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Rock-and-Roll: 1956

Rock-and-Roll: 1956

April 1956. "Performance by Bill Haley and the Comets and LaVern Baker at the Sports Arena in Hershey, Pennsylvania." From photos by Ed Feingersh for the Look magazine article "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Controversy." View full size.


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I was at this show. Was in the nose bleed section at upper left. Remember it well.

Bill's Drummer

In 1956 Bill's drummer was Ralph Jones. Ralph went into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with the rest of the Comets. Ralph's son Bobby, whom I've gigged with, is still playing in suburban Philadelphia

Flowery praise

Nothing screams 'rock and roll' like potted plants in front of the stage!

Stand Up Bass

Marshall Lytle was the original bassist for Bill Haley and his Comets, playing on their essential recordings from 1952-55. Al Rex replaced him in 1955, so presumably that's Al in the photo. Stand up bass players were known for their wild antics onstage and Marshall and Al were no exception.

By 1956 many bassists had gone electric as Leo Fender had designed and produced the iconic Precision Bass by 1951. Also I noticed in clips of the Comets that they had a Hawaiian-style (as opposed to a pedal steel) lap steel player.

Crowd looks huge, I imagine in 1956 an integrated bill like the Comets and LaVern Baker would not have played in many parts of the US?

I thought...

it was "Bill Haley and His Comets"

Wilt Chamberlain

Less than six years later, on March 2nd 1962, Wilt "The Stilt" Chamberlain set a record for most points in a NBA game, 100, in the very same arena. A record most sports pundits declare is all but untouchable!


Its funny to see that level of R&R preformed before a totally sitting audience. I guess we all did what we were told when we were growing up in the 50"s

Stand-up Bass

The stand-up bassist appears to be standing up on his bass.

Franny Beecher

To Bill Haley's right, our left, blurred but still visible would be Franny Beecher, lead guitar player for the Comets since Danny Cedrone's death in '54.

Fantastic shot!

Then and Now: Spot the differences

Things we don't do anymore:

1) Signs upon high tell you, in no uncertain terms, to take personal responsibility for your own actions; if you chose to attend a hockey game, you also chose the possibility of being maimed by the puck.

2) A rock concert audience is attentively seated, listening to the music.

[Below: Boy at the same 1956 concert; 2014 sign. - Dave]

Johnny Grande

The dude in the lower right corner appears to be playing an accordion (!). If so, he would be Johnny Grande.

Rock Around the Clock.

For me, rock and roll started in 1955. I was 13 years old and setteling in to watch Blackboard Jungle at the Gladmer theater in Lansing MI. The movie started and Haley's Rock Around the Clock blew me out of my seat. Cool man, cool.


1) GREAT picture!
2) Subject to correction, L to R: Bill Haley, saxophonist Rudy Pompilli, drummer Al Rex, guitarist Franny Beecher, bassist Al Rex.... but others, weigh in.

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