Segregation strong here

Bill Haley & His Comets in 1956. Photo: Decca Records via Wikimedia.

In 1954, Bill Haley and His Comets recorded Rock Around the Clock, a soon-to-be ubiquitous rock ‘n’ roll song that would top the the U.S. charts a year later and stay there for eight weeks, in doing so selling an estimated 25 million copies worldwide and bringing rock ‘n’ roll music into the mainstream for the first time. They were suddenly selling out large venues and breaking records, and in January of 1956 they filmed their parts in Alan Freed’s movie of the same name, Rock Around the Clock, which would go on to become a box office smash. All the while, Haley kept a diary. This entry was written shortly after filming: the Comets had headed south, where the skin colour of their many fans determined which shows they could attend.

The Diary Entry

Sunday, January 29th 1956: Arrived Birmingham Airport 5.10am. Municipal Auditorium, Birmingham, Alabama. Segregation strong here in deep south. Afternoon show for whites and night show for coloured. Not allowed to appear on stage at same time as any coloured person. I hope soon the south will do away with its ideas of segregation. 6000 people in the afternoon, 7000 at night. Total 13000 for the day new record for Birmingham. $1500. 

Further Reading

Many of Bill Haley’s tour diary entries can be found in Otto Fuchs’ book, Bill Haley: The Father Of Rock & Roll. Some entries can also be found in Crazy Man Crazy—a biography by Bill Haley Jr. and Peter Benjaminson which is, in my opinion, a better read.

Personal Journal Entry by Bill Haley. © 1956 by Bill Haley. Used with permission.

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