Wildwood, NJ (PRWEB) April 12, 2004
Summer, 1950. The leader of a little-known country-and-western swing band strolls across the street from his hotel into a nightclub, the Riptide. Booked for the summer is the now-legendary rhythm and blues band, The Treniers. Excited by their raucous stage show, the white, 25-year-old singer decides to take his country music career in a new direction. A few weeks later, he returns to offer the Treniers a song heÂd writtenÂÂRock-a-BeatinÂ Boogie.Â
The song goes nowhere. But in the same town four summers later, with a few modest hits under his belt, Bill Haley and his new group, The Comets, introduce a rollicking new tune that fuses elements of country music, Western swing, and black R&B. Recorded April 12, 1954, the song, Â(WeÂre Gonna) Rock Around the ClockÂ is a hit with nightclub audiences. The song would become the first Rock and Roll song to hit Number One on the Billboard charts, selling more than 40 million copies worldwide. More important, it propelled Ârock and rollÂ as we know it onto the national scene, and inspired generations of rock musicians.
Where did Bill Haley learn to rock? Where did he first perform his groundbreaking hit for audiences a half-century ago? It wasnÂt Cleveland, the self-proclaimed ÂBirthplace of Rock and Roll.Â It wasnÂt New York City. Nope, not Memphis. It was the southern New Jersey beach resort of Wildwood By-the-Sea.
Wildwood will celebrate its little-known role in the birth of rock with a concert dedicated to Haley and the 50th anniversary of ÂRock Around the Clock,Â on Saturday, October 16, 2004, at the Wildwoods Convention Center, on the Boardwalk. The Original Comets, five musicians who performed with Haley in the summer of 1954, will return to the resort for the concert. (Haley died of an apparent heart attack in 1981). It is the first time since 1955 that the Original Comets (sax player Joey ÂAmbroseÂ dÂAmbrosio, guitarist Franny Beecher, pianist Johnny Grande, bass player Marshall Lytle and drummer Dick ÂRichardsÂ Boccelli) have played together in Wildwood.
The concert is the centerpiece of a weekend celebration of the 1950s and WildwoodÂs rock and roll heritage. The first Wildwoods Fabulous Fifties Weekend, October 15-17, 2004, at the Wildwoods Convention Center will be a musical celebration of the islandÂs role in the birth of Rock and Roll, and the 50th anniversary of ÂRock Around the Clock.Â
ÂBill Haley is the man, and ÂRock Around the ClockÂ is the song, that launched rock and roll into the worldÂs consciousness,Â said Andrew Cripps, spokesman for the Wildwoods DooWop Preservation League, sponsors of the event. ÂIt is the first number one hit to combine the influences that make up rock and roll. It might never have happened without the musical melting pot of Wildwood. Everything that followed built upon what Bill Haley brought together here. Whether Cleveland likes it or not, rock and roll as we know it was born in Wildwood.Â
American Bandstand host Dick Clark called ÂRock Around the ClockÂ ÂThe national anthem of Rock and Roll.Â John Lennon of the Beatles said in a Playboy interview: ÂI had no idea about doing music as a way of life until rock and roll hit me.Â Interviewer: ÂDo you recall what specifically hit you?Â Lennon: ÂIt was ÂRock Around The Clock.Â
Event sponsors plan to unveil and erect a permanent historical marker on the site of the HofBrau Club, at Cedar and Atlantic Avenues in Wildwood, where Haley performed each summer from 1950-55, and where he and the Comets first performed ÂRock Around the Clock.Â
Other highlights include a Friday night record hop with the ÂGeatorÂ Jerry Blavat; a street fair with live music by 1950s guitar virtuoso Charlie Gracie (who had a #1 hit in the U.S. and the United Kingdom in 1957 with ÂButterflyÂ), the Rip Chords (who had a million-seller with ÂHey Little CobraÂ) and others, along with contests and food vendors on the boardwalk; a gala in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Swanson TV dinner; DooWop architecture tours; a display of Â50s and Â60s cars; and more. More information is available by phone at 609-729-4000 and online at http://www.fabfifties.com.
The Wildwoods Fabulous Â50s weekend is partially funded by the New Jersey Office of Travel and Tourism - http://www.visitnj.com - and the Greater Wildwood Tourism Improvement and Development Authority.
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