Although several members of the Comets became famous, Bill Haley was the star. With his spit curl and the band all in plaid dinner jackets jumping all over the place, they were as revolutionary in their time as ever the Beatles or the Rolling Stones were. Although not on the early records, Rudy Pompilli's acrobatic tenor sax playing was a highlight of the live show, along with Marshall Lytle on string bass, literally on it, riding it like a pony, holding it over his head, and Frank Beecher on loud, solo, electric guitar. Their music and their act were part of a tradition in jazz and rhythm and blues, but it all came like a thunderclap to most of their audience.
Haley began his rock and roll career with a cover of "Rocket 88" in 1951 which sold well and was followed up with a Haley original "Crazy Man Crazy", a phrase he said he heard from his teenaged audience.
His biggest hit, and one of the most important records in rock and roll history was "Rock Around the Clock", which started slow, but eventually sold 26 million copies and marked the arrival of a cultural shift.
Other hits included R&B covers of "See You Later Alligator" in which Haley's frantic delivery contrasted with the Louisiana langour of the original by Bobby Charles. Furthermore, Haley's cover of "Shake, Rattle, and Roll" was a completely new performance built out of bits and pieces of the original by Big Joe Turner. The difference between the two illustrates the difference between rhythm and blues and rock and roll. Many more people heard Joe Turner's version because Haley covered it.