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Bill Haley
and the Saddlemen
Born:  July 6, 1925
Died:  February 9, 1981
WFIL Hayloft Hoedown
WIBC Jamboree
WPWA Chester, PA

About The Artist

Bill Haley, native of Highland Park, Michigan, became one of the early stars and legends of Rock and Roll, but before then, his musical career was quite varied and concentrated on country music. The Saddlemen were the prelude to the Comets.

The band was formed in late 1949. The Saddlemen ceased to exist when they became the Comets in 1953.

The group was able to promote its act while working with radio station WPWA in Chester, Pennsylvania. Bill was employed by station and like many acts in those days, it was their work on the station that enabled them to reach the listening audiences to help augment their salaries with personal appearances in the listening area. One of their frequent venues for performances was a place called the Twin Bars in Glouchester, New Jersey.

Bill Haley was the leader of the band on stage and for billing purposes, but in reality it was a three way partnership between himself, John Grande and Billy Williamson.

The Saddlemen's recordings ranged from pure hillbilly ("Jukebox Cannonball"), to Hank Williams' copies ("Down Deep In My Heart", "Icy Heart") to hillbilly jive ("Sundown Boogie"), all the way to early rock and roll ("Rock The Joint").

Some background about members of the group:

Bill Haley (1925-1981)
(lead singer/rhythm guitar). Bill Haley already had several groups previous to forming the Saddlemen. He'd been a member of the Down Homers, plus had the Texas Range Riders, and was leader of the Four Aces of Western Swing.

In the 1940s, at one point, Bill Haley was awarded Indiana State Yodeling champion for his skill (of which he was taught through such artists as Elton Britt and Kenny Roberts of the Down Homers). Bill Haley mainly played rhythm guitar during performances, but was also known for playing the bass and the fiddle on stage.

Bill Haley didn't achieve his fame and fortune until the mid '50s when he went on to become the father of rock and roll. But through all the years of his life, he never did completely shake off and forget his country and hillbilly roots in music.

Billy Williamson (1925 -1996)
(steel guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, fiddle). Billy Williamson was mainly known for playing the steel guitar with both the Saddlemen and later the Comets. He was one of those "lightning flash" players. Before joining the Saddlemen, Billy was with a group called the Southern Swingsters.

John Grande (1930 - )
(piano/accordion, musical arranger). John Grande was a good friend of Billy Williamson's and also a member of the Southern Swingsters when they persuaded Bill Haley to form a new group. On a handshake, the three men became partners and formed the Saddlemen. John was initially a classically trained pianist, and was the only member of the group who could read music. Therefore, he became (and remained through his Comet days into the 1960s) the band's musical arranger. John still tours with the Original Comets today.

Al Rex (1928? - )
(bass/vocals) Al Rex was the band's earliest bass player. He was also a comedian on stage, and helped establish the slot of bass player with comedy routines and unusual stage antics. Al Rex recorded with the Saddlemen on the Cowboy and Keystone records. He left in 1951 to form his own band.

Marshall Lytle (1933 - )
(bass, vocals)- Bill Haley was a good friend of Marshall Lytle's. He had visited with his family, and Marshall's older brother, Cliff, played with Bill Haley's previous group "The Four Aces of the Western Swing", as did Tex King who stayed with the Lytle family. Marshall believed in the Saddlemen, and soon found himself in the band. Bill Haley taught him how to play the slap bass style he had invented. Marshall's first recording with the group was "Green Tree Boogie" on Holiday records.

Marshall remained with the group until he left in 1955 to help form "The Jodimars". Marshall still tours with the Original Comets today, performing his antics with the bass with enthusiasm, as well as many vocals on the show.

Timeline & Trivia Notes

Group Members:

  • Bill Haley, guitar, lead vocals
  • Billy Williamson - steel guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, fiddle
  • John Grande - piano and accordion, musical arranger
  • Al Rex - bass, vocals
  • Marshall Lytle - bass, vocals

Credits & Sources

  • Hillbilly-Music.com wishes to thank Denise M. Gregoire for providing us with the group's discography, member biographies and other information.

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Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

Rec. No. Side Song Title
  727 A Why Do I Cry Over You?
  727 B I?m Gonna Dry Every Tear With A Kiss
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  1701 A My Sweet Little Girl From Nevada
  1701 B My Palomino and I
  CR-1201 A Too Many Parties And Too Many Pals (w/The 4 Aces Of Western Swing)
  CR-1201 B Four Leaf Clover Blues (w/The 4 Aces Of Western Swing)
  CR-1202 A Tennessee Border (w/The 4 Aces Of Western Swing)
  CR-1202 B Candy Kisses (w/The 4 Aces Of Western Swing)
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  303 A Rock The Joint
  303 B Icy Heart
  305 A Dance With A Dolly
  305 B Rocking Chair on The Moon
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  105 A Rocket 88
  105 B Tearstains on My Heart
  108 A Green Tree Boogie
  108 B Down Deep In My Heart
  110 A I?m Crying
  110 B Pretty Baby (vocals by Bill Haley & Loretta)
  111 A A Year Ago This Christmas
  111 B I Don?t Want to Be Alone For Christmas
  113 A Jukebox Cannonball
  113 B Sundown Boogie
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  5101 A Deal Me A Hand
  5101 B Ten Gallon Stetson
  5102 A Susan Van Dusan
  5102 B I?m Not To Blame
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  1082 A Rocking Chair On The Moon
  1082 B Dancing With A Dolly

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