Tuesday, November 09, 2010

#224: Rock Around The Clock

You don’t often get to even see history such as this, let alone hold it, let alone actually own a pristine example. Thanks to me asking a question on the weekend I was able to cut a deal for a fair few of the old Lee Gordon ‘Big Show’ shows. Great stuff indeed.

Out of them all, and in the lot were two Frank Sinatra programmes along with Abbott & Costello (I didn’t even know they visited here!) and Bob Hope, this was the prize – the first ever fully fledged Rock and Roll show featuring none other than ole kiss curl himself, Bill Haley. History was in the making when Haley toured Australia for the first time on many levels. His tour influenced a lot of local musicians to stop playing jazz and start playing rock and roll, his tour was the first full blown Australian tour by a major American act. Haley, riding on the crest of a wave caused by the amazing success of Rock Around The Clock and it’s use in the movie The Blackboard Jungle, was somewhat of a pudgy, balding and aging star, closer to people’s fathers age than the teenagers that would come screaming to his show was a definite coup. The tour went around the country and Haley played to around 300,000 people in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Melbourne. So successful was the tour that promoter, Lee Gordon, offered Haley an extra $100,000 to remain in the country another week. Also on the tour were The Platters, Big Joe Turner, LaVern Baker and Freddie Bell and the Bellboys.

What makes this even better is that at the Sydney shows a young man by the name of Johnny O’Keefe attended and decided that this is what he wanted to do. O’Keefe persisted in his goal to the point of housing Haley for a song, which Haley obliged, sending him the deathless classic, (You Hit The Wrong Note) Billygoat. Crap, yes, but at the time it was almost unheard of for an Australian unknown to have an exclusive song by an American star. That, and O’Keefe’s single minded determination, saw him become The Wild One, the Australian king of rock ‘n roll.

Seeing stuff like this really makes you wish that you were there. Even if Haley’s music left you cold, and frankly, outside of a few songs he barely reached adequate status, just the thrill of the moment, plus Big Joe Turner and LaVern Baker would have made for some brilliant entertainment. But Haley was the undisputed king of the castle back then, kiss curl and all. I can’t help but wonder if anyone managed to preserve those interviews, and the 10” release of Don’t Knock The Rock is worth quite a decent sum on the open market these days. As for the tour programme, well I was allowed to buy both that, along with the other programmes that I’ll feature soon, along with a pile of other paper goods for a fairly healthy sum. They weren’t cheap, and part of the proviso from The Bear was that I try and recoup some of the funds, so time will tell if I get to keep it for a while, but whoever does get it - including me – will have paid a good sum for it. Personally I think that items like these are very wise investments indeed.

The only pages I haven't scanned yet are the two centre pages - a centrespread - but I'll scan that soon enough.

See Ya Later, Alligator!

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