. Real name Al Piccirilli. Bass player, 1949-1951 and 1955-1958. According to some sources, Rex made his recording debut in 1950 at the Keystone Records recording session, but Rex has said that was his brother, Joe Piccirilli. Rex did work on the Atlantic Records sessions that same year, however. Rex initially left the Saddlemen after playing bass on the historic "Rocket '88" in 1951. He tried his hand at a solo career, recording some classic country-rockabilly sides including the topical "Hydrogen Bomb" and "I Gotta Go." When his replacement, Marshall Lytle, quit the Comets to form the Jodimars in the fall of 1955, Rex was persuaded to rejoin the group, and he appeared in the films Rock Around the Clock and Don't Knock the Rock. He was also a featured vocalist with the Comets, before deciding to quit the band once again in 1958. He continued to do occasional session work with his former bandmates into the 1960s when they backed artists on the Arcade label. It was reported in the late 1960s that Rex had a dozen kids and was working as an accountant. In the late 1970s, he briefly ran a group called The Sound of Haley's Comets. Herbert Kamitz's extensive Bill Haley Discography lists a 1978 release on the Arcade label, "Mollie Darling," that may have been backed by members of The Comets, though it was likely recorded much earlier. The Comets also backed Rex on an early 1960s Arcade Records release of the Haley country song "Within This Broken Heart of Mine." In the early 1990s, Rex participated in the launching of the Haley biography Sound and Glory. In April 2012, he reunited with several fellow Comets to accept the band's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. As of 2014 he lives in the Philadelphia area and, while he no longer performs, he has been interviewed on radio shows. (A previous version of this entry said he was 90 years old in 2012, but I've been informed he was 85 in 2014.) Some online sources state he died in 2004, but this is obviously incorrect.
Joe REX. See Joe Piccirilli.
Tony RICE. A book on yodelling erroneously links this performer with Bill Haley. Click here for more information.
Dick RICHARDS aka. Dick Boccelli. Drums 1953-1955 (Comets), 1955-late 50s (Jodimars), 1987-present (original Comets). The son of a blind opera singer named Luigi Boccelli, Richards tells Extra he initially turned down Haley's offer to join the Comets in 1952, recommending Charlie Higler instead. After Higler left in 1953, Richards (who previously was part of a duo called Richards and Lee) agreed to join the band. His baritone voice gave him an edge as a featured vocalist with the Comets. For reasons never made clear, Richards only drummed for the Comets on stage, while Billy Gussak, Cliff Leeman and (according to some sources) Panama Francis were preferred during the recording sessions at Essex and Decca. Richards did play percussion on "ABC Boogie" and tom-toms on "Birth of the Boogie" and provided backing vocals on many other songs. In 1955, he formed The Jodimars with Marshall Lytle and Joey Ambrose, sharing lead vocal duties with Lytle, and drumming duties with Max Daffner and Gussak. In the late 1960s, Richards became a film, TV and stage actor under his real name, a job he continued to enjoy into the 2000s. His roles include My Blue Heaven with Steve Martin, guest roles on the HBO series Oz in 1998 and 1999, and a stage play in Los Angeles in early 2001 (which required him to skip a Comets tour of Europe, leading to the unfortunate rumor at the time that his health had failed). In 1987 he rejoined his Jodimars pals in a reunion of the Comets, and despite fighting throat cancer in the 1980s, continues to drum with the Original Comets into his 90s; he is the oldest member of the band and proud of it. In 2001, he was named to the Delaware County chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. In 2014 he and Joey Ambrose (sadly now the last surviving members of the 1954-55 Original Comets) toured Europe as special guests with the Bill Haley's New Comets tribute show, which also featured Bill Turner and Gina Haley.
Rick RICHARDSON. See Comet Claims for more information.
Jimmy RIDDLE. Harmonica and jews harp player at the 1970 Nashville sessions that produced the Sonet LP Rock Around the Country.
Bernie RIES. Played drums for the 1954-55 Comets during their early 2001 tour of Europe, standing in for Dick Richards who was performing in a play in Los Angeles at the time. During this tour, he participated in a recording session in which the Comets backed Andy Lee Lang on a version of "Shake, Rattle and Roll."
Hargus 'Pig' ROBBINS. Played piano for Haley on the 1970 album Rock Around the Country. Along with fellow Rock Around the Country vet Karl Himmel, Robbins played on the 1998 Bobby Charles album Secrets of the Heart. (Charles wrote and originally recorded "See You Later Alligator.")
Jim ROBINSON. Baltimore-based sax player for a Comets reunion organized by Joey Welz in 1977. He also toured with an edition of Bill Haley's Comets that toured in 1981 after the death of Bill Haley. Replaced by Jack the Sax.
Jesse ROGERS was a popular country western singer of the 1940s and 1950s who was associated with Haley during the early years, often appearing on Bill's radio shows. The musicians list in Sound and Glory also lists him as having played rhythm guitar with Haley at one point. He was the first to record the reworking of "Wabash Cannonball" called "Jukebox Cannonball," which would later become one of Haley's early classics on the Holiday label when the Saddlemen recorded it in 1952. Rogers' 1959 single on the Arcade Records label, "Night Wind"/"Say it Again" featured Comet Franny Beecher on lead guitar. Rogers was also married to TV kids show host Sally Starr, with whom the Comets recorded an album. Rogers died in the 1960s, his wife Sally reportedly at his side.
Richard ROME. Piano player during the 1963 Newtown recording sessions. Rome was a popular session man and arranger during the "Philly Sound" years of the late 1960s-early 1970s, working with a variety of artists. He also recorded solo work.
Diego ROMERO. Played trumpet on some of Haley's final recordings for the Orfeon label in Mexico in early 1966, such as "Skokiaan a Go Go" and "Harlem a Go Go."
David 'Chico' RYAN. Best remembered as a member of Sha Na Na, Ryan played rhythm guitar and occasionally bass for Haley during the October 1979 British tour, and was also part of the band during the November 1979 Royal Command Performance. According to official fan club newsletters of the time, Ryan was somewhat controversial during his time with the band, insisting on wearing a leather jacket instead of the Comets uniform, for example. Ryan died in 1998.
Art RYERSON. During much of 1952-53, session guitarist Danny Cedrone was unavailable to work with Haley due to his involvement with his own group, The Esquire Boys. In his place, Haley hired renowned jazz player Art Ryerson. Ryerson's work can be heard on classics such as "Crazy Man Crazy" and "Live it Up", though some sources, such as John Swenson's biography of Haley, erroneously credit Cedrone with this work. His daughter, Ali Ryerson, is a critically acclaimed flute player. Ryerson died in October 2004.
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Sonny SABER. The Comets backed Sonny Saber on a 1959 single for Arcade Records: "Little Daisy"/"You Told Me a Lie."
Pat SALVADORE. Played sax with Joey Rand's version of Bill Haley's Comets until 1986. At last report he lived in California.
Luis SANCHEZ. Played trumpet on some of Haley's final recordings for the Orfeon label in Mexico in early 1966, such as "Skokiaan a Go Go" and "Harlem a Go Go."
Jeri Lynn SANDS. Singer backed by the Comets on some singles for the Arcade label in 1959 and 1960, including a cover version of Haley's "The Walkin' Beat" (Haley's 1958 recording wouldn't be released until 1964).
Joey SANTOS. Singer backed by The Comets on the 1959 Coral Records single "Aintcha," which had also been recorded by Rusty Keefer, with the Comets also backing.
Nick SAVAGE. Sax player who worked with the Joey Rand version of Bill Haley's Comets beginning in 1986, replacing Pat Salvadore. He is best known for his work backing the legendary Bo Diddley. He's also worked with Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, Buddy Guy and Tom Petty. In 2010 he released a solo album on Gatorland Records, Old School Favorites. Photo courtesy Nick Savage
Bob SCALTRITO aka. Bob Scales. Worked as a session guitarist with Haley and the Saddlemen on a couple of Holiday Records recording sessions in 1951 ("Green Tree Boogie"). Better known as a member of the Esquire Boys, he worked alongside Danny Cedrone for a number of years. Some sources erroneously state that Cedrone and Scaltrito were brothers. Scaltrito continued to run the Esquire Boys after Cedrone died in June 1954, and passed away himself a number of years ago.
Denny SCOTT. Lead guitarist for the John Lane version of Bill Haley's Comets from 1988 to 1994-1995, during which time the group performed regularly in the Nevada area. He also occasionally worked with the Al Rappa Comets. As of 2011 he continues to perform and also runs a music store called Naples Park Music in Naples, Fl.
Frankie SCOTT. In 1957, Rudy Pompilli couldn't tour and record for many weeks due to illness. Scott was hired to play sax for several Decca recording sessions, including the single "Billy Goat"/"Rockin' Rollin' Rover" and the Rockin' the Oldies album. He also toured with the Comets during Pompilli's absence, which likely caused some controversy in those racially divided days since Scott was black. According to Sound and Glory, Scott occasionally played with the Comets after Pompilli returned, and the duelling sax duets between Rudy and Frankie must have been something to behold! In 1956, Scott recorded the single "Walking Up Four Flights of Stairs"/"She Said," backed by the Comets (some sources say this single dates from 1959, but this information appears to be incorrect per the online Billboard archive). The single was released on both the Casa Blanca and Kapp labels, credited to Frankie Scott and the Scottsmen.
Bobbe SEYMOUR. An online source suggests Seymour played steel guitar for Haley. See Comet Claims for more information.
Helen SHADOW. Lead guitarist and singer for The Queen B's, Shadow is noted for her distinctive Mohawk haircut. In October 1997 and early 1998 she provided backing vocals on the 1954-55 Comets' CD The House is Rockin'. Wife of the Stargazers' Ricky Lee Brawn.
Ginger SHANNON. See Ginger and Johnny.
Bobby SHARP. See Bud Sharp.
Bud SHARP. Joined the Comets in November 1968 to play bass. When Al Rappa returned in December, Sharp switched to rhythm guitar and stayed with the group until January 1969. Also was session bass player on the 1968 United Artists recordings, including "That's How I Got to Memphis." Some sources give his name as Bobby Sharp.
Mike SHAY. Real name Michael Schick. Shay joined the Comets in late 1965-early 1966, and played second guitar on a number of Orfeon label recordings made in Mexico in January 1966, and he also played sax and bass with the group. He also worked with Big Joe Turner during his sojourn in Mexico. After leaving The Comets, Shay for a time partnered with Johnny Kay in running a music store and teaching school in Florida. He owned three music stores in Florida and recently retired; he now lives in Homosassa, Fla., where he repairs musical instruments. He says he met his wife of 45 years while playing at the Stardust Lounge with the Comets in the late 1960s.
Tony SHERIDAN. In the early 1960s, Tony Sheridan hired a group of Liverpool rockers known as The Beatles to back him on a series of recordings, including a cover version of Haley's "Skinny Minnie." In 2001 at a show in Hamburg, Sheridan joined the 1954-55 Comets onstage to perform "Skinny Minnie" once again.
Jerry SHOOK. Well-known Nashville session musician who played rhythm guitar during the 1972 recording sessions that produced the Sonet LP Just Rock and Roll. Shook's sizable discography includes work for Jerry Reed, Ringo Starr, Steve Young and Joan Baez.
Miles SHORTER. A claim has been made that he played sax during Haley's final tour in 1980. See Comet Claims for more information.
Morgan SHUMAKER. Drummer for Al Rappa's version of The Comets, years unknown. At one point, Shumaker was a member of the group The Downbeats, best known for the instrumental "Midnight Express." At last report, Shumaker was still performing.
Frank SIKORA. Listed in Sound and Glory as playing sax for Haley at some point. No other information has been located.
Bob SIMPSON. The first piano player for the Jodimars, Simpson was hired in the fall of 1955 and allegedly participated in the first Columbia recording sessions, including "Let's All Rock Together" and "Well Now Dig This." Chris Gardner disputes this, suggesting no piano is in evidence on most of those tracks. A photo of Simpson performing on stage with the Jodimars does exist, however.
Brad SKINNER. Session drummer on Haley's 1965 recordings for APT Records.
Marty SMITH. The Comets backed Marty Smith on a 1961 Arcade Records release "Spoiled, Pampered and Babied"/"Storm on the Ocean."
Phil SMITH. Saxophonist for the Joey Rand version of Bill Haley's Comets circa 1983. At last report, Smith lives in California where he writes and records songs for children. His Web site can be found here.
Duke SNOW. Real name John Muntz. Snow was a guitar player with Bill Haley's very first band, a group called the Texas Range Riders, and he remained a close friend of Haley's during the difficult early years of his career. He continues to sing, and is also considered a talented painter. In 2000, he visited with Comet Marshall Lytle. Snow's artwork can be seen at www.snoproart.com
David SOMERVILLE. Originally from Canada, Somerville was a vocalist with one of the first Canadian groups to make it big on the world music scene - the Diamonds. The group scored numerous big hits in the 1950s, including all-time classics such as "The Stroll" and "Little Darlin'". In 2007, he provided backing vocals for the 1954-55 Comets on their novelty single, "When I Die, Just Bury Me at Wal-Mart (So My Wife Can Come and Visit Me!)".
Pete SPENCER. Second rhythm guitar and occasional bass player with the Comets beginning in 1979.
Sally STARR. Vocalist. In 1958, Starr recorded an album of kid-oriented rockabilly titled Our Gal Sal for Haley's Clymax label. The recordings were backed -- and many songs were written by -- Haley and members of the Comets. They also worked together on a single, "Rocky the Rockin' Rabbit." At last report, Starr was still active and hosting a radio show in Vineland, N.J. A webpage dedicated to her can be found here. Starr was married to Jesse Rogers. In the early 2000s, she made a public appearance alongside Comets Dick Richards and Johnny Grande. Photo courtesy Billy Ingram.
Steve STERLING. Played tenor sax with the Al Rappa and John Lane version of Bill Haley's Comets beginning in April 1986, touring full time until 1987 and then on an as-needed basis for a year after that.
Wayne STEVENS. Played drums for Haley's tour of November-December 1976. His cousin was Herb Hutchinson, and prior to working with the Comets he had performed extensively with Danny and the Juniors. According to Bill Turner, Stevens died "several years ago."
Jesse STONE. The Comets backed Jesse Stone, a country singer, on a 1961 Arcade Records release: "A Penny For Your Thoughts"/"I'll Find Someone." Not to be confused with the legendary blues songwriter of the same name who composed "Shake Rattle and Roll" and "Razzle Dazzle" under the name Charles Calhoun.
Johnny STORM. Last known musician to be hired for Bill Haley & His Comets. Storm was a rhythm guitarist hired in late 1980 for a planned 1981 tour, but Bill Haley died before he had the chance to play in the group.
Lee STUART. Guitarist and former Sha Na Na musician who at one point toured with Bill Haley's Comets -- either the Al Rappa or John Lane groups (not known for sure). Dates unknown. In 1999-2000 he was a member of the group Solarized.
SUPERFINE DANDELION. Phoenix-based rock group that backed Haley on the 1967 recording "Rock On Baby," which wasn't released until 1999. The group released at least one, self-titled, album. See Mike McFadden.
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Art TABER. Backed by members of The Comets in 1961-62 on his Arcade Records single "Shackled."
Freddie TANE. Rhythm guitar player and singer with Joey Rand's version of Bill Haley's Comets in 1984-85. A producer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, Tane was a member of the popular folk duo McDonnell Tane, and has also performed with The Presidential Targets, The Forgotten Ones, and The Qwerks. At last report he lives in Connecticut and has a Website at www.bigbambooproductions.com. Photo courtesy Freddie Tane.
Pete THOMAS. Sax player during Haley's final tours in late 1979 and the spring of 1980. Thomas is a prolific session musician and producer who has worked with just about everyone from P.J. Harvey to R.E.M. Billy Bragg once said he deserved a monument for his services to Rock music. Thomas has a Web site at www.petethomas.co.uk.
'Big Al' THOMPSON. A giant of a man, based on surviving photos, Thompson played "bull bass" for the Saddlemen in 1949-50. His comical antics with the bass predated those of the musician who replaced him, Al Rex, as well as Marshall Lytle. His only known recording with Haley is the rare 1949 Center Records single "Loveless Blues"/"Stand Up and Be Counted", issued under the name Johnny Clifton and His String Band.
Hank THOMPSON, aka. Hank Scholz. Occasional member of the Comets during the 1970s. Although a trained pianist, Thompson learned to play bass at the start of a 1974 tour to replace Ray Cawley who had quit the night before. Fellow Comet Bill Turner reports he once heard that Thompson at one point won his own record deal.
Jerry TILLEY. Haley's last lead guitarist, Tilley joined the Comets in 1979 and toured with Haley for the next year. He appears in the movie Blue Suede Shoes and recorded several tracks on Haley's final LP Everyone Can Rock and Roll. He continued to tour with the Comets for a time after Haley died and later backed Fats Domino. Some sources spell his name Gerry Tilley.
Dean TINKER. Tinker briefly played drums for Haley in 1955 after Don Raymond left the Comets, and before Ralph Jones was hired.
Pat TOLLAND. Bass player and singer with the touring version of the Comets spin-off group, the Kingsmen, in the late 1950s. Tolland was killed in an automobile accident in Reading, Pa.
Lou TORRES a.k.a. Louis Torres. Puerto Rico-born musician who replaced Al Rappa on bass guitar for a tour in late 1967/early 1968. Prior to working with Haley, Torres was a member of a group called The Vampires. Around his time with The Comets, Torres found religion. In recent years he has been a Seventh-Day Adventist minister and vice-president of the Mission College of Evangelism in Portland, Oregon. He has also written several books and lectures on the TV network 3ABN. After leaving The Comets, Torres and his wife began performing religious classical music and in 1974 were regular perfomers on New York City TV programs. In 2002, Torres was planning to release a CD of music with his wife and daughter. He has a website here. Photo courtesy Louis Torres.
TRIO LOS PANCHOS. Believed to be the name of the mariachi band that backed Haley on his recording of "Jealous Heart", which was recorded in Phoenix without the Comets in 1967 and not released until 1999.
Bill TURNER. Real name Bill Trimarco. Played lead guitar for Haley from 1974 to the end of 1976. In 1975 he participated in one of Rudy Pompilli's final performances at the Nite Cap, where Rudy was reunited with Franny Beecher after 13 years. He's still performing today, occasionally working with members of the original Comets (most recently sharing the stage with Marshall Lytle in October 2010). He is the leader of the Bill Turner & Blue Smoke band, which has been going for fast approaching 40 years and which has performed close to 10,000 shows. The group frequently performs at Bally's Wild, Wild West Casino in Atlantic City. In 1996, Turner's group provided the soundtrack music for a series of MTV commercials featuring a cast of Elvis impersonators promoting the M-2 Satellite Network. Turner also was responsible for casting the spots which first aired on Aug. 1, 1996. The Blue Smoke Band as of 2010 continues to tour the northeastern US. Turner continues to be an active and enthusiastic promoter of Bill Haley's legacy; this included helping Haley's widow, Martha, sort out estate issues in the 1980s, and escorted Haley's youngest children, Pedro and Gina, to Bill Haley's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Philadelphia Music Foundation inductions in 1987. Turner is credited with helping reunite the 1954-55 Comets for the Philadelphia Music Awards. He continues a close association with Martha Haley and the Haley family and hosted the ribbon-cutting at the Bill Haley Museum in Munich when it opened in 2007. Since 2011, he has toured several times as lead guitarist with the German-based, Original Comets-sanctioned tribute group Bill Haley's New Comets; a 2014 tour by the group also features Gina Haley, Joey Ambrose and Dick Richards. He also plays steel guitar for Bill Haley Jr's own version of the Comets. He also dabbles in acting, and has appeared in an episode of Boardwalk Empire. His band's website can be found on MySpace, or visit his Facebook page. Photo courtesy Bill Turner.
'Big Joe' TURNER. The Boss of the Blues. In 1966, the R&B great and originator of "Shake, Rattle and Roll" recorded an album for Orfeon Records in Mexico, with The Comets as his session band. At about the same time, he provided the vocal intro for the Haley recording of "Land of a Thousand Dances." He continued to perform and receive adulation from fans up until his death in November 1985 at the age of 74. Haley and Turner were good friends for many years, and besides "Shake, Rattle and Roll," Haley recorded his "Flip, Flop and Fly" many times, while the Comets' Billy Williamson was fond of performing "Hide and Seek" and "Feelin' Happy." The 1966 Orfeon session with the Comets was the result of Haley's desire to help his friend revive his career. During an interview for CBS TV's West 57th in the mid-1980s, Turner refused to speak ill of Haley when the reporter tried to put Haley in a bad light for allegedly stealing Turner's thunder (and record royalties) when The Comets covered "Shake, Rattle and Roll" in 1954. It was discovered in 2001 that at least one of Turner's original songs was published by one of Haley's music companies.
The TYRONES. Popular Philadelphia group run by Tyrone DeNittis that recorded a number of hit songs, including "Blast Off" and "I'm Shook." Sponsored in part by Bill Haley, the Tyrones recorded a number of Haley/Comets-written songs. It is also believed that several Comets, including Franny Beecher took part in the recording sessions, which were later "cleaned up" by Johnny Grande and Billy Williamson. DeNittis' brother, Al Dean, briefly joined the Comets as sax player in 1960. Several Tyrones classics were used a few years ago on the soundtrack of the animated film The Iron Giant.
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UNKNOWN FEMALE. An unidentified woman can be heard singing on some of Haley's early-mid 1960s recordings for Orfeon Records, on tracks such as the 1966 re-recording of "Skinny Minnie". It has been suggested this might have been Martha Haley, Bill's wife at the time, but this has not yet been confirmed, so this spot is reserved for whoever this might have been.
UNKNOWN MALE. An unidentified man can be heard singing a rehearsal version of the 1963 recording "Tandy" which is included in the Bear Family box set The Warner Brothers Years and More. Rudy Pompilli is a possible suspect, but this has yet to be confirmed.
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Richie VAL. Guitarist who sat in with the 1982 reunion of Bill Haley's Comets during a gig in Daytona Beach, Florida. Val also worked with The Drifters and Danny and the Juniors.
Tommy VALE. Member of the Al Rappa version of Bill Haley's Comets as of 2010, playing sax.
Caterina VALENTE. Popular French-born vocalist who dueted with Haley on "Vive la Rock and Roll" in the 1958 German film Hier Bin Ich, Hier Bleib Ich. This track was released many years later by Bear Family Records. Valente was a big star in Europe, thanks to hits such as "The Breeze and I." Valente was also an accomplished classical guitarist. She continued to have many hit records through the 1960s ranging from jazz to rock and roll, was a popular U.S. TV personality in the early 1960s on The Entertainers, and continued to perform and record into the 2000s. Her name is often spelled Katarina Valente.
Johnny VALI. Guitarist for Joey Rand's edition of Bill Haley's Comets in the early 1980s (circa 1983).
Isabel VARELI. German performer who sang "Hey Bop a Re Bop" with the 1954-55 Comets during a TV appearance in Germany in 2005.
Martha VELASCO. See Haley, Martha.
Slim VINCENT. Fiddler, guitar player and yodeler, real name Vince Radosti, who worked with Bill Haley in the 1940s when Haley was a member of Cousin Lee's band. Outside of music (a career that lasted some 60 years), he also owned a model shop for many years before retiring. He died in 2010 at the age of 83.
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Ernie WALKER. Occasional rhythm guitar player with the Saddlemen, circa 1949-50.
John WALLACE. Played sax backing Marshall Lytle for the 1991 recording sessions that produced the Marshall and the Shooting Stars CD Air Mail Special. Sax player for the Stargazers, Wallace has also worked with David Bowie, Rick Astley and James Taylor. Wallace also sat in with the 1954-55 Comets during a show circa 1989-90.
Major WALLACE. Rhythm guitarist during Haley's final 1980 tour of South Africa. Wallace has the distinction of being the last known touring musician to be hired by Haley before his death. An unreleased radio recording of Wallace singing "Rockin' Robin" in Johannesburg exists; it is the last known recording of "Bill Haley and the Comets" in performance before Haley's death less than a year later.
Ed WARD. Joined The Comets in 1960, replacing Ralph Jones as drummer. Ward also recorded with the group at both Warner Brothers and Gone Records. He left the Comets in 1962.
Ed WARMINSKI. Listed in Sound and Glory as playing rhythm guitar for Haley at one point. No other information has been located.
Corky WARREN. Bass player who reportedly sat in for Ray Cawley for two Comets shows in 1971 when Cawley was off sick. This has yet to be 100% confirmed, but isn't considered dubious enough to be listed in the "Claims" section.
Dooley WARREN. Drummer claimed to have worked with the Comets at some point. See Comet Claims for more information.
Jack WEBER. Played saxophone for Joey Rand's edition of Bill Haley's Comets, circa 1984-85.
Jimmy WEIDOW. Rhythm guitarist and singer with The Saddlemen circa 1950.
Georg 'Shurli' WEISS. Described as an Austrian rock and roll icon, Vienna-based Weiss is known for his group Girly and the Blue Caps. The 1954-55 Comets backed him on some recordings in the 1990s, including a version of "Blue Christmas" in 1997.
Timmy WELLS. aka Timothy Weller. Guitarist, singer and music teacher who lists on his resume that he performed with Bill Haley's Comets, though he doesn't specify if this was Al Rappa's, John Lane's or Joey Rand's version of the group. At last report he performs and teaches in the New Orleans area, and released a CD of children's music. Go here for more information.
Joey WELZ. a.k.a. Joseph Welzant. This piano player and singer is a bit of an enigma in the Haley history book. The exact time Welz spent with Haley is a matter of debate. Some sources say he joined the Comets as piano player in 1962, after Johnny Grande left the group during a German tour, but the actual date has not been confirmed. He was the engineer for a 1962 Armed Forces Radio broadcast in Germany featuring Haley that was released in 2001 on the Hydra label. It is not certain how long Welz played with the Comets. For years it was felt he played piano during the 1964 Decca Records session that produced the single "The Green Door"/"Yeah, She's Evil" but recent research shows the credit given to Dave Martin, although Welz and Haley Fan Club head Hugh McCallum are adamant that he was there. The only firm information known is that he played piano for the Comets during the summer of 1965 and recorded a number of songs without Haley but backed by The Comets during this time, such as the Johnny Kay-written single "You Changed" on the Tear Drop label and the unreleased "Comet 65". He also claims to have participated in some of the 1965 recording sessions for APT Records, although once again available evidence does not confirm this. A photograph of Welz with the Comets including John 'Bam-Bam' Lane indicates he was with the group at some point in 1965 (which was when Lane joined the band). Welz had recorded a number of songs as a solo artist as early as the late 1950s, and after his time with the Comets established a prolific solo career, releasing dozens of albums on his own independent labels. During Haley's temporary retirement in 1977, Welz organized The Comet Revival (called the Rockin' Comets by some sources), which involved Franny Beecher, Ralph Jones and Al Rappa (no relation to an official contingent of Comets led by Nick Nastos that operated at the same time). In late 1981, within days of Haley's death, Welz organized a Comets reunion consisting of former Comets (including Beecher and Rappa) and unrelated session musicians that appeared on the Tomorrow show on NBC and later toured and recorded the single "Bring Back the Music"/"The Hawk Talks" as Bill Haley's Comets. In early 1990s, he gathered some session musicians under the name The Comets to overdub the 1950s-vintage Haley demo "Football Rock and Roll" for a single. At one point, he was also Duncan Yo-Yo Champion of the World. In 2002, he released an album of songs co-written by James Myers, including a hip-hop version of "Rock Around the Clock". His resume also includes recordings with the Al Rappa Comets (of which he was a member as of 2010) and Ralph Jones. In 2009, Welz and Rappa collaborated on a privately released CD entitled Rock and Roll Survivors. For more information on Welz, go to Blackcat Rockabilly Europe.
Moe WEXLER. Wexler played piano on the 1968 recording sessions for United Artists records, most of which remained unreleased until 1995. His out-of-control piano solo on "Flip, Flop and Fly" was a highlight.
Craig WEHRINGER. New York City bass player for the Joey Rand version of Bill Haley's Comets in early 1984.
Jimmy Jack WHITAKER. Branson, Mo.-based gospel music singer. In 2007, he provided backing vocals for the 1954-55 Comets on their novelty single, "When I Die, Just Bury Me at Wal-Mart (So My Wife Can Come and Visit Me!)".
Billy WILLIAMSON. The co-founder of the Saddlemen and the Comets played steel guitar for Haley from 1949 to 1963, and was a featured vocalist on many recordings ("Hide and Seek," "Jamaica D.J.," et al). He also served as the band's "class clown" in concert. A number of unreleased solo recordings of Williamson backed by the Comets exist, including a version of Lou Graham's classic "Wee Willie Brown" and rehearsal recordings of "Chick Safari" and "Tenor Man" which were later vocalized by Bill Haley. Williamson abruptly retired from show business in 1963, and reportedly never sang or played another note, though according to one source - Hugh McCallum's Haley News - he was involved in an unsuccessful attempt to reunite the 1950s Comets just prior to Haley's death. Exactly when he made his last recordings with Haley is a matter of debate, but it is known he participated in at least some of the Newtown sessions in early 1963 (the aforementioned "Tenor Man" rehearsal recording in which he sang duet with Johnny Kay). He died of cancer in March 1996.
Pete WINGFIELD. This session musician played piano during the March 1979 recording session in London that produced part of Haley's final album, Everyone Can Rock and Roll. A respected session man in England, he's worked with the likes of Frankie Ford, Jackie Lee Cochran and Johnny and the Roccos.
Bill WOLFE. See Bill Nolte.
Bobby WOOD. Piano player for the 1972 Nashville sessions that produced the Sonet LP Just Rock and Roll. Wood was part of the American Studios team in Memphis that recorded with Elvis Presley in 1969. Photo courtesy Tony de Silva.
David WOOD. Bass player and backing vocalist with Joey Rand's edition of Bill Haley's Comets in 1986. He has since retired from the music business. Photo courtesy David Wood
'Brother Wayne' WRIGHT. Originally a fiddler for Cousin Lee, Wright became friends with Haley in the mid-1940s. He co-hosted a radio show with Haley on WSNJ in Bridgeton, N.J. and helped train Bill in the ways of a deejay. He joined Haley's short-lived group The Range Drifters and later played in the Buckaroo Ramblers alongside Franny Beecher.
Paul WURGES. Known as the German Bill Haley, Wurges was videotaped performing "Rock the Joint" with the 1954-55 Comets for the group's 2003 DVD The Fathers of Rock and Roll but, according to Hydra Records owner Klaus Kettner, whose company produced the video, the performance was not included due to technical problems. Wurges also performed with the Comets during his 75th birthday celebration in 2007.
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Mike ZAMPINI. Originally hired by Haley to replace long-time sax man Rudy Pompilli for the 1976 European tour, Zampini spent time rehearsing with the band, but the tour was cancelled and he quit the Comets as a result. It's possible he may have played a few gigs with the band when they performed without Haley.
Rex ZARIO. Real name Rosario Lefavi. Italian-born country-rockabilly singer and longtime associate of Haley's. Zario was hired to look after Haley's publishing interests following the death of Jack Howard in 1976. He owned the Arzee label and was responsible for releasing a number of previously unreleased Haley country recordings in the 1970s. Best known for his own recording "Go Man Go Get Gone," as well as a version of "Jukebox Cannonball", Zario was backed by the Comets on his 1961 Arcade Records single "Between the Lines"/"Do You Think it's Fair." Zario died in 1991.
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* * * * * * * *Over the years, a number of individuals have either claimed themselves or have been linked by third parties to Bill Haley & His Comets. The following is a list of names that either remain unconfirmed, or have been disproven by available evidence. I invite anyone with verifiable information to contact me, so that I know whether to move any of these people into the main list, or keep them here as "disproven" claims. I'm also including some claims regarding individuals being backed by The Comets. Some "family legends" that I have received via e-mail will not be included here out of respect for privacy, unless the information has been posted to a Web page or other public media.
Louis F. BALDINO. Disproven. As early as 1962, a high school teacher named Lou Baldino was telling stories to his class about his time as a drummer with Bill Haley and the Comets. There is no record of this man ever working with Bill Haley. It is possible he may have performed under another name, or possibly as a one-time stand-in, however no evidence has yet been provided to suggest this. His claim to have played drums on the original "Rock Around the Clock" is most definitely untrue. That was Billy Gussak playing drums. Baldino died some years ago. My source for this listing was a number of news forum postings in the late 1990s, which appear (as of 2010) to no longer be online.
Bob GRAY. Unconfirmed. Rhythm guitarist who according to one source played with Bill Haley and the Comets. No dates are offered and there is no record of any guitarist by that name working with Haley. Gray might have been a member of one of the Comets groups formed after Haley's death. At last report Gray is a member of the Dixielanders, a Dallas-based Dixieland jazz band, and I'd love to hear from him to clear this up.Bob McFADDEN. Unconfirmed Well-known voice actor who recorded the Beat anthem "The Beat Generation" with Rod McKuen. According to McKuen, the recording session was backed by members of The Comets, however this information has yet to be confirmed (the B-side was entitled "The Mummy"). McFadden is best known for providing voices on Rankin & Bass animated classics such as Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July. He was also the voice of Snarf on the '80s classic TV show Thundercats. He died in 2000.
T. Bone LANCE. Unconfirmed. According to a November 1969 Cashbox article, Lance claimed to have toured with the Comets as bass player, but there's no record of a bass player by that name ever working with Haley. During the 1960s, Haley's regular bass player was Al Rappa, though he did use other musicians for recording sessions and off-and-on through 1968. Not to be confused with Tony Lance who was a session saxiphonist for Haley in 1953.
Rod McKUEN (aka DOR, Oliver Cool) Unconfirmed. In the 1950s, this famous folk singer and poet recorded a song called "The Beat Generation" under the pseudonym "DOR" along with Bob McFadden. According to McKuen, the session band on this Brunswick session consisted of members of Bill Haley and the Comets. This information has yet to be confirmed, however McKuen has made this claim in the liner notes of at least one of his albums, and the UK branch of Brunswick was affiliated in some way with Decca. No other information about this session is known, though the song has been reissued many times over the years. McKuen's Web site can be found here.
Johnny QUICK. Disproven. Featured on a Dutch TV special in the early 2000s, Quick, a Death Valley resident, was the subject of a song by the musical group Trona named after him and his supposed time with The Comets. Quick claimed a 25-year association with the Comets as their drummer, but there is no evidence to back up Quick's claims and in my years in direct communication with members of the Comets, Haley family members, Haley historians, and others with a connection to the Comets, is no record of a Johnny Quick ever working with Bill Haley as a musician, and certainly his claims to have been the drummer over these years are easily disproven by looking at the many drummers who have been confirmed as working with Haley, starting from Charlie Higler (1952), through Ralph Jones (1955-1960), down to Steve Murray, who was Haley's final drummer in 1979-80. If he was with the band for 25 years, that would make him longer-serving than 20-year veteran Rudy Pompilli, yet Quick somehow managed to avoid being photographed, recorded or filmed with Haley during this long period of time. An unnamed source - a genuine member of the Comets - says Quick once worked as a supporting act for the Comets during a gig in the late 1970s, during a period when the Comets were touring without Haley (who had temporarily retired). That's the closest connection I've been able to find between Johnny Quick and Bill Haley. Quick died in September 2012 and reportedly maintained his claim to be the "last living Comet" until the end.
Rick RICHARDSON. Disproven. In a feature interview published on Aug. 19, 1988 in the Washington, Penn., newspaper the Observer-Reporter, a Pennsylvania musicians by this name claimed to have been a guitarist with both the Saddlemen and the Comets in the 1950s, and was in fact planning to appear in a special Comets reunion concert alongside Marshall Lytle and Joey Ambrose. Richardson claimed to have joined the Saddlemen/Comets at the age of 11, and in fact claimed that the other musicians were also about the same age. There is no evidence of anyone by this name performing with the Comets as guitarist. While there were some short-term guitarists who worked with Haley before he hired his first full-time guitarist, Frannie Beecher, in 1954, there no indication of anyone of this name ever working with the Saddlemen or Comets, and certainly no one of that age.
Bobbe SEYMOUR. Unconfirmed. Steel guitar player who, in a 1997 interview for Steel Guitar World Magazine, claimed to have been a member of The Comets at age 16. In a MySpace posting several years ago, Mr. Seymour (likely responding to this listing) denied having made the claim of having been a member of the band and said he filled in with the band for a few days (though he didn't say when). During the time Steel Guitar World suggests Seymour's involvement with the Comets (which appears to have been the late 1950s-early 1960s), Billy Williamson was Haley's only steel guitar player and several Comets from that era say they don't recall anyone else playing the instrument while Williamson held sway. I'm listing him as "unconfirmed" pending further information. Under the criteria of this listing, if he did perform with the band, even for a few days, then he does qualify for the main listing and I'd be happy to move him there.
Miles SHORTER. Disproven based upon available evidence. British sax player who claims to have performed with Bill Haley and the Comets during their 1980 tour of South Africa. According to all available information, Pete Thomas was Haley's only sax player during this tour. It's possible Shorter might have been a supporting act, or may have performed informally with the Comets during this tour. All members of The Comets are introduced at the beginning of a radio recording made in South Africa in May 1980 and Shorter is not mentioned. If he played with the band in any capacity during the tour, no supporting evidence has been provided.
Dooley WARREN. Unconfirmed. According to an e-mail I received in the late 2000s, Warren reportedly played drums with some incarnation of either Bill Haley and His Comets or a later Bill Haley's Comets group. There's no one by this name listed as working with Haley that I've been able to find, but he might have worked with a post-Haley group. Any information to clarify his involvement is welcomed.
In addition to the above, I'm told of a female performer who promoted herself as the only female member of Bill Haley's Comets. I don't have her name, but other than session musicians and guest stars such as Catarina Valente, no woman is known to have performed as an official member of The Comets. Also, as indicated in the main section, as recently as early 2004 there was a musician in Ohio claiming to be Rudy Pompilli, even though Rudy died in February 1976.
Several famous musicians and one obscure band have been erroneously linked to Bill Haley:
Tommy ALLSUP. In a 1999 article for Rolling Stone that is available online, Asleep at the Wheel lead singer Ray Benson erroneously states that Allsup, best known as a guitar player for Buddy Holly, worked as a steel guitarist for "Bill Haley and the Westernaires." Aside from the fact Haley never had a group by that name, there is no indication Allsup ever worked with Bill Haley. It's possible Allsup might have been part of the Crickets the day they allegedly (see the Legends and Rumors section below) backed Haley for a show, but this has yet to be confirmed.THE JUMPING JAGUARS. Based upon recollections by Franny Beecher, he and Billy Williamson were believed to have recorded several tracks with this group, possibly in 1956 during the making of the Rock and Roll Stage Show LP. Two recordings do exist and have been released on the Charly label, including "Knock Kneed Nellie from Knoxville" with an apparent Williamson vocal. And at least one Haley compilation box set has included the recordings. It is my opinion this is not Williamson singing on these tracks and the actual involvement of the two Comets is disputed. In recent years it has been reported that Beecher has indicated he may have been mistaken. Until firm confirmation is found, I'm comfortable listing this as an error for now.
Boots RANDOLPH. One of the most famous sax players of all time, Boots Randolph never claimed to have been a member of the Comets, however liner notes on some of his 1960s releases for Guest Star Records claimed that The Comets backed him for a recording session. Research for the Warner Brothers Years and More box set failed to uncover any evidence that this happened. However a mid-1960s single on the Logo label had a Randolph tune on the B-side, with a Comets cover version of his "Yakety Sax" on the A-side!
Tony RICE. A 2004 book entitled Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo: The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World indicates that Haley performed or recorded some of his 1940s yodelling recordings with a guitarist named Tony Rice. There is no evidence of anyone by this name ever working with Bill Haley during this period. There was a popular bluegrass guitarist of the same name who rose to fame in the 1970s, but that is probably not the same man. Although I am listing Tony Rice as an error, I welcome any confirmation that he was in fact involved in any Bill Haley endeavor in the 1940s.
Over the years several famous individuals have been rumored as performing with Bill Haley & His Comets, but evidence is lacking to confirm this:
Rumors and legends
Buddy HOLLY. One story that has passed into the legend of Bill Haley is the report that Buddy Holly and his band, the Crickets, once backed Haley for a 1955 concert when the Comets were delayed in arriving. According to the story Haley was concerned that Holly's band might not know his songs, only to find out they had them all memorized. This story is recounted in John Swenson's biography of Bill Haley, but some feel this story is more legend than fact, however. It is known that Holly opened for Haley and the Comets in Lubbock, Texas, at least once (as recounted here). Holly, of course, became one of rock and roll's earliest martyrs when he died in a February 1959 plane crash alongside Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. Click here for the Rockabilly Hall of Fame page dedicated to Holly.
Jayne MANSFIELD. The 1950s and '60s sex symbol and violinist was a guest star on an edition of The Arthur Godfrey Show in March 1956 along with Bill Haley and the Comets. It is believed that Mansfield may have sung a song called "Rock and Roll Wedding" backed by The Comets on the broadcast. This cannot be proven until someone locates a recording or kinescope of the program (anyone who can help, please contact me). Mansfield passed into Hollywood legend when she died in a 1967 car crash. Her daughter, Mariska Hargitay, is one of the stars of the TV series Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Update November 2003: it has been suggested that Mansfield may not have performed with Haley and the Comets after all. It is known that she was one of the guests on a 1957 TV special called Atlantic City Holiday which also featured Haley and the Comets, and it is believed this is where the rumor started. Once again, nothing can be completely confirmed or disproven until a recording of the Godfrey show in question is located. Update August 2009: Reportedly an article by Ron Beeks in the UK magazine Now Dig This has confirmed the Comets performed "Rock and Roll Wedding" on this TV program, but confirmation of Mansfield's involvement (or lack thereof) is still pending.
Elvis PRESLEY. There is no indication Bill Haley and Elvis Presley ever performed together, although they did tour together and share the bill a few times in 1954-55, most notably the show that was filmed for the never-released documentary, The Pied Piper of Cleveland. In 1958 Elvis visited Haley backstage on two separate occasions during the Comets' tour of Germany. There was discussion about Elvis joining Haley on stage but, perhaps for fear of rioting, this never happened. An interview with Comets sax man Rudy Pompilli in the 1970s, however, had him being rather ambiguous whether the Comets ever worked with Presley, which is why his listing here is justified. Elvis remained a big Haley fan throughout his life, and reportedly joined the Bill Haley and the Comets International Fan Club in the 1960s.
Bill Haley and the Comets were often credited under other names. Here are a list of the different groups Haley belonged to, the aliases used by The Comets over the years, as well as a few recent variations. These are listed in roughly chronological order and the list may not be complete.
THE DOWN HOMERS. Haley's first professional musical work was with this country group in 1946. The exact dates Haley was with the Down Homers are not known, though it's no longer thought that he recorded with the group on the Vogue label; radio recordings with Haley dating from 1946 were located in the early 2000s. Some sources spell the group's name Downhomers.
THE FOUR ACES OF WESTERN SWING. Haley's first major group, circa 1947.
ALL-WESTERN SEXTET, THE RANGE DRIFERS, TEXAS RANGE RIDERS. Short-lived groups run by Haley before The Saddlemen. The Range Riders dates back to his teenage years.
JACK HALEY. Alias briefly used by Haley during some shows circa 1950. He never recorded under the name to our knowledge, but he did name is eldest son Jack.
THE WESTERN ACES Several articles in Billboard in the 1940s, plus archived flyers, give this name to Haley's musical group. The name appears to have been applied to both the Four Aces of Western Swing and the Saddlemen at one point or another.
JOHNNY CLIFTON AND HIS STRING BAND. Alias used by Haley for a 1950 single at a time when he considered changing his name. John and Clifton were his middle names.
RENO BROWNE AND HER BUCKAROOS. See Reno Browne's entry in the main Who's Who for the origin of this alias.
THE SADDLEMEN. For those who don't know, this was the name The Comets used back in the days before Rock and Roll. Under this name, the group also recorded with Curley Herdman and Lou Graham.
THE JODIMARS. In the fall of 1955, Comets Marshall Lytle, Dick Richards and Joey Ambrose quit the band in a salary dispute and created The Jodimars. The group won a recording contract with Columbia Records and enjoyed some minor hits in 1956. Later, the group became one of the first rock and roll groups to take up residence in Las Vegas. By 1958, the group had broken up, though Lytle attempted to revive the group several times. The trio reunited in the 1980s and this ultimately sparked the revival of the 1954-55 Comets.
THE GREENLIGHTS. Used when backing Rusty Keefer on a 1955 single (a 1957 date was believed for years until an examination of online Billboard archives from 1955 revealed the single was released two years earlier).
THE KINGSMEN. In 1958, during a lean period for Haley, The Comets recorded two singles under this name. Surprisingly, an instrumental called "Week End" became a hit and the group appeared on American Bandstand. Since there was a conflict between The Comets touring and recording separately from Haley, a "touring group" of musicians were gathered to perform as The Kingsmen. Not to be confused with the band that later recorded the classic "Louie, Louie." One Kingsmen recording, "It Should Have Been Me," was reissued on the Rollercoaster label and credited to the Kingsmen, though this might have actually been a Bill Moss recording. This spin-off group created a minor controversy at the time, covered by Billboard magazine, when "Week End" became an unexpected hit, creating demand for the Kingsmen and necessitating the creation of the touring group which, Billboard reported, subsequently began recording on their own (possibly explaining the Bill Moss recording).
THE NITE CAPS. In 1958, the Chess label released a single "Haunted Sax"/"Jelly Bean" under this name. Some mystery surrounds it. Haley Fan Club president Hugh McCallum claims these were demos recorded by The Comets ("Haunted Sax" being a Rudy Pompilli original) that were released possibly without consent of the Haley organization, sparking a legal battle. The name refers to the local Chester-area pub where Pompilli regularly performed. Bob Hayes may have had something to do with this release, but no information has been located. The release date is per several sources but may be incorrect. The single itself is a collector's item.
THE LIFEGUARDS. A less-successful attempt at a spin-off after the Kingsmen, which folded in 1959 after only one single, "Everybody Out'a The Pool."
THE RED COATS. Used when backing Dave Day on a 1956 single.
THE SCOTTSMEN. Name possibly used by The Comets when backing Frankie Scott on a 1956 single. There is some indication that other than Scott, no other Comets were actually involved in the recording sessions. Originally believed to have been recorded in 1959, the 1956 date is indicated by a Billboard review.
THE MERRI-MEN. Name adopted by Rudy Pompilli, Franny Beecher and Ralph Jones during a brief breakaway period in 1961. They released one single: "Big Daddy"/"St. Louis Blues" before folding; Pompilli and Beecher then rejoined the Comets. It has recently (2014) been discovered that Pompilli and Jones worked together in a group called the Merrymen prior to joining the Comets, suggesting this may have been an attempt at reviving that group.
B.H. SEES COMBO. Strange moniker used when issuing some of Haley's Newtown recordings in 1963-64, possibly due to Haley's tax problems in the U.S. The Bill Haley Fan Club newsletters at the time, however, suggest the name change was intended as a gimmick to trick deejays into thinking that this was a new group.
THE GRANDEURS. Used when backing Carrie Grant on a 1963 single.
SCOTT GREGORY. Alias used when re-issuing some of Haley's Guest Star label recordings in the mid-1960s. The reasons for Guest Star using this pseudonym are unknown, since they did release the LP Rock Around the Clock King featuring the same recordings under Haley's name. Tax reasons once again might explain it.
THE HIGHLIGHTS/THE HIGHLIGHTERS. Alias used when the Comets instrumental "Hot to Trot", originally recorded for Warner Bros. in 1960, was released on the Arcade label in the early 1960s. The flipside of the single, "All the Way with LBJ" was not recorded by the Comets, however. The two band names seem to have been interchangable.
THE COUNTRY SHOWMEN. Comets guitarist Nick Nastos formed this group in the mid-1960s, before rejoining the Comets in 1968. The group included bass player Ray Cawley and drummer Bill Nolte. In 1969, Nastos and Haley effectively merged their two bands when Nolte and Cawley joined The Comets. Over the next few years, when The Comets were not touring, Haley's sax man Rudy Pompilli toured with The Country Showmen. According to Hugh McCallum's Haley fan club newsletters of the time, the group was also variously cited as The Country Gentlemen and Nick Masters' Country Revue, however Nolte says the group was only ever known as The Country Showmen.
The following band names refer to the different versions of Bill Haley's Comets that have existed separate from Bill Haley himself:
THE COMET REVIVAL/THE ROCKIN' COMETS. Band formed by Joey Welz in the late 1970s. Different sources use different names for this.
BILL HALEY'S COMETS. No less than six groups have used this version of the name over the years. The first was a group formed in 1977-1978 in order to keep The Comets going during Haley's sabbatical. The second, formed in 1982, was a reunion group that recorded one single before disbanding in 1983. The third was a group run by Joey Rand in the mid-1980s. The fourth group to use the name was the group fronted by Al Rappa and John Lane from the early 1980s until Lane and Rappa split up. The fifth group is the one currently run by John Lane. The sixth group to use this name is the group made up of members of the 1954-55 Comets (see below).
THE SOUND OF HALEY'S COMETS. Short-lived group formed by Al Rex in the 1970s.
BILL HALEY'S COMETS FEATURING AL RAPPA. Billing currently used by the group led by Al Rappa.
THE ORIGINAL COMETS, 1954-55 COMETS, TRIBUTE TO BILL HALEY FEATURING HIS ORIGINAL COMETS, THE ORIGINAL BAND. These are different names used by the members of the 1950s Comets who continue to tour and record.
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