Bill Haley and Elvis Presley
Bill Haley and Elvis Presley
The King meets the King. Or is it the other way around?
Bill Haley crossed paths with Elvis on a number of occasions. Remarkably, it was on Bill's 29th birthday, on 6th July 1954 that Elvis Presley made his first record That's All Right, Mama in the Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee.
Bill and Elvis first met in October 1955. Haley was at his absolute peak with Rock Around the Clock having gone to number one in the charts in June. Haley was sharing the billing with Hank Snow on a tour of the mid-west. There at the bottom of the posters was a little-known act - Elvis Presley with Scotty & Bill. According to Bill, he and Elvis became very close for the two weeks of the tour, sharing Bill's car for travelling between shows, discussing music, and guitars, and Elvis's hopes for the future, which Bill remember consisted chiefly of wanting to by his mum a Cadillac.
The show at Brooklyn High School in Cleveland, Ohio, was filmed. Bill Randle, a prominent and powerful disc jockey in Cleveland, Ohio, had recently contracted with Universal Pictures to make a movie called The Pied Piper of Cleveland: A Day
In The Life of a Famous Disc Jockey. On a number of occasions, Bill travelled to Cleveland at Randle's request, to give freely of his services. The pay off was the assurance that Randle would continue to air his discs. The film was never released, but it has been rumoured recently that the master has been purchased by London film collector Ray Santilli. On a trip to the States in 1992, searching out rare footage of Elvis Presley, Santilli had met Bill Randle and secured an option on the rare footage. Intriguingly, the story has now become enmeshed in the controversy surrounding the film of the infamous "Roswell Incident", as it appears that the same cameraman was involved. Whether we shall ever see the film, I have no idea, though I did once speak to someone who claimed to have seen backstage footage of Bill shaking hands with Elvis. This picture, which hung for many years in Bill Haley'sown office in Chester, Pennsylvania, is believed to have been taken backstage at this show.
The next meeting was in 1958. Bill was in the middle of his financially disastrous European tour in October 1958. A bored Elvis Presley was doing his national service in the US Army and dropped in on Bill's show in Frankfurt and Stuttgart. There are a number of photos of a uniformed Private Presley backstage with Bill, who is seen tuning his guitar.
Finally, Bill was happy to remember the occasions when Elvis used to visit him when the pair were playing in Las Vegas in the early 1970's. These stories have been confirmed by members of Haley's band at the time. I think the two kings shared a bond which had been formed in those early days when Elvis's favourite record was Crazy Man, Crazy, and Bill regarded Elvis as a youngster with promise who needed some help up the ladder of success. Their lives had taken different directions in the meantime, and Bill had had his share of ups and downs, but between them, in those far off days of the mid fifties, they had each played their part in changing the course of the history of popular music.
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