of Bill Haley's Original Comets
From a SADDLEMAN TO A COMET and "still Rockin' Around The Clock"
Marshall Lytle Born Old Fort NC on September 1, 1933
Started his entertainment career while still in High School in 1947.
A Few years later, 1951 Bill Haley ask Marshall to join his Band and play Bass and Sing with his group called The Saddlemen,And in 1952 we changed the name to Bill Haley's COMETS.
A Country- Western Swing Band that experimented with rhythm & blues music and was
A BIG PART of creating The Great ROCK & ROLL SOUND OF THE 50'S.
Their first Gold Record came in 1954 "Shake Rattle & Roll and in 1955 the Biggest R&R song ever Recorded
"Rock Around The Clock" which was reported by James Myers ,writer & publisher. To have Sold Over 80 Million
Records Around The World. He told me just before he died, that his income from that one song was over 12 Million Dollars.
Marshall's Shuffle Beat Bass Playing Style was a major part in the creating of those major Hit Records.
Marshall's Old Bass Fiddle, that he played on "Rock Around The Clock" is now on display in the worlds largest
HardRock Cafe at Universal Studios, Orlando Florida.
Marshall is now enjoying a life style that allows him to travel around the world, and share his music from the 50's with as many of his fans as possible. His favorate venue is the Rockabilly Festivals where he can get back to his roots,and do some of the old songs that helped start Rock & Roll.
Marshall's life story was just released in a book that he wrote called "still Rockin' Around The Clock" It is available on AMAZON .COM
Exclusive Interview with FBPO’s Jon Liebman
September 7, 2009
Marshall Lytle was the bass player with Bill Haley & the Comets from 1951-1955. One of the pioneers of the rockabilly slap bass style, Lytle played on all the band’s recordings during that period, including the mega-classic, “Rock Around the Clock.” He continues to tour with Joey Ambrose and Dick Richards, two other members of the original Comets band. Marshall’s brand new book, “Still Rockin’ Around the Clock,” was released on September 1st.
FBPO: Talk a little about your upbringing. What kind of music did you listen to while growing up and how did you become a bass player?
ML: I was born to very poor parents in Old Fort, NC, Sept 1,1933 and moved north to Chester, PA, in 1942. I used to listen to the Grand Ole Oprey on station WSM in Nashville, TN. I loved country music! I started singing and playing guitar as a young teenager.
Bill Haley asked me to come play bass for his band, originally called Bill Haley & the Saddlemen, when his bass player quit. He knew that I was only a guitar player and singer, but he said he could teach me the basics of slapping the bass in about 30 minutes, figuring that with my knowledge of the guitar neck I could learn on the job. I bought a new Epiphone B5 bass that afternoon and went to work with him that night. Bill Haley was a good slap bass player. In the nightclubs, he would play bass whenever I sang. I played the rest of the time.
FBPO: What was it like to learn the rockabilly slap bass technique on the upright bass? Were there a lot of people doing it at the time?
ML: In that generation of country music, there were very few bands with drums, so the bass player had a big job keeping the beat, along with the guitar. There were very few amplified bass fiddles in the early fifties and not too many players were willing to play hard enough - and bleed enough! - to get the calluses necessary to avoid being in constant pain while they played.
FBPO: "Rock Around the Clock" has become such a big part of our culture, almost single-handedly defining an entire era of rock & roll. Did you have any idea that the music you were playing would become such a big part of history?
ML: On April 12,1954, we drove from Chester, PA, to NYC to record our first session for Decca Records. We were a little late in arriving and only had three-and-a-half hours to record two songs. The first one was called “13 Women.” We had never heard that song before we got to the studio and it took us three hours to get to it finished. That left us only thirty minutes to record “Rock Around the Clock.” Fortunately, we had an arrangement. We recorded it with just two takes. In those days, everything was recorded together at the same time, without mistakes. “Rock Around the Clock” just came together like magic. It sounds as good today as it did over 55 years ago.
FBPO: Being a member of that band must have jump-started your career immeasurably. How long were you with Bill Haley? What other groups did you play with?
ML: I was with Bill from 1951-1955. When “RATC” became a worldwide hit record in July 1955, Joey Ambrose, the sax player, Dick Richards, the drummer, and I were considered sidemen and wanted a $50 per week raise from the $175 we were getting. Bill and his three partners refused to give us the raise. The next day, they all went out in Chicago and bought four brand new Cadillacs! Joey, Dick and I left the Comets in September and started our own group, called the Jodimars. We recorded for Capitol Records.
FBPO: How long did you hang on in the music business before venturing into real estate and interior design?
ML: I hung in until 1967, when I needed to make some money for a new family that I had started with my second wife. Real estate was good to me.
FBPO: Where did the name "Tommy Page" come from and why did you use it?
ML: In 1960, after The Jodimars broke up, I was creating new groups around Los Angeles to play the Nevada casino circuit. My agent said that I had worn out the name Marshall Lytle and I needed a new image. He suggested Tommy Page & the Pageboys, which sounded fine to me, so I said okay. I am legally Tommy Page today, but I went back to my given name, Marshall Lytle, in 1987, when we had a reunion of all the old original Comets. I did that because that's who I was when I was with Bill Haley & the Comets.
FBPO: I think it's great how you keep the tradition alive with some of the other original members of Bill Haley & the Comets. What kinds of things do the three of you do together?
ML: We are now back to just Joe Ambrose, Dick Richards and me, plus we have two of the greatest sidemen as our new Comets. David Byrd plays the keyboard like he has been with us forever and Jackson Haney plays great guitar and sings really well, too. Our crowds love him. We are still doing over 200 shows a year.
FBPO: What do you think of today's music? Do you like any of the current stuff on the radio?
ML: My radio is usually on the oldies station. I still love good western swing, too.
FBPO: What else is keeping you busy these days? What do you like to do that's not necessarily musically-oriented?
ML: I Have a three-wheeler motorcycle I love to ride around Branson, MO. The Ozarks are beautiful! We’ve all bought homes here. I’m a member of two beautiful golf courses. I try to play at least one round a week.
FBPO: What lies ahead for Marshall Lytle?
ML: We close this year on October 24, and we are just doing a few gigs here and there until the new year. I am wintering in Florida in November and December. I am doing a featured role in a new movie being filmed in Tarpon Springs, FL, called “Through the Eye,” which is being produced by Caya Largo Productions. It is a story about drug dealers bringing drugs into Tarpon Springs in the 1970s. Bertie Higgins of “Key Largo” fame is the producer and this will be his third film. His most recent effort is called “Poker Run,” and it is achieving success all over the world. It will be running on Showtime, starting in December. Give it a look. In the meantime, if you ever see this old rocker playing with the Comets in your area, stop in and give me a hug.
Bill Haley's ORIGINAL COMET's HISTORY
Bill Haley's ORIGINAL COMET's HISTORY
Johnny Grande, Dick Richards, MARSHALL LYTLE, Joey D'Ambrosio, Franny Beecher
The band that started the rock 'n' roll revolution first came into being in September 1952 - evolving out of a moderately popular country & western band from Pennsylvania called Bill Haley and The Saddlemen. Seeking to project an image that reflected their speeding path towards the new style of music they were creating - the band first changed its name - to Bill Haley and The Comets - and then went on to change the world…
Over the course of the next 29 years - from September 1952 until Bill Haley's death in February 1981 - the membership of the band known as The Comets changed many times over numerous different lineups.
During those three decades well over one hundred different musicians are known to have performed with Bill Haley on stage, records, TV, radio and in films - either as an official member of The Comets - or as one of the many session musicians who lent their talents to the distinctive Bill Haley and The Comets sound.
After Haley's death in 1981, a couple of the musicians who had played with Haley in the 1960's carried the flame for the music by forming tribute bands - billed as "Bill Haley's Comets." And over the years they in turn recruited numerous other musicians to play under the Comets name.
But of all those lineups over 52 years - and of all the 150-plus players who have appeared under the name "The Comets" - the seminal band members are the handful of musicians who played with Bill Haley on record and stage during the crucial three year period when together they created the 'Big Bang' that became rock 'n' roll.
The surviving musicians from that era reformed in 1987 as The Comets. The group features five musicians who played in The Comets in the key years 1952-1955. Those were the years when they developed their sound, recorded their breakthrough song "Rock Around The Clock" and recorded many of the other major hits associated with "Bill Haley and The Comets".
Those five members of The Comets were integral to the creation of rock 'n' roll - and they are the only surviving members of the core band that played in that seminal 1952-1955 era. All five also appeared together on the band's historic first major national live TV show - Ed Sullivan's "Toast Of The Town" - in August 1955.
Of the seven musicians who played on the legendary first recording of "Rock Around The Clock" - on April 12th 1954, four have sadly passed on to 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven.'
While The Comets are the sole survivors of the original band that helped create rock 'n' roll with Bill Haley - a reflection of their popularity can be gauged by the fact that there are still a couple of bands performing sporadically under the "Bill Haley's Comets" banner. However - those two bands each feature only a solitary musician who actually played with Haley - and only in the "nostalgia years" of the 1960's when the work of the Comets was primarily to render faithful reproductions of the magic that had been created in the 'Big Bang' years of 1953-1955.
The five original members of The Comets range in age from 71 to 83 - with a cumulative 381 years between the five of them - and an average age of 76!!! The five original members of The Comets are:
Johnny Grande (piano): Founding member of the precursor to The Comets - The Saddlemen [1949-1952.] Founding member of The Comets in 1952. Played with the Comets 1952-1962. (Age: 75) Marshall Lytle (bass and vocals): Member of the Saddlemen [1951-1952] Founding member of the Comets in 1952. Played with The Comets 1952-1955. (Age: 71) Joey Ambrose (saxophone and vocals): First saxophonist to be a full member of the Comets. Joined 1954. Played with The Comets 1954-1955. (Age: 71) Dick Richards (drums): Was Haley's first choice to drum in 1952 - but commitments precluded him joining till 1953. Played with The Comets 1953-1955. (Age: 81) Franny Beecher (lead guitar): Session player with The Comets in 1954. Became first full-time lead guitarist in 1955. Played with The Comets 1954-1962. (Age: 83)
Three of the above musicians - Johnny Grande (piano), Marshall Lytle (bass) and Joey Ambrose (sax) played on the historic first recording of "Rock Around The Clock." The other four musicians on that session (all now departed) were: Bill Haley (guitar/vocal), Billy Williamson (steel guitar) and two session men; Danny Cedrone (lead guitar) and Billy Gussak (drums)
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