Crazy Man, Crazy
|"Crazy Man, Crazy"|
|Single by Bill Haley and His Comets|
|Genre||Rock and roll|
|Label||Essex Records, Essex 321|
Marshall Lytle (uncredited)
|Bill Haley and His Comets singles chronology|
"Crazy Man, Crazy" was the title of an early rock and roll song written by, and first recorded by Bill Haley & His Comets in April 1953. It is notable as the first recognized rock and roll recording to appear on the national American musical charts, peaking at #12 on the Billboard Juke Box chart for the week ending June 20, 1953, and #11 for two weeks on the Cash Box chart beginning for the week of June 13. It is also believed to be the first rock and roll recording to be played on national television in the US. The use of a comma in the title varies from source to source, but is present on the original single release, which is credited to "Bill Haley with Haley's Comets," an early variant of the band's name.
The song was written by Bill Haley. Haley said in a 1967 interview with Vancouver, British Columbia DJ Red Robinson that he got the idea for the song from hearing popular catchphrases used by teenagers at school dances where he and his band performed. One of these phrases was "Crazy Man Crazy" while another was "Go, go, go, everybody!" (the latter also featured in a song called "Go Go Go" by The Treniers which music historian Jim Dawson suggests may have been an influence). Haley (and Marshall Lytle) incorporated both phrases into the song. He is said to have written it sitting at the kitchen table while his wife prepared lunch.
The song was recorded at Coastal Studios in New York City and was released soon after by Essex Records. Personnel on the recording included Haley's core Comets members (Lytle, Billy Williamson (steel guitar), and Johnny Grande (piano)), plus session musicians Art Ryerson (lead guitar) and Billy Gussak (drums). Also participating on backing vocals were Dave Miller (owner of Essex Records and Haley's producer) and Jerry Blaine, co-founder of Jubilee Records, who happened to be visiting the studio. (Miller and Blaine were recruited because of the need to create a rowdy party-like sound during the song's chorus and conclusion.) On May 23, 1953, the song entered the American Billboard chart and reached No. 12, becoming the first song generally recognised as rock and roll to be a pop hit. The record was the Top Debut on the Cashbox chart for the week of May 23, 1953, debuting at no. 19. This was also Haley's first national success and his first major success with an original song (prior to this he had had regional success with cover versions of "Rocket 88" and "Rock the Joint").
The recording was released on Essex Records as Essex 321, E-321-A, backed with "What'cha Gonna Do" by Bill Haley with Haley's Comets and was published by Eastwick Music, BMI. The record was manufactured by the Palda Record Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 78 and 45 formats with an orange label. The recording was also released in the UK in August 1953, as London L 1190 as a 78 with "What'Cha Gonna Do" as the B side.
In the summer of 1953, "Crazy Man, Crazy" became the first rock and roll song to be heard on national television in the United States when it was used on the soundtrack of Glory in the Flower, an installment of the CBS anthology series, Omnibus. This live production featured James Dean and was a predecessor to his later Rebel Without a Cause. The Paley Center for Media maintains a copy of this production in its archives.
Haley would later claim (for example in a 1972 interview with CFQC Radio in Saskatoon, Canada) that "Crazy Man, Crazy" sold a million copies, however no evidence to support this claim has been located. Haley and the Comets would record new versions of the song (without notable commercial success) in 1960 (Warner Bros. Records) and 1972 (Sonet Records), plus a live performance in 1969 (Buddah/Kama Sutra Records). After Haley's death, surviving members of The Comets (which included Marshall Lytle) recorded new versions of the song in 1997 (Rockstar Records), 2000 (Rollin Rock Records) and 2002 (Bradley House Records).
Ralph Marterie and his Orchestra also had a major hit with their version in 1953 as Mercury 70153, which Cashbox paired with the Bill Haley recording on July 4, 1953, peaking at #11. Marterie reached no. 13 on the Billboard Jockey chart with his version for the week ending June 20, 1953. It is sometimes claimed that sax player Rudy Pompilli, later to join the Comets, was on this record, but there is no evidence of this. Ralph Marterie's recording was #93 on the Billboard Top 100 Records of 1953.
Rockabilly singer Robert Gordon recorded a version in the 1970s which was on the Bad Boy (1980) and Robert Gordon is Red Hot (1989) albums. The Ralph Marterie version on Mercury, Mercury 70153, with vocals by Larry Regan and the Smarty-Airs, backed with "Go Away", reached no.13 on the Billboard Jockey chart on June 20, 1953 and was also released on Oriole, CB. 1199, in the UK and Deutsche Austroton, M 70153. In Britain, a contemporary cover was issued by former band singer Lita Roza with Ted Heath (bandleader) and His Music on Decca, Decca F10144, in July, 1953, backed with "Oo! What you Do to Me". A German-language version was recorded in 1954 by Renee Franke with the Max Greger Band on Polydor, Polydor 23078. Max Greger was a German jazz saxophonist and bandleader who has performed with Louis Armstrong. Bernie Saber and his Orchestra recorded a version on Tunepac Records, as Tunepac 5002, with Ray Brankey on vocals in 1954. Bernie Saber co-wrote, with Robert Noel, "Good Things from the Garden", which was the Jolly Green Giant jingle: "From the valley of the jolly--ho, ho, ho!!--green giant!" Billy Jack Wills, the brother of Bob Wills, recorded the song in 1953, a recording which was re-released in 1999 on the Crazy, Man, Crazy album collection. American-born Swedish musician Ernie Englund and his Crazy Men recorded the song in 1953 and released it as a 78 single on Karusell K45 b/w "Minka" in Sweden, which is regarded as the first rock and roll record released in Sweden. Bill Haley's Comets and The Original Band, Bill Haley's Original Comets, have also recorded the song. Phil Haley and the Comments have recorded the song and performed it live in concert in 2008, with the performances available on YouTube. A player piano version was recorded by J. Lawrence Cook which was originally issued as QRS 8980 and reissued as part of a 3-song medley entitled "Bill Haley Hits No. 1" on QRS XP-440.
- Jim Dawson, Rock Around the Clock: The Record That Started the Rock Revolution! (Backbeat Books, 2005), pp. 50–55.
- John W. Haley and John von Hoelle, Sound and Glory (Dyne-American, 1990).
- Rockabilly Hall of Fame website with information on the history of "Crazy Man, Crazy."
- Billboard Magazine, June 27, 1953.
- BMI: Crazy Man Crazy
- A recording of this interview was released in 1981 on the LP Bill Haley and His Comets Interview (Great Northwest Records) and on CD as The Bill Haley Tapes (Jerden JRCD 7023), 1995
- "Crazy Man Crazy". Songfacts.com. Retrieved 2009-03-14.
- Joel Whitburn, Top Pop Singles 1955-2002, p.297
- http://www.flixster.com/celebrity/james-dean/# Flixster retrieved 12.2011
- Original interview conducted circa August–September 1972, CFQC Radio, Saskatoon, Canada; rebroadcast 9 February 1981 from which the source recording was made; transcript of the interview can be found at the Rockabilly Hall of Fame website (accessed 5 July 2008)