Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Rock Around the Clock

First recorded by Sonny Dae & His Knights (1954).
Hit version by Bill Haley & His Comets (B-side US #36 1954 |US #1/R&B #3/UK #1 1955).

From the wiki: “‘Rock Around the Clock’ was written (as ‘We’re Gonna Rock Around the Clock Tonight!’) in 1952 by Max Freedman and James Myers. Although first recorded by Italian-American band Sonny Dae & His Knights in March 1954, the more famous version by Bill Haley & His Comets is not, strictly speaking, a cover version. Co-writer Myers claimed the song had been written specifically for Haley but, for various reasons, Haley was unable to record it himself until April 1954.

“According to the Haley biographies Bill Haley by John Swenson and Rock Around the Clock by Jim Dawson, the song was first offered to Haley in the wake of his first national success ‘Crazy Man, Crazy’ in 1953. Haley and his Comets began performing the song on stage but Dave Miller, his producer, refused to allow Haley to record it for his Essex Records label. Haley himself claimed to have taken the sheet music into the recording studio at least twice, with Miller ripping up the music each time.

“Co-writer Myers next offered the song to Sonny Dae & His Knights, a novelty all-white musical group led by Italian-American Paschal Vennitti. The group’s subsequent recording, on the Arcade Records label (owned by Haley’s manager, Jack Howard), was a regional success but did not chart nationally.

“It was only after Haley left Essex Records for Decca Records, in 1954, that he was able to record his version of ‘Rock Around the Clock’. ‘Rock Around the Clock’ was first issued in May 1954 as a B-side to ‘Thirteen Women (and Only One Man in Town).’ While the song did make the American Cashbox music charts (#36, for one week in July 1954), it was still considered a commercial disappointment. It was not until mid-1955, when ‘Rock Around the Clock’ was picked to be used in the opening credits of the film Blackboard Jungle and was re-released as the A-side single in May 1955, that the song truly took off.

“Many versions have circulated of the story behind how ‘Rock Around the Clock’ was chosen for Blackboard Jungle. Recent research, however, reveals that the song was chosen from the collection of young Peter Ford, the son of Blackboard Jungle star Glenn Ford and dancer Eleanor Powell. The producers were looking for a song to represent the type of music the youth of 1955 was listening to, and the elder Ford borrowed several records from his son’s collection, one of which was Haley’s ‘Rock Around the Clock’ and this was the song chosen.”

Bill Haley & His Comets, “Rock Around the Clock” (1955):

Bill Haley & His Comets, “Rock Around the Clock” opening credits to Blackboard Jungle (1955):

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