Another episode from the short-lived CBS Radio Network series Alan Freed’s Rock n’ Roll Dance Party, from September 11, 1956. This one features Bill Haley and His Comets and Mabel King, along with Sam “The Man” Taylor and his band and the ever hyper Alan Freed shepherding things along.
It would be a fair assumption to make that most people, certainly those born after 1980, haven’t any idea who Bill Haley was. Even during the 60s his presence as being one of the primary figures in mainstream rock n’ roll was fading from memory, unless you were a student of Rock history or were a collector. Interest was revived for a time when the 50s nostalgia craze swept in during the mid-70s, but Haley, although well remembered and revered by his fans from the early days, was pretty much relegated to question mark status as the decade ended. Haley would be remembered as the one who scored the first Rock n’ Roll hit record. Rock Around The Clock, from 1954 was considered one of the most important contributions to the form and generally acknowledged as the song that got the ball rolling.
The first thing you may notice, listening to this show, is the amount of screaming and carrying on the audience engages in when Haley is introduced. Pandemonium and general mayhem were almost trademarks of a Haley concert during his heyday. Bill Haley and His Comets were it; the be-all/end-all in 1954. That kind of insanity would only be matched when Elvis Presley achieved national prominence (and of course, The Beatles a decade later). But this gives you some idea of the popularity of many of these early examples of Rock.
Also on the program is Mabel King who, after her career as a Blues singer, branched out into acting and became a notable regular on such TV shows as What’s Happening, in 1976 and created the role of Evillene The Witch for The Wiz, both on Broadway and in the film.
If you’re not familiar, this episode of Alan Freed’s Rock n’ Roll Dance Party may sound very strange to you, almost quaint and benign – but at the time it was revolutionary and was the cause for considerable condemnation by those who felt Rock n’ Roll was the personification of evil.
Times, they do change.
Hit the play button and find out.