May 25, 2013 – Marshall Lytle (Bill Haley & His Comets) was born on September 1st 1933 in Old Fort, North Carolina. He was a guitar player before joining Bill Haley’s country music group, The Saddlemen, in 1951, but was hired to play double bass for the group, so Haley taught Marshall the basics of slap bass playing.
In September 1952, they changed their name to Bill Haley & His Comets. Soon after, he co-wrote with Haley the band’s first national hit, “Crazy Man, Crazy” although he did not receive co-authorship credit for it until 2002.
He played on all of Haley’s recordings between 1951 and the summer of 1955, including “Rock Around the Clock”. In September 1955, he, along with drummer Dick Richards and saxophone player Joey Ambrose, quit The Comets in a salary dispute and formed their own musical group, The Jodimars. They became one of the first rock ‘n’ roll groups to take up residence in Las Vegas.
Lytle’s style of playing, which involved slapping the strings to make a percussive sound, is considered one of the signature sounds of early rock and roll and rockabilly. The athletic Lytle also developed a stage routine, along with Ambrose, that involved doing acrobatic stunts with the bass fiddle, including throwing it in the air and riding it like a horse. This became a signature performance for The Comets that later musicians working for Haley were instructed to emulate.
By 1958 the Jodimars had broken up, though Lytle attempted to continue the group on his own. Lytle continued to work in music off-and-on into the 1960s, but also got involved in other interests, changing his name to Tommy Page and getting into real estate and later opening an interior design business.
In October ’87, 6 years after the death of Bill Haley, Marshall Lytle was invited to take part in a reunion of the original 1954-55 Comets that was held in Philadelphia as part of a tribute concert in honor of Dick Clark. Despite the musicians not having seen each other in decades, The Comets quickly found their groove again although Lytle sang the lyrics of “Rock Around the Clock” out-of-order. Their performance was the hit of the show, and over the next couple of years The Comets began touring again, primarily in Europe. The band has recorded several albums for the German label Hydra Records, the UK-based Rockstar Records, and the US label Rollin’ Rock Records.
In the late 1990s he and his friend Warren Farren wrote a topical tune called “Viagra Rock” that The Comets recorded; the song proved to be quite popular on radio stations in Florida. In 2006 the group took up a long-term residence at the Dick Clark American Bandstand Theater in Branson, Missouri, performing more than 150 shows at the venue, with more in 2007. The group also toured Europe in early 2007. He continued working and touring with the Comets until his retirement in 2009.
In 2012 he was inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Bill Haley & His Comets
Marshall Lytle died while bravely fighting lung cancer on May 25, 2013. He was 79.