Bill Haley UK Tour 1974

Bill Haley's UK Tour, 1974

This poster which appeared in the UK music press in February 1974 heralded the arrival of the King of Rock 'n' Roll for his first full UK tour since 1968. True, he had visited in 1969 and played a few Northern nightclubs, and then in 1972 he had played Wembley Stadium, but this was his first national tour for 6 years.

It shows the three political party leaders at the time - Jeremy Thorpe (Liberal), Harold Wilson (Labour) and Edward Heath (Conservative). The Comets on this trip were Nick Masters (lead guitar), Rudy Pompilii (tenor saxophone), Ray Cawley (bass guitar), Freddy Moore (drums), Ray Parsons (rhythm guitar). They had just returned from a successful tour of Australia where Rock Around the Clock once again made the Top 10. In the UK, it charted again, peaking at number 12, it's popularity helped by exposure on the soundtrack of the popular TV show Happy Days.

Bill appeared on Top of the Pops three times, and also on The Wheeltappers' and Shunters' Social Club, and many other TV and radio appearances.

The gig at the Hammersmith Palais, in London, was the first Bill Haley gig I attended. It was recorded for Antic Records, and has been re-issued in many guises since then. I believe that if you listen very carefully in the instrumental chorus on Shake, Rattle and Roll, you can hear me shouting "Go!", as per the original 1954 recording. That's my claim to fame, anyway.

The Palais performance was sheer triumph for Bill, and the album, released on Antic Records fully captures the magic in the air that night.The crowd were ecstatic.The Palais was completely packed. Bill was visibly moved by the whole thing. I remember the introduction, by Patrick Malynn, his manager. The Comets came on stage,one by one, and then a nicely understated and matter fact, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the King of Rock 'n' Roll...... Bill Haley". Bill descending the stairs, dressed in a white jacket, waving gently to the crowd, while the band laid into the fmailiar "Bill Haley riff". Sheer magic.

This rare shot shows Ray Cawley on the upright bass, with Bill, presumably during Rudy's Rock.I'm not sure when it was taken, but it could well have been on this tour, since Ray's jacket is the same as they wore at the Hammersmith Palais.

Sadly, Ray and his wife were killed in a head-on car crash some years later, to join that great Comets band in the sky.

The last shot shows Bill waving from his limousine. Where was he going? Where was it taken? I don't know, but it was the same jacket he wore for the presentation of a gold disc by Olivia Newton-John, for the incredible seventh time that Rock Around the Clock had entered the British charts.

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