Rock Around The Clock

Album: Greatest Hits (1955)
Charted: 1 1
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • There is some dispute over what was the first rock song ever recorded (The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame says it's Rocket 88, which Haley covered in 1951), but this is indisputably the first rock song to top the charts, and generally considered the beginning of the "Rock Era," at least for chart purposes.

    At the time, Billboard magazine compiled charts in three different categories: Best Sellers in Stores, Most Played By Disc Jockeys, and Most Played in Juke Boxes - many songs like "Rock Around The Clock" topped all three and were a consensus #1. Elvis had his first chart-topper in 1956 with "Heartbreak Hotel," and rock music made steady gains from there, but to give you some idea of what the charts looked like before Haley hit the pinnacle, the 1955 #1s that hit before Haley were by Joan Weber, The Fontane Sisters, The McGuire Sisters, Bill Hays, Perez Prado, Georgia Gibbs and Les Baxter.
  • This was written in 1953 by a Philadelphia songwriter named named Max Freedman (who was nearly 60 years old), and by James Myers, a local musician and song publisher who published it under the name "Jimmy De-Knight." In addition to owning half the composer credit on the song, Myers had 100% of the publishing. Haley wanted to record the song, but Dave Miller, who owned his label Essex Records, refused because of a dispute over the publishing. Myers then placed the song with a veteran Country act called Sonny Dae and His Nights, and their version was released in 1953 to little acclaim. In 1954, Myers helped Haley leave Essex records and sign with Decca; as part of their agreement, one side of every single Haley recorded had to be a song from Myers' catalog, and the first one they picked was "Rock Around The Clock," which was originally released as the B-side of a Dickie Thompson song called "Thirteen Women," which was about a nuclear bomb that leaves just one man and 13 women alive.

    "Rock Around The Clock" first appeared on the charts on June 3, 1953, selling 75,000 copies and convincing Decca to pick up Haley's option. Haley then recorded a successful cover of the Big Joe Turner song "Shake, Rattle And Roll," and on March 25, 1955, "Rock Around The Clock" was featured in the movie Blackboard Jungle, which gave it a surge in popularity and prompted Decca to re-release the single. This time, the song surged to the top of the charts, entering the Top 40 on May 14, 1955 and hitting #1 on July 9, where it stayed for eight weeks.
  • Haley first recorded this song on April 12, 1954 at his first session for Decca Records. Haley went to New York to cut his first Decca session. Musicians were: Billy Williamson on steel guitar, Johnny Grande on piano, Joey d'Ambrosio on tenor sax, Danny Cedrone on lead guitar and Marshall Lytle on bass. A session drummer, named Billy Gussack played on this recording. Haley recorded the song a few other times, but this recording was the original single.
  • The term "Rock 'n' Roll" was a relatively new way of describing music when this came out. A lot of early "Rock" was based on the blues, and was far too racy for most white listeners. Many white singers made careers out of sanitizing R&B records for pop appeal, but Haley added a country/swing element to his covers that kept a lot of the edge. When Elvis came along, he did the same thing, transforming R&B songs like "Hound Dog" without sucking the life out of them.
  • Many listeners had never heard of "rock and roll" when this was released, so the record company had a hard time describing the song. The label on the single called it a "Novelty Foxtrot."
  • Haley's guitarist Danny Cedrone played pretty much the same solo on "Rock Around The Clock" that he did on Haley's 1952 cover of the Jimmy Preston "Rock The Joint," which was a big break for Haley, selling over 150,000 copies, and established the swinging blues style he would use on his famous hit.
  • This was the original opening theme song for the TV show Happy Days. The song was re-released in 1974 to capitalize on its new popularity, and charted at #39 in the US. In 1976 theme was changed to "Happy Days."
  • In the UK, this was the biggest-selling single of the '50s.
  • A forebear to this song is a 1950 recording by the saxophone player Hal Singer, also titled "Rock Around The Clock." Written by Sam Theard, who co-wrote the Louis Jordan hit "Let The Good Times Roll," this one also has the "One for the money, two for the show" line.
  • Elton John took a swipe at this in his song "Crocodile Rock." Elton thought this was kind of overrated, so he put a line in about how they were doing the Crocodile Rock while the other kids were "Rocking 'round the clock."
  • Haley was never able to duplicate the massive success of "Rock Around The Clock," but he did have a few more hits in the '50s, including "See You Later Alligator" and "The Saints Rock 'N Roll." Haley is a key figure in the evolution of rock music, helping transform the sound out of country music, but he couldn't sustain his early success. Elvis stole his thunder, and Haley recorded many substandard songs because wanted to cut tracks owned by his publishing company. He remained somewhat popular overseas, but lawsuits and financial problems took their toll on the singer, and he died in 1981 at age 55. Bill Haley and His Comets were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
  • According to Rolling Stone in their "100 Greatest Guitar Songs" issue, Comets guitarist Danny Cedrone was paid $21 for his work on this track, which became a classic rock solo. Unfortunately, he died in a fall months after he recorded it. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bertrand - Paris, France
  • There is a different snare drum pattern on each verse. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Greg - Barking, England
  • In 1956, Bill Haley and the Comets starred as themselves in a low-budget movie called Rock Around The Clock, where they performed nine songs. The film was far from scandalous, but was targeted to teenagers and caused a stir among theater owners who feared bad behavior. Possibly spurred on by these reports, there were incidents of dancing in aisles and other breaches in etiquette that helped fuel the perception among many adults that rock music would lead to mayhem in America's youth.
  • She wasn't rocking around the clock, but in the saucy 1922 song "My Man Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll)" by Trixie Smith, her man rocks her with a steady roll as she checks the clock, amazed he's still going.
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 31

  • Billie Glor from Santa Clarita, CaThis song is also the opener for the movie American Grafitti.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn September 3rd 1955, Billy Haley and the Comets turned down a $2,000 contract, the contract was for a fifteen date tour of Australia...
    The reason: Haley and most of the Comets had a fear of flying...
    At the time the group's "(We Gonna) Rock Around the Clock" was at #3 on Billboard's Most Played on Jukeboxes chart, #4 on the Best Seller in Stores chart, and #5 on Most Played by Jockeys chart.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 14th 1958, the Kingsmen performed "Week End" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    A little under three weeks later on September 1st, 1958 it entered Billboard's Top 100 chart at position #96; it stayed on the chart for three weeks and peaked at #35...
    At the time of this appearance on 'Bandstand' they were on the Top 100 chart, as the Comets with Bill Haley, at position #67 with "Lean Jean", and that was also its peak position on the Top 100.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn April 12th 1954, at the Pythian Temple studios in New York City Bill Haley and the Comets recorded "Thirteen Women" and "Rock Around the Clock"…
    Twenty three days earlier on March 20th, 1954 and roughly 96 miles south of N.Y.C. in Philadelphia, a quartet named Sonny Dae & his Knights recorded the first original recorded version* of "Rock Around the Clock"...
    Dae & the Knights' version was on the Arcade Record label and never made the national charts, and we all know what happen to Haley & the Comets' version...
    * And of course it’s available on You Tube.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn March 10th 1974, Bill Haley & the Comets' "Rock Around the Clock" re-entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #99; and nine weeks later on May 19th, 1974 it peaked at #39 {for 1 week} and spent 14 weeks on the Top 100; combined with its 24 weeks on the chart in 1956, it spent a grand total 39 weeks on the chart.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NySadly, Francis "Franny" Beecher, lead guitarist for Bill Haley & his Comets, passed away on February 24th, 2014 at the age of 92...
    He didn't play on the recording of "Rock Around the Clock" but appeared and played in the movie of the same name...
    In 2012 he was elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Comets...
    May he R.I.P.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 15th 1974, the 30-minute sitcom 'Happy Days' debut on the ABC-TV network...
    The series ran from 1974 to 1984 with a grand total of 255 episodes...
    As already stated Bill Haley & the Comets' "Rock Around the Clock" was the opening theme in 1974 & 1975...
    Then Pratt and McClain's "Happy Days" became the show's theme song from 1976 to 1983, and in the show's final year Bobby Arvon performed the theme song...
    Pratt and McClain's version entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart on March 28th, 1976 and on May 30th it peaked at #5 (for 2 weeks) and spent 14 weeks on the Top 100 (and 5 of those 14 weeks were on the Top 10)......
    Only Henry Winkler (Fonzie), Marion Ross (Mrs. Cunningham), and Tom Bosley (Mr. Cunningham) appeared all 255 episodes.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyIn 1958 The Kingsmen released an instrumental record titled "Week End", it peaked at No. 35; the Kingsmen were actually The Comets without Bill Haley!!!
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyThe last week that 'Rock Around the Clock' was No. 1 was the week of August 27th, 1955. It would then take 33 weeks before another rock 'n roll record would reach No.1 and it was Elvis who would do it. His "Heartbreak Hotel" made No. 1 on April 21st, 1956 and it stayed there for eight weeks.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyThe song it knocked out of the No. 1 position was "Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White" by Perez Prado, which had been No. 1 for ten weeks. Haley held on to No. 1 for eight weeks and was replace by "The Yellow Rose of Texas" by Mitch Miller!!!
  • Eugine from Bangledesh, Bangladeshthis is my favourite song, i listen to it all the time on my ipod and when i do i cant help but dance!!!:)
  • Timmy from London, United Kingdomi LOVE this song, it is so well played
    and i love Bill Haley's dance moves, maybe he can teach me one day:) !!!!!!!
  • Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesKeith: "Rock and roll" probably goes back to the early part of the 20th century as an Afro-American euphemism for 1) dancing 2) sex. It was also heard in some gospel contexts (e.g., charismatic dancing or holy rolling). White people began using it in the 1930s to refer to swing. Benny Goodman recorded a song with the words "rock and roll" in 1935. By the 1940s, R&B songs said "rock and roll" quite often. So it has been around a while, and both black and white listeners who were "hep" would have known what it meant when this song came out.
  • Steve Dotstar from Los Angeles, Calove that jazz guitarist solo in the middle...
    the sixteenths at the end..HARD! (busted my bejeebers trying repicate that on my guitar!
  • Steve Dotstar from Los Angeles, Cathis friend of mine told me she danced in the aisle of theatre where the song was emanating from the movie Blackboard Jungle...a lot of teens were dancing in that aisle.
  • Paddy from Dublin, IrelandThis song was produced by Milt Gabler, actor Billy Crystal's uncle.
  • Alex from Calgary, CanadaJust to prove that you should take comments on this page with a grain of salt, Brian's comment about Haley marrying his pregnant girlfriend is utterly incorrect, although he did marry 3 times. Hampton did not write the song; it was written by Max Freedman, with James Myers (under his penname Jimmy DeKnight) claiming co-authorship as its publisher. Sonny Dae (a white artist) recorded the song first because Haley wasn't allowed to by the owner of his then-record label, Essex (per the books "Bill Haley" by John Swenson and "Rock Around the Clock" by Jim Dawson). To correct Sara, the Comets were named the Saddlemen, not Saddle Pals, and prior to that the Four Aces of Western Swing.
  • Thunderclap from Sunshine Coast, AustraliaIt is generally accepted by music historians that 'We're Gonna Rock Around The Clock Tonight!' was recorded by Sonny Dae & His Knights, circa October 1953. It was under the 'ARCADE' label, owned by Jack Howard, who died December, 1977. The B-Side was 'Moving Guitar', about which I cannot find the writer, date of recording,the performing artists,nor music publisher. This single was the only one ever released by Sonny Dae & His Knights. I wonder if any exist and how much one would be worth!
  • Kenneth from Pencil Bluff, ArI started playing Western Swing before rock'n'roll was invented, but when Bill Haley recorded Shake Rattle n' Roll, we immediately learned to play his music. I have been a Bill Haley fan every since. He is truly the "Father of Rock'N'Roll" even though, as previously mentioned, Elvis probably popularized the genre.
    Butch
  • Stacy Starr from West Grove, PaI recently when to Branson MS and saw the Comets at Dick Clarks AB. If you go be sure to see the original Comets. What a show.

    Stacy Starr, West Grove, Pa.
  • Sara from Greenville, AlThis group started out as Bill Haley and his saddle pals, a country music group.
  • Garrett from Nashville, TnFor years, this was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest selling rock song of all time (over 24 million sold).
  • Myrna Maria from Tegucigalpa, HondurasI read that Alan Freed coined the word rock & roll, from the 1942 song of Wild Bill Moore "We´re Gonna Rock, We´re Gonna Roll".
    By the way, I have an aquiantance called Dennis Montenegro that looks just like a young Alan Freed. He is the son of our most outstanding historian in popular culture here in Honduras.
  • Myrna Maria from Tegucigalpa, HondurasI work in a radio station that plays music from the 80's and back, and one of my shows is dedicated to what we call "specials", a whole audition dedicated to a particular artist with his story and his music. Since I'm a sucker for rock, my special yesterday was on Bill Haley and the Comets and everybody loved it! I played his thirty best hits and talked about his not very happy life and his remarkable career. For me, Bill Haley is the genuine father of rock & roll.
  • David from Toronto, CanadaThe Boswell Sisters recorded a song called "Rock And Roll" way back in 1934, twenty years before Bill Haley And The Comets recorded this one.
  • William from Bellefonte, Pa"Rock around the clock" is a sped up version of Hank Williams Sr.'s "Move it on over". This is admitted by Hank 3 and is just more proof on Seniors influence on music other than just country.
  • Ake from Ostersund, SwedenTo charlie, Thomaston, CT : If you get the possibility to see Bill Haley´s Original Comets in person, do it! I saw them a couple of years ago in Sweden and these guys are still the greatest. But make sure it is The Originals feat. Marshall Lytle and the rest of the 1951-55 line-up, as there are several groups billing themselves as Bill Haley´s Comets
  • Charlie from Thomaston, Ctthank you comets, i thank you for rock
  • Keith from Slc, UtThe phrase "Rock and Roll" was coined by Alan Freed (the REAL King of Rock&Roll) in the early 1950s. Until the name caught on across the country, nobody had any idea what the song referred to. Dae and the Nights were ahead of themselves, expecting this to be a regional hit (it got airplay with Freed, of course), but they didn't have enough initial sales to go into full production on the record.
  • Brian from Funchal Madeira, PortugalIn 1954, Bill Haley married his pregnant girlfriend, just four days after he divorced his first wife.
  • John from Waterloo, IaSong was written by (he claims) Lionel Hampton, mentioned by him in a TV interview.
see more comments

Roger McGuinn of The ByrdsSongwriter Interviews

Roger reveals the songwriting formula Clive Davis told him, and if "Eight Miles High" is really about drugs.

Country Song TitlesFact or Fiction

Country songs with titles so bizarre they can't possibly be real... or can they?

DevoSongwriter Interviews

Devo founders Mark Mothersbaugh and Jerry Casale take us into their world of subversive performance art. They may be right about the De-Evoloution thing.

Jon Oliva of Trans-Siberian OrchestraSongwriter Interviews

Writing great prog metal isn't easy, especially when it's for 60 musicians.

Gavin Rossdale of BushSongwriter Interviews

On the "schizoid element" of his lyrics, and a famous line from "Everything Zen."

Chris IsaakSongwriter Interviews

Chris tells the story of "Wicked Game," talks milkshakes and moonpies at Sun Records, and explains why women always get their way.