Tags: bill haley | bill haley jr.

Music Legend's Violent, Drunk Secrets Revealed by Son

bill haley is shown in a plaid suit jacket with his guitar in london in 1957
American rock and roll musician Bill Haley at the Dominion Theatre, London, in February 1957. (AP)

By    |   Friday, 13 December 2019 10:32 AM

Bill Haley paved the way for rock ’n’ roll in the 50s when he released his hit single "Rock Around the Clock," but behind the scenes he lived a life of turmoil. 

He turned to alcohol to cope with fame but in doing so he not only hurt himself, but his family as well. Now, nearly 40 years after Haley died of natural causes at 55, his son Bill Haley Jr. has opened up about his father revealing secrets about the rock legend’s alcoholism and violence.

Speaking with Fox News, he shared those memories in an interview published on Friday.

"When he drank, he drank excessively. It caused a personality change," Haley Jr. said of his father's long battle with alcohol. "I never recalled my father being a violent person. And I don’t think he was. But when he drank, he did violent things, like throw ashtrays."

And more.

Haley Jr. recalled one incident when things escalated dramatically after his father had been drinking. He then grabbed a kitchen knife and held it at his wife's throat without registering who she was. 

"That was not a characteristic of him, but that’s just an indication of how his personality would change as he drank," he said. "It’s really hard to answer, except to speculate, but I think it had something to do with his own feelings of inadequacy. Maybe guilt over his personal failures."

Haley Jr. loved his father and was proud of his achievements but said it felt necessary to speak about his "darker side" as well. 

"In order to really understand who my father was, you really have to talk about the things that aren’t so flattering, like his personality defects and alcoholism," he said.

After years on the road Haley decided to leave his family for good in 1962. Haley Jr. was six and a half at the time but said he was so used to his father being away that it did not impact him dramatically.

"He was always traveling when I was young," he said, explaining that they did spend time together during the summers when he was performing closer to home. "But even though he left for good when I was almost seven, I didn’t fully comprehend it at the time because he wasn’t there all the time, to begin with. I was just used to him not being there."

Reconnecting with his father years later was not easy for Haley Jr. There were awkward late-night phone calls during which his father was usually intoxicated. It made communication difficult because they were predominantly one-sided. Haley was not a rational man most of the time but it did not stop his son from eagerly wanting to get in touch and build a relationship with him. It was extremely frustrating when he couldn't.

This was a common theme in their lives and it would haunt Haley Jr. right up until his father's death in 1981. Their last conversation was no different. 

"The last time I talked to him was the day before he died," Haley Jr. said. "He was very distraught about his relationship with his wife."

She was refusing to take his calls so Haley turned to his son in a desperate attempt to smooth things over with her. 

"He was very distraught so he kept pressing me to call her on his behalf," he said. "I didn’t feel it was my position to be a spokesman for him or her. This was in my early 20s and frankly, I still had some resentment toward my father, not only for the way he abandoned our family and left us penniless, but how he apparently abandoned us emotionally. He frankly said some pretty nasty, hurtful things to me in our conversation."

Frustrated, Haley Jr. hung up the phone. That was the last time they spoke.

"Then the next day, I heard my father’s music on the radio," he said. "You didn’t hear ‘50s music on a contemporary rock station. So I knew something had happened. Then I heard the announcement."

Music legend Bill Haley had died and his son was left to process a spectrum of emotions. Disappointment, guilt and relief.

"I thought I could finally move on from that pain of feeling rejected," he said. It was only later that Haley Jr. began to understand his father better.

"I learned much later what his life must have been like being on the road and how difficult it must have been to maintain his relationships," he said, "I gained some empathy much later on and some understanding."

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Bill Haley paved the way for rock ’n’ roll in the 50s when he released his hit single "Rock Around the Clock," but behind the scenes he lived a life of turmoil. 
bill haley, bill haley jr.
Friday, 13 December 2019 10:32 AM
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