“Rock Around the Clock” Bassist Dies at Age 79
by Jon Wiederhorn
(photo: Michael Tullberg, Getty Images)
Marshall Lytle, the bassist who played on the Bill Haley and & His Comets rock and roll staple "Rock Around the Clock," died at 3:30 a.m. on May 25 at his home in New Port Richey, Florida. He was 79.
Lytle died after a battle with lung cancer, reported Cathy Smith, who had been in a relationship with him since 2001.
"It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to a dear friend, Mr. Marshall Lytle," said rock revivalists The Continentals on their Facebook page. "He was a sweet man and fantastic musician and we will miss him dearly!"
(photo: Michael Ochs Archives)
"He got this old bass fiddle out, started slapping it with a shuffle beat, and showed me the basic three notes you need on a little bass run to get started with, and I gave it a try and I said, 'Hell, I can do that,'" Lytle said in a 2011 radio interview.
The band changed its name to Bill Haley & His Comets in 1952, and Lytle played on the hits "Crazy Man, Crazy" and "Shake, Rattle and Roll." But by far, the band's biggest song was the galvanic "Rock Around the Clock," which became a huge hit and was used as the theme song for the sitcom "Happy Days" from 1974 to 1984.
The original recording of "Rock Around the Clock" came out in 1954 on Decca Records as the b side of a "Thirteen Women (And Only One Man in Town)." The song was used in the movie "Blackboard Jungle" in 1955 and soon became a classic.
"'Blackboard Jungle' had just come out," Lytle once told classicbands.com. "The kids were dancing in the aisles in the theaters. I knew it was a hit. I was still with Bill at the time. We were traveling on the New York Thruway from Buffalo to Boston to do a television show. I turned the radio on and 'Rock Around the Clock' was playing. This was a new Cadillac that Bill had just bought. It had one of those Selectrix dials where you just push the bar and it goes to the next station. I pushed the bar and it was playing again on another radio station. I pushed the bar again and it was playing again. At one given moment, it was playing five times on the dial. Within five minutes, I must've heard it a dozen times. I said, 'This is a monster hit.' When you hear a song that many times on that many different radio stations, you know damn well that it was a monster hit."