Gloucester City Honors Bill Haley

June 26, 2007 - By Jim Walsh, Courier-Post Staff

           City officials on Wednesday declared this riverfront community to be the birthplace of rock 'n' roll and announced plans for an outdoor concert to draw attention to their claim.
           The free show is to take place July 14 at Broadway and Market Street, outside Jack's Bar and Grill. The city's boast is based on shows at the tavern by early rocker Bill Haley during 1951 and 1952.
           Haley, who died in 1981, acknowledged the importance of the bar in helping to launch his career.
           "The facts are there," insists Tammy Galligan, the tavern's co-owner. She says Haley, performing with a group called the Saddlemen, experimented with early forms of rock 'n' roll music at the tavern, which was known then as the Twin Bar.
           Local officials believe the link to Haley, who in 1955 had the genre's first big hit with "Rock Around the Clock," will boost the city's profile -- and help economic-revival efforts.
           "They're trying to use that to get the town back on the map," said Charlie Gracie, 71, a longtime rocker who is to appear at the concert.
           Others would challenge the city's claim. Wildwood, for instance, traces the era of rock to a 1954 appearance there by Haley. Other claims, based on performances by different artists, come from Memphis, Tenn., and Galveston, Texas.
           And Cleveland, the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, cites contributions by a disc jockey in that Ohio city.
           "I think (Gloucester City's) claim is as good as anybody else's," Gracie said. "Haley worked there."
           Haley's early bandmates will perform at the 3 p.m. show as Bill Haley's Original Comets. Also appearing are Tommy Conwell and Full Blown Cherry.
           The Galligans decided to tout their bar's rock heritage after approaching city officials for a grant to upgrade the building's facade.
           "The city administrator, Paul Kain, suggested we try to bring back the history," she said. "It's evolved into something that's really exciting to us."

Back to the "Take Note" Main Page