Bill Haley's Band Is Still Rocking

Wendy Hill as she was booked into the County Jail in Martinez, Calif. on March 4, 2010. Hill is charged with kidnapping her daughter, Jessica Click-Hill, who was 8, 14 years ago. Click Hill was found safe. CBS

Bill Haley may be gone, but his Comets live on, rocking in some of the hippest clubs in Hollywood, like the Sunset Strip's Viper Room.

Bill Haley and The Comets made music history a half century ago on "The Ed Sullivan Show," when they played "Rock Around the Clock," a song that historians now agree launched the rock 'n' roll era:

"We're a pretty hot band!" drummer Dick Richards tells CBS News correspondent Sandra Hughes.

Marshal Lytle, who plays the string bass, is certain the Viper Room is ready for them. "We played there once before," he says. "We hold the record of having the biggest crowd that ever showed up there."

Guitarist Franny Beecher adds, "We're also the oldest musicians that play there."

Despite a collective age of more than 380 years, the five rockers aren't heading for their rocking chairs anytime soon. Joey Ambrose and Marshall Lytle are the youngsters at 71. Johnny Grande is 75. Dick Richards is 81, and Franny Beecher takes the lead with more than his guitar. He's 83 years young.

Asked if it is harder to go on tour now that they are getting older, Richards answers, "No."

"Takes us a little longer," Lytle adds.

Richards explains, "Well, it takes us a little longer, you know, those walks in the airport."

Laughing, Lytle notes, "It takes us all day to do what we used to do all day."

"Rock Around The Clock" has sold more than 25 million copies since its debut 50 years ago. But The Comets had other big hits, too, like "Shake, Rattle & Roll." And who can forget, "See You Later, Alligator"? Not Franny Beecher, whose voice can be heard giving the introduction to the classic 1956 Haley recording.

What do their families think about them still being on tour?

"They're so proud of us, they bust at the seams," says Lytle.

A laughing Richards says even his grandchildren come to the shows:. "They're wonderful. 'Alright, well, grandpop is doing a rock 'n' roll show!'"

At an age when many men are playing shuffleboard, the Comets are playing 80 sold-out shows a year, both in the U.S. and abroad. A recent handprint ceremony gave them a permanent place on Hollywood's world-famous Rock Walk.

Like Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, the Comets say they don't need to retire from music.

"You don't have to retire when you're 65. Go on and go for it," Lytle says. "Find something you love, and do it well, and do it forever."

Richards adds, "And also practice."

For Franny Beecher, "Motto is, 'Rock 'til you Drop.'"

And Pianist Johnny Grande says, "And we're not ready yet. We're not ready to drop. No."

So they are going to keep on rocking.

Next up for the Comets is a European tour. When they get home, they are going into the studio to record their first major-label album in more than 30 years.

Bill Haley would be proud.
  • Tatiana Morales

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