Dick Richards

Born: February 12, 1924 in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania

Although experts may disagree as to exactly who invented rock’n’roll and when it was first defined as a musical style, there is no dispute over the identity of rock’s first major star. In 1955, Pennsylvania native Bill Haley, along with his band the Comets, struck a major chord with their song “Rock Around the Clock,” becoming a sensation and establishing rock as a worldwide phenomenon in the process.

“Rock Around the Clock” can claim many firsts. It was the first rock song to hit number one on the pop charts, it was the title of the first rock’n’roll LP, and it was the first rock record to be used in a movie (the juvenile delinquent–themed Blackboard Jungle). It remains one of the all-time great rock anthems to this day.

Many fans consider Haley and company to be as revolutionary in their time as the Beatles or the Rolling Stones were a decade later. But with his pudgy figure, plain-Jane voice, and hokey spit curl (not to mention his band’s matching plaid dinner jackets), Haley hardly seems the ideal candidate to be called rock’s first “king” (certainly not in the way that Elvis Presley would define that title when he assumed the post just a year later).

No, the magic behind “Rock Around the Clock”’s incredible success has little to do with anything visual; rather, it was all about the sound and energy that the record produced. By analyzing this song and Haley’s general style, we can put rock’n’roll under a microscope in the hope of understanding just how this oddball mash-up of musical elements and instruments—again, not really resembling anything that we might define as rock by today’s standards—somehow managed to produce an end result that simply “rocked” beyond belief.

Drummer Dick Richards, who played behind Haley from 1953–1955, was there see it all unfold. The following interview gives us a firsthand look into the fascinating world that birthed “Rock Around the Clock,” and will hopefully shed some light on what made early rock’n’roll such a unique phenomenon. It should be noted that, although Richards was only with Haley for two years in the ’50s, he has been performing worldwide since 1987 with a re-formed version of the Comets that includes five of the original seven members. In 2012, they were inducted as sidemen into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Sorry, No Video Preview Available for Dick Richards