Blackboard Jungle’s Contribution to Rock and Roll
Yesterday I stumbled upon one of those “This Day in History” sites, and it caught my eye that it was the 57th anniversary of the day the song “Rock Around the Clock” was recorded by Bill Haley and the Comets. Normally an odd numbered anniversary of something isn’t going to be of much significance to me, but it stood out to me for several reasons. The first reason is that I absolutely love early rock and roll from the 1950’s. Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, and of course Bill Haley and the Comets are just a few of the names in a long list of artists that I enjoy listening to.
The song also makes me think of the tv show Happy Days, which was one of my favorites growing up. Bill Haley recorded a new version of the song in 1973, and it was used as the show’s theme song for the first two seasons, until just like Richie and Joanie’s brother Chuck, it disappeared from the show.
Another reason that reading about this song was of interest to me is because of the connection that it has to classic movies. I discovered that although the song had been previously released in 1954 as the “B” side to the song “Thirteen Women (and Only One Man in Town),” it didn’t became really popular until it was featured in the 1955 movie Blackboard Jungle starring Glenn Ford, Sidney Poitier, and the recently departed Anne Francis.
Over the years, there has been some confusion as to when the song was originally written, who should get credit for writing it, and who was mainly responsible for its use in the movie Blackboard Jungle. Although there is still some question about the first two, it appears that the third question can be definitively answered by Glenn Ford’s son, Peter Ford, who it turns out was the one responsible. You can read Peter’s story of how that came about here. I hope you find his story as interesting as I did.
Although there will probably always be some debate about it, many people believe that “Rock Around the Clock” was primarily responsible for bringing rock and roll into the mainstream. Whether or not that’s true, I don’t think there is any question that it played an important part in the initial acceptance of rock and roll, and I think we have the movie Blackboard Jungle to thank for that.
P.S. To read more about the history of “Rock Around the Clock”, check out this wonderful site that Alex Frazer-Harrison put together as a tribute to the song.