BIll Haley - A Right Man at the Right Time Who Wouldn't Make It in the Rock Music of Today

While Bill Haley may have been something of a right man at the right time in the early 1950s, it is unfortunately unlikely that he, or someone like him, would achieve success in the rock music industry today. Contrary to what some people’s opinions might be, I do not make this judgement based on his age, nor his plain looks, but primarily by a number of key differences in not just the actual music between now and then, but in the culture of the music.

Even if this transportation of Bill Haley to the modern day were to occur in such a way that he was appropriately representative of the modern era, and not a ridiculous fish-out-of-water, his musical background and the preference of modern consumers, would likely steer him away from what, in our timeline, became his eventual musical style.

Moreover, the landscape for rock music has changed greatly since the fifties, and rock is no longer a hot new genre, but almost a niche market for those somewhat outside, or at least at the edges of, the main consumer circle, so if Haley were to still be interested in making rock music, he would find himself selling to a smaller and more mature crowd than in the 1950s, as well as one less concerned with carrying the careers of celebrity artists than it is with finding flashes in the musical pan.

Firstly, I must say that if Bill Haley were in the same respective position now as he was in 1952, I do not think he would have decided to make the switch from country/western music to rock.

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Today, country is an extremely popular genre, and pseudo-cowboy types like Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan, and, even more tangentially “country,” Chase Rice, lead the charts. While rhythm & blues and/or rock n’ roll may have been the exciting new development in music in the early 50s, in 2016, Bill Haley would be better served both financially and culturally by staying within the country genre than attempting a move to rock.

More than likely, a modern Bill Haley would venture to enter the country-pop market, and he could very well have success in it, despite his age and background. In our timeline, for example, very-aged rocker Steven Tyler recently broke into the country-pop echelon, and has had substantial success with both by-the-numbers singles he has put out. Another example of rocker-turned-cowboy is Darius Rucker of Hootie & the Blowfish, who rather seamlessly transitioned from heartland bar rock to the go-to African- American country star he is today.

It may be due to the nature of modern country, and how derivative it is from rock music, or because of the rave-like, melting-pot nature of popular music, but it seems that the country genre would be more receptive to a rock-leaning artist than the rock genre would a country-leaning one. With its delegation to the outskirts of the pop music continuum, rock culture has seemingly developed something of a superiority complex (particularly among the nu-metal community, though my objectivity may be clouded by personal experience), and wouldn’t want to be infiltrated by “hicks” like Bill Haley.

Something that would be strongly responsible for Haley’s success, or lack thereof, in the present day would be the current state of rock music. Gone are the days of Elvis Presley, The Beatles, or Led Zeppelin, when rock was the genre, whether that be on the charts or imbued in the culture of the times. I don’t think Ray Davies was exactly wrong when he said “Rock bands will come, and rock bands will go, but rock ‘n’ roll’s gonna go on forever,” but there is a difference between “going on” and truly staying dominant. Rock music consistently fails to chart as high as pop, country, or rap/hip hop, and among the highest-charting rock records, the majority are by artists or bands whose careers began decades ago.

Also, even among these records, very nearly all are actually very derivative subgenres of rock, like nu-metal, post- grunge, or general alternative, and not just true, red-blooded rock n’ roll. Possibly the biggest true rock band of recent years is The Black Keys, a band inspired by the same sort of bluesy licks as Bill Haley himself was, but even they don’t have anywhere near the level of fame or name recognition as pop stars, and only truly rose highly up the charts once they embraced a catchier, more tightly-packaged sound on albums Brothers and El Camino than was their original vision on The Big Come Up and Thickfreakness.

I’m simply not confident that Bill Haley would see significant success in this age, as either a pure “rock” or “rock n roll” artist, and if it were to be theorized what would happen if he did focus on something like post-grunge, then the significance of the figure at hand being Bill Haley is nil, and he would come only to represent an everyman, which is well outside the nature of this prompt.

Furthermore, Haley’s style was one that was bouncy and fun, and its ease to dance to, like so much other 50s rock n’ roll, was a major part of its appeal to young people and particularly teenagers. Today, though, the main audience for rock music seems to be significantly older than it was in those days, so Haley would see his theorized fan base swept out from beneath him.

Finally, the nature of music stardom itself has changed drastically. Billy Haley was no Elvis Presley, but people still appreciated the brand that was Bill Haley and the Comets, and that kind of name recognition is something that would greatly help artists in the days of radio. Today, albeit with several exceptions, music doesn’t particularly become popular by the name of its artist, but truly by the appeal of individual songs. We live in perhaps the grandest of eras for the “one-hit wonder,” with artists like Gotye, MAGIC!, and even Psy likely wondering how they rose to the top so fast, only to fall into obscurity so hard.

Even if Bill Haley and his band were able to overcome the difficulties previously discussed, I feel that they would have a spark with one big hit, a modern equivalent of “Rock Around the Clock,” then be forgotten. Bands do not necessarily equal brands anymore, and for a single group or artist to maintain success in a time when a single search can yield literally millions of other songs to listen to, by artists all around the world, is a truly impressive, and rather rare, feat.

While I’d love to say that reincarnations of Bill Haley could rise once more, to take the mantle of rock n’ roll and shape a genre as he did so long ago, I simply don’t see that as the case. Rock musicians, particularly those with a background that doesn’t fit the desired image, have a very steep and very narrow pathway to success in the modern age.

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BIll Haley - A Right Man at the Right Time Who Wouldn't Make It in the Rock Music of Today. (2023, Feb 19). Retrieved from

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