Even aficionados of early rock-and-roll will probably find more than they want to know here about...


BILL HALEY: The Daddy of Rock and Roll

Even aficionados of early rock-and-roll will probably find more than they want to know here about bandleader/vocalist/guitarist Bill Haley--who isn't exactly neglected in the many available rock histories. Swenson argues that Haley wasn't ""a fluke,"" wasn't a record-company product, and really did discover rock--when his country-swing band ""The Saddlemen"" (Haley was a top yodeler) moved towards rockabilly in the late 1940s, with such tunes as ""Yodel Your Blues Away"" (a ""fantastic"" song with a ""driving cadence and rhythm accompaniment""). Then came ""Rocket 88"" in 1951, ""the first significant white interpretation of the postwar r & b form."" (Swenson recognizes, but tends to down-play, the central place of black music in rock's emergence.) And by the mid-1950s ""Rock the Joint,"" ""Shake, Rattle and Roll"" (from black originals), and ""Rock Around the Clock"" (featured in The Blackboard Jungle) made Bill Haley and the Comets the kings of rock. A few years later, however, Haley would be a ruined man--the band deteriorating into a twist act, Haley sliding into alcoholism and mental illness despite comeback attempts. . . and dying ""a broken, insane man"" in 1981. Some of Swenson's musical detailing--band-member contributions, recording-studio minutiae--is intriguing, though his song-by-song critiques are sometimes juvenile. (""Haley's voice and interpretation sound so terrible it's almost unbelievable."") More consistently tedious is the chronicling of Haley's tours--especially in England. (Swenson is apparently British.) So only the most devoted Haley fans will find this short book fully readable, while rock enthusiasts may want to check out a few of the early chapters.

Pub Date: June 10, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Stein & Day

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1983