Marshall Lytle, the original bass player for Bill Haley & His Comets, one of the first bands to take rock ‘n’ roll music mainstream, has died. He was 79.
Lytle died Saturday at his home in New Port Richey, Fla., said his niece, Shayna Golda. He was diagnosed with lung cancer earlier this year.
With Lytle on bass, Haley and the Comets recorded hits like“Rock Around the Clock” and “Shake, Rattle and Roll” in the 1950s. Lytle was known for his percussive bass style, slapping the strings as he played.
1956 video from movie captures the spirit of the day, as Rock and Roll was coming into its own, to the disapproval of the older generation. Marshall Lytle is playing bass at left
Lytle was born Sept. 1, 1933, in Old Fort, N.C. A birth defectmade it nearly impossible for him to walk as a child. His older brother would carry him to and from school on his back.
While Lytle was still a young boy, he had surgery that gave him the use of his legs, his niece said. In 1951, Lytle, then still a teen, joined Bill Haley’s Saddlemen. At the time, Haley had a radio show in Chester, Pa., and the manager commented that the group didn’t look like saddlemen, said Michael Jordan Rush, who published a memoir by Lytle titled “Still Rockin’ Around the Clock” in 2011.
He suggested they call themselves “The Comets” instead.
Several of the band’s hits are now iconic rock ‘n’ roll songs: “Rock Around the Clock,” recorded in 1954, is one of the highest-selling singles of all time. Lytle also played on hits like “See You Later, Alligator.”
But he and two other members of the band quit in 1955 over a money dispute and formed a new group called the Jodimars. The group had limited commercial success, and Lytle temporarily changed his name and later went into real estate.
He returned to music in 1987, playing in a Comets reunion band, and performed right up until the weeks before his death, Rush said. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with other members of the Comets in 2012. Haley died in 1981.
Lytle’s survivors include his girlfriend, Cathy Smith, seven children and two siblings.
Editor’s Note: The Comets were performing until recently with most of their original members. Of course, Bill Haley, their leader , passed years ago, but the others were pretty amazing, delighting audiences including this writer with all members well into their 70s and 80s. So, now, we are seeing the beginning of the eventual demise of the talented group. They even recorded a album with a new song, ‘ We Ain’t Dead Yet.’