Marshall Lytle Dies: Bassist With Bill Haley Succumbs to Lung Cancer

Image: Marshall Lytle Dies: Bassist With Bill Haley Succumbs to Lung Cancer

Wednesday, 29 May 2013 03:56 PM

By Ken Mandel

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Marshall Lytle, the bass player whose chords pulsated though one of the rock 'n' roll's classic tunes, "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and the Comets, died March 23 of lung cancer.

Lytle died at his home in New Port Richey, Fla., at age 79.

Born in Old Fort, N.C. on Sept. 1, 1933, Lytle learned guitar as a teenager and dropped out of high school. While working at a Chester, Pa. radio station in the early 1950s, he met Haley, who worked at a different station, and was hired to play stand-up bass player in Haley's band, despite the fact that Lytle didn't play bass.

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No problem. In a later interview, Lytle said he received a 30-minute lesson in a slap-bass technique, a key method for country music, which was the style of Haley's band at the time, Bill Haley and His Saddlemen.

"He got this old bass fiddle out, started slapping it, with a shuffle beat, and showed me the basic three notes you need on a little bass run to get started with, and I gave it a try and I said, 'Hell, I can do that,'" Lytle said in 2011.

When the group became Bill Haley and the Comets in 1952, Lytle slapped his way on hits "Crazy, Man, Crazy" and "Shake, Rattle and Roll," while developing a unique stage presence that included riding his bass like a horse or lifting it over his shoulder.

The band's biggest hit, 1954's "Rock Around the Clock," would later appear in the opening credits of the movie, "Blackboard Jungle" and on the long-running television show, "Happy Days."

Lytle, drummer Dick Richards and saxophonist Joey D'Ambrosio, left in 1955 over a salary dispute, and formed a popular Las Vegas lounge act, the Jodimars. Six years after Haley's 1981 death, Lytle reunited with other Comets for a Dick Clark tribute. He performed off and on until 2009. He and the other surviving Comets were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.

He married and divorced three times. He leaves his Cathy Smith, his partner since 2001, and is also survived by nine children and many grandchildren.

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Related stories:

Keyboardist Ray Manzarek of The Doors Dies at Age 74

Trevor Bolder Dies: David Bowie Bassist Was Fighting Cancer

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