JAMES E. Myers INTERVIEW:
THE MAN WHO WROTE "ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK"

by Barry Klein - Posted April 10, 2000

A rockabilly group called The Crestliners in southwest Florida; Route 41, an alternative entertainment and nightlife magazine published and distributed throughout southwest Florida; and The Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Interaction among these groups resulted in the following interview with James E. Myers, co-author of "Rock Around the Clock", one of - if not the - must durable and best selling recordings of popular music in the 20th Century. "T", the leader of The Crestliners, had had some some conversations with Jim Myers, as did Bob Timmers, Curator of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. At about the same time Bob Timmers suggested that I interview Jim Myers while I was in Florida, I was contacted by Mark Krzos, Editor of Route 41, to cooperate and do the interview jointly.

I would like to thank Bob Timmers of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame (http://www.rockabillyhall.com), "T" of the rockabilly group The Crestliners (e-mail: crestlinr2@aol.com), and Mark Krzos, Dan Musante and Dan Newcomb of Route-41 (Route41@aol.com) for their cooperation and support in this interview.

The interview was conducted the late afternoon of March 30, 2000, at Jim Myers' home in Bonita Springs, Florida. Although not what is referred to in Florida as an "estate home", Jim's home is very comfortable and sits on the Imperial River, which is a short distance from and leads into the Gulf of Mexico. Jim's bi-level home includes a beautiful swimming pool and spa with a screened enclosure, a big yard for his dogs, and fine view of the Imperial River and another canal at the corner of his lot.

Participating in the interview were Dan Musante, a writer for Route-41, as well as Dan Newcomb, their photographer. In addition, the catalyst for the entire event, "T", the leader of the rockabilly group The Crestliners, was also present.

Jim was a gracious host and provided beverages for all of us as we sat at his dining room table for the interview. "T" and Jim Myers bonded so well that Jim allowed "T" to smoke cigarettes despite a large "No Smoking" sign posted on a wall near where we sat.

An interesting anecdote following the interview: The next night, March 31,The Crestliners were performing at a restaurant/bar in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, and during The Crestliners performance, Jim Myers enters with his entourage, sits at a table, orders dinner and enjoys The Crestliners performance. "T" of The Crestliners then told the audience that he had a surprise guest and asked several members of the audience spontaneously what particular song they thought was responsible for "Rock and Roll" as we know it. Almost all of the people responded, "Rock Around the Clock"! "T" then informed the audience that he had a special surprise for them, and introduced Jim Myers. The audience responded with a loud, long round of applause. During the ensuing break, Jim signed autographs as well as several copies of CD's that he had brought along for the performance.

The Crestliners, who as I mentioned in a recent article, are about to record a CD, and they are planning to record an old (1956, I believe) Jim Myers'-penned song entitled "Rattle My Bones" on this CD, and Jim might even take a hand in producing that song when they record it.



"T" of rockabilly group "The Crestliners," Dan Musante of Rote 41, James E. Myers and Barry Klein from the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

So here it is, an interview with James E. Myers,
composer of the song "Rock Around the Clock".

Barry Klein: This is Barry Klein with the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, and with me on this joint interview is Dan Musante from Route 41, and we also have T, the Leader, Master of Ceremonies, doghouse bass player, co-lead singer of the rockabilly group the Crestliners, who arranged this meeting today. We have, courtesy of Route 41, Dan Newcomb here to take some pictures, and we are here with James E. Myers. The date is March 30, 2000. It is an interesting date, Jim, because we are just a few hours away from the 48th anniversary of your copyrighting the song Rock Around the Clock. It is a momentous time I think to have this interview and we are happy to do it. Bob Timmers of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, who I just spoke to, told me to say hello.

Jim Myers: You're right about 48th anniversary which is totally and almost unusual unless you go back to an old standard that never sold a million records like Stardust and so on. So that's very gracious that it is coming in like it is - the good Lord willing. But we are all looking forward, the people I've spoke to around the world in the past year, to the 50th anniversary. So be prepared!!

Barry Klein: That will be two more years from tomorrow, March 31, 2002. That's the 50th anniversary and I was speaking on the phone with Bob Timmers, Curator of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, before I saw you, and he said the one thing that strikes him about the song, Rock Around the Clock, and I know there are other things besides Rock Around the Clock with your career, etc. that we want to talk about today, but what's really amazing is not only have the John Lennons and all the great rock people have said that this song was their influence, most singers today!

Jim Myers: The last interview John Lennon did before he was shot in New York was for "Playboy" magazine and I believe it was the key question they asked him. In the interview they said "What made you get involved in all this" and he said "Rock Around the Clock."

Barry Klein: Yep. I was in New York in December 1980 about six blocks away when he was murdered, and found out on TV. I couldn't sleep all night.

Jim Myers: Naturally. It was a shame.

Barry Klein: There are so many people that feel they were influenced or that that is "the" song that started rock'n'roll. It must be!

Jim Myers: I was watching The Tonight Show on TV 2 or 3 years ago I guess it was now, and the guy that wears the hat all the time, John - a big superstar ...

Barry Klein: One of the cowboy hats?

Jim Myers: No not a cowboy hat, a porkpie hat, with glasses, short fellow, plays piano, sings.

Dan Musante: Elton John?

Jim Myers: Yes. They asked him what brought him into the rock-n-roll business and so on and he said "Rock Around the Clock". Which made me happy, but since then I have heard 3 or 4 equally big stars say the same thing on various shows and so on. But everything's a plug, everything's a boost, and everything sells a couple of more records. That's why I don't mind interviews from time-to-time.

Barry Klein: Tell me a little bit about the pre-rock-n-roll pre-Rock Around the Clock days. You were from the Pennsylvania area?

Jim Myers: Yes. I was born and raised in Philadelphia.

Barry Klein: Home of American Bandstand.

Jim Myers: Yes. I was born before that. I used to go down there almost daily with new records to promote - the Bandstand show - when someone else was a disc jockey before Dick Clark. Then when he had fell into trouble - I won't mention his name unless you do - if you know it - then they had Dick Clark who was a regular disc jockey in a little 6' X 10' studio room playing his records, and they pulled him out of there and put him in and made a star out of him. Made him alot of money and he is still going strong. About a year ago him and I were together and I said "let's take and get a picture Dick" and he said "okay". He said "When are you going to quit?" and I said "Right after you do!"

Barry Klein: What was your life like before you got into music.

Jim Myers: Before I got into music I had no life. My father was a drummer, I broke his bass drum when I was two, and I was playing in a school street band when I was seven, and I was playing in the high school symphony orchestra when I was thirteen, and I had my own band when I was thirteen called "Jimmy Myers and his Truckadeers". Then when trucking began to fade out of the picture musically and dance wise, the boys with me that cooperated in the band decided to change the name to something else, so we went down to the phone company and looked through a dozen phone books and we couldn't find any " DeKnights" in it. We wanted something different. So called it Jimmy DeKnight and his Knights of Rhythm. Then my father was kind enough (he was a sheet metal worker and electrician at the time) to build beautiful bandstands with curved sides and wings, ... with lights on them and all. In front he painted a Knight in Armor holding a lance riding a musical note - very effective. So I used that on all the business cards and letterhead and things like that from then on. It worked out pretty good.

Dan Musante: What kind of music was it?

Jim Myers: Oh this is big band. I'm from the big band sound. I still have most of my big band records 78's.

Barry Klein: How many members were in your band?

Jim Myers: Twenty-two when we were getting paid for the full band.

Barry Klein: That was pretty good for those days size-wise.

Jim Myers: No. It was common in those days. Nearly all bands were from fifteen to twenty-two. Depended if you had strings or not.

Barry Klein: I read where Bob Wills had twenty-eight people in his band, he had more than Glenn Miller or any of the other top names.

Jim Myers: Boy was he a fabulous sight to behold!

Dan Musante: Bob Wills?

Jim Myers: Yes. And who was the other guy that had a band just like Bob Wills out of California÷.little short guy, played the fiddle ...

Barry Klein: Pee Wee King?

Jim Myers: No. I booked him a couple of times in the East with his whole band, he had about a twenty-five piece orchestra. I can't think of his name.

Barry Klein: He wasn't formerly with Bob Wills?

Jim Myers: That's what happens when you get to be 80.

Jim Myers: No. He was his own guy out of California with a big band and recording artists, and very popular and everybody liked him and I can't remember his name [he later remembered: Spade Cooley].

Barry Klein: Did you have the Jimmy DeKnight group before you served in the armed forces in World War II?

Jim Myers: Yes. That was all before. That was in then, you're talking 30's now and early 40's. Then I spent five years in the infantry, the insole of the army, most of that time in combat in the South Pacific from '42 to '46. I was commissioned an officer while in combat.

Barry Klein: Did you resume your music career after you returned from the army?

Jim Myers: When I got back out I decided that I had been away from my drums too long, my wrists tightened up and I couldn't perform like I felt I should be able to, so I decided to go into the music publishing business and write songs and record them. So that's what I did. A friend of mine in Philadelphia, the late Jack Howard, and I teamed up to form the first record company in Philadelphia called "Cowboy Records". We recorded, there was a show out of Philadelphia every Saturday night on radio, ABC network coast to coast, Jack Stec was the MC. I was there practically every Saturday night getting one or two of my songs on the network show promotion wise and we've done pretty good. We had quite a thing going between, and we recorded, of course, most of the people working on that show. One Cowboy Record is Sleepy Hallow Ranch Gang, and Jessie Rogers and a lot of other acts such as that.

Barry Klein: So there was about a seven year period between the time you were discharged from your war years to the time that you wrote Rock Around the Clock?

Jim Myers: About that probably. Yes.

Dan Musante: When you went into war it was swing and big band. When you got out of the war what was the music leaning towards then? Was it starting to go into rock and roll or was it still kind of just the same.

Jim Myers: Well no. There was no rock and roll to my knowledge prior to Rock Around the Clock. There may have been some rhythm and blues songs that sounded a little rock-n-rollish, but ...

Dan Musante: It's a big gap, because you went from the big band swing music which was big probably in the 50's

Jim Myers: Big band is what I like to do.

Dan Musante: They had Sinatra and stuff.

Jim Myers: It just so happened that one day I was sitting down in my office in Philadelphia and I play a one-finger piano besides drums, or used to, and I picked out this melody that was going around in my head for years and it turned out to be the melody to Rock Around the Clock. Shortly after doing this, a friend of mine walked in the office, the late Max Freedman, who wrote Sue City Sue - you might remember - so he walked in and said "that sounds pretty good". I said "how can you tell you are tone deaf". He said "well I can hear something there" he said "can I help you with It?" I said "sure". So I let him write in the finished lyrics that I hadn't completed yet and then he said "what are you going to call it?" I said "I'm going to call it Rock Around the Clock". He said "what's the matter with Dance Around the Clock". I said "because I feel a gut feeling about rock". He said "what does it mean?". I said "I don't know, but it sounds good".

Barry Klein: The blacks knew what it meant.

Jim Myers: He said "as long as you are the publisher and the writer, I can't argue with you." I said "no you can't", so that's what it was.

"T": It changed the world.

Jim Myers: You're awfully quiet over there [speaking to photographer Dan Newcomb].

Dan Newcomb: Oh I'm listening.

Dan Musante: He just takes pictures.

Barry Klein: That's Dan the photographer.

Jim Myers: He's not going to do any talking, he's going to shoot pictures - is that it?

Jim Myers: That originated with Marshall Lytle and the guy that followed him up was also had a Don Wells.

Barry Klein: Can I interrupt you for a moment before you go into Marshall Lytle and the Comets, you wrote Rock Around the Clock in what year - 1953?

Jim Myers: 1952.

Barry Klein: Wasn't it recorded by Sonny Dae and The Nights prior to Bill Haley?

Jim: Yes, Sonny Dae and His Nights.

Barry Klein: How did that evolve? You pitched the song to somebody else or?

Jim Myers: Well at the time I was with Haley and getting him on different labels like Atlantic and Center and other labels, because we couldn't release enough on Cowboy Records and I knew his voice was there.

Barry Klein: Was he with Essex at the time?

Jim Myers: No. Before Essex was Atlantic, Center and two or three other labels.

Barry Klein: So this is before even Essex?

Jim Myers: Right. Long before.

Barry Klein: You were talking about how Rock Around the Clock evolved to Bill Haley. Where did it go first before Bill Haley?

Jim Myers: I was with Haley for a long time. Jack Howard is the one who brought me to him. He was playing for $5.00 a Saturday night in a farmer's market in Booth Corners, Pennsylvania. Then he went with the Downhoers or something like that for a while. Then he came back and he went with another group in Bloomington, Delaware. In the meantime he got a job on WPWA Radio in Chester, Pennsylvania as a disc jockey playing country and rhythm & blues. He was always interested in both. We recorded there at night - slipped the engineer a $20 bill for staying behind for an hour or two. We made a lot of masters and copy records there at WPWA. They're no longer in business either. Talk about feeling old. After all these labels he recorded for he finally got to this guy named Dave Miller, the late Dave Miller, and Miller says "÷he can only do so much for you, come with me and my label and I will make a star out of you". So he fell for that bullshit, I guess, so he recorded a few sides with Essex. Bill Haley came back to me finally and he says, "Jim, the guy's not paying my royalties, my contract is up in two weeks, can you get me another deal?", and I said "sure". So I went up to New York, tested all of the labels and I found this guy who had just joined Decca Records in charge of A & R.

Barry Klein: And Decca was pretty big at the time.

Jim Myers: Decca was one of the four major labels: RCA Victor, Decca, Columbia and Capitol. Four major labels - that was it. The rest were all either subsidiaries of the major labels or Cowboy Records (independents).

Barry Klein: It was a real coup for you to get Haley a contract with Decca.

Jim. Oh yeah! But I had discovered and recorded and made stars out of Al Everetts and the Four Aces a few years prior to that. So they were afraid not to listen to anything that I would bring in, particularly if I was persistent. Mitch Miller said "he'd listen" and I said, "no you won't". I said, "I don't like your attitude." We almost went to blows I remember. I knew this guy at Decca had just joined and he had managed and had a label of his own doing rhythm and blues, so I knew he would understand partially what we were attempting. So I called him and told him who I was, and he said come on in. I went in and we sat down. I had some demos I had cut two days prior to that. Pulled them out and put them on the turntable, played about 3 or 4 bars of each, that's the usual routine. They never play two or three minutes of a record. He said,"let's go eat" just like that. This is about 12 or 1 o'clock. We get up and walked around the corner to the parkway and had a nice dinner. Buy the time we got back we had structured a contract. By the time I got back to Philly a day or two later and showed the contract to Bill Haley, he almost pooped in his pants it was so good. He got a great many things that normally you don't get in that stage with a major label. For example: He got a $5,000 bonus for signing, and he was guaranteed an additional $5,000 for the year whether he sold that many records or not. He was guaranteed 8 releases a year if he wanted that many, guaranteed full pages in the trade magazines such as Billboard and so on, Variety, Cash Box.

Barry Klein: Sounds like you really got him a good deal.

Jim Myers: A fabulous contract. So that was it. We went up to New York and cut Rock Around the Clock. The guy at Decca, now you'll know why I didn't mention his name yet, had his hand out. They had three hours to cut four songs. If you didn't get four songs in in three hours you didn't get four songs in. You'd get 1 or 2 or whatever you got in the length of time - and that was a recording session. So we went in and we had three hours to do the job and he wanted to cut 2 songs. One that he had a piece of under the table, and out of the 3 hours they spent 2á hours recording that.
Occasionally I do lecture at a university or college, and I ask them at that point "How many of you know the other side of Rock Around the Clock?" Very seldom does a hand go up. Very seldom, believe me, it's amazing. The other side of Rock Around the Clock was Thirteen Women. But very few people cared even. I asked the question and I get that kind of an answer. It was quite a thing.
In the last half hour of the session he was able to get two cuts in. That was the end of the session, period. They had to take and splice some of the cuts together to get the full sound that we had on Rock Around the Clock. While we were in there they had a makeshift control room about 6' X 10' with 2 engineers from Decca on the console and him and I leaning back in chairs against the all while this was all going on. And, I am excited as hell - I'll tell you that - when they played Rock Around the Clock for the first time through. The second time through the two engineers looked like they worked for Edison - they must have been 80 or 70 anyhow. Well I said "peak, peak". Well they had never peaked records in those days - 1953. This was a crime in the industry. And both heads swirled and looked at the boss and he just nodded the cigar of mine that he was smoking up and down, and they peaked. He didn't care about the other side. This is the first time to my knowledge that a record was ever peaked in a recording session. They do it all the time now.

Barry Klein: Now Rock Around the Clock with Haley was released in 1953 - right?

Jim Myers: Yes.

Barry Klein: And how many copies do you think it sold?

Jim Myers: In 1954 - well the orders were from Decca and the bosses wanted to concentrate on the ŽA' side which was not my song. So out it went and I think it sold 5,000 or 10,000 copies nationwide.

Barry Klein: So the big push for Rock Around the Clock came from the movie Blackboard Jungle?

Jim Myers: No. It came from me! The song was already on the charts when they went into Blackboard Jungle.

Barry Klein: Tell us how that evolved. What did you do?

Jim Myers: When I seen that it was up to me or nobody, I ordered a few hundred records at a quarter a piece (they charge you for promotional records - Decca), and I got in my car and I went - every time I saw a radio antenna/tower on the side of a road I would get off the road and pull in. This went on for a couple of months. Scranton, Roxboro, Chester, Atlantic City - wherever there was a radio station within six states. One guy played the record for 24 straight hours. His uncle owned the station or you could've guaranteed that he would have been fired. By the time I get back into Philly they were filling orders. The sales were coming in all up and down the east coast. Then I took about 200 more of my records and blasted them out to Hollywood to every director and producer I could get the name of. Fortunately I got the name of this brand new director who was going to do this little black and white movie and he liked it and his daughter liked it, which was even more important. So while she was writing the script in his office in Hollywood, he was playing Rock Around the Clock over and over again. When it came out they just went wild.

Barry Klein: How many copies has Rock Around the Clock sold to your knowledge?

Jim Myers: Over 100 million worldwide up to now and you can still buy it in almost any record store in the world.
I travel occasionally to different countries and so on, and at times I walk into a record store and look in the files and there's Rock Around the Clock. It may not be Haley, because there are 500 other recording of the song. It's been recorded by Chucky Checker and you name it. Sex Pistols on both an album and single. That is the only single he came out with I think. It was in their movie and the whole works.

Dan Musante: Of all the versions you've heard, which one is your favorite version?

Jim Myers: Why naturally I can't put Haley down. There was other versions that were quite good I thought. I don't want to pick any particular ones out.

Barry Klein: You know Jim, the record Rock Around the Clock - it's still selling. If you ask anybody they will say that was the start of rock and roll.

Jim Myers: Don't know that or don't care.

Barry Klein: There are people who are 80, there are people who are 70, if Todd [T's real first name] were to play that, if the Crestliners were to play that, everybody - Todd performed at a place called the Sea Witch Saturday night and everybody was appreciating his music. There were people there in their 70's, there were people there in their 20's. Rock Around the Clock is probably "the one" rock and roll record of all time - not only the biggest selling.

Jim Myers: Well I like to think it is one of the biggest records of all time and leave the words rock and roll out of it.

Dan Musante: Absolutely.

Barry Klein: What is it about that record that makes it stand out?

Jim Myers: What is it about - I wanted a happy sound. I wanted it going in and we got it coming out - a happy sound. As you said, the first record came out and it sold reasonably well - maybe 20,000 records on Arcade, but the guy didn't have the backing, financial or anything, or really know what to do with a hit record. So that was as far as it went - the late Jack Howard. But when we got it out on Decca, they knew every place to go and where to go, and they did. So consequently, when they saw it selling in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Washington, New York, Boston and so on, then they went behind it 100% all the way. You can still buy the record in almost any store in the world right now and it's the Haley record that sells the most, of course. The others sell too, Carl Perkins has a version of it and Mae West had a version of it.

Barry Klein: Freddie Cannon did a version of it.

Jim Myers: Freddie Cannon's was on the charts on Billboard and Cash Box and all. He hit #10 in the charts and on the same charts, when Decca seen what was happening, this is 10 years later, they re-released Haley and he went back on the charts too. So we had two records in the top 50 at that time - Rock Around the Clock. And it was in the charts about 10 times in the English, Australian and some other charts about 10 times in the top 10.

Dan Musante: This type of music was never heard of before that song came out. What kind of reaction did it get?

Jim Myers: Good. Everyone I talked to felt good. They had ballrooms in those days. Not today.

Dan Musanate: We had Alan Freed Balls.

Jim Myers: Yea. They had ballrooms where people went in and they had big bands, dance bands, 10 pieces, whatever. When they played Rock Around the Clock, the old ladies sitting around the sides of the ballrooms - 80's, 70's, whatever - their feet began to tap. The six and eight year old kids that were with them started to jump up and down. They could not keep still. This made me feel good to see that happen. That's what I wanted.

Barry Klein: You had the beat in mind for a dance - like a jitterbug type of a dance beat?

Jim Myers: Yes!

"T": That snare trail off at the end of the song - was that your idea?

Jim Myers: No. That was not my idea. That was Mike Gusak's - the drummer on the session. The regular drummer was Haley and the Comets and he is still playing with the Comets right now in Europe and didn't perform on the song Rock Around the Clock when we recorded it. It was Mike Gusak - he was the drummer.

Dan Musante: I am sure this is a question you get asked all the time. Rock Around the Clock - it has such a connotation. Is that kind of where the terminology for rock and roll came from?

Jim Myers: There was none to my knowledge. When we finished the session and I managed to get a copy and walked into Alan Freed's studio where he was broadcasting - and he said, "Is it good Jim?" I said, "I think it's a smash hit." He said "You do, that good hey - let's play it now." So he put it on and he said "Boy that has a rockin' and a rollin' sound to it." I said, "Well that's it, you said it, rock and roll." Alan Freed.

Dan Musante: Everybody credits Alan Freed with coining the phrase "rock and roll".

Jim Myers: Well when it happened, that's how it happened. You got it right from the horse's mouth. I read lot of articles in different books and magazines that says a lot of bullshit about Rock Around the Clock. Believe me, half of it is not true. That's one right there. A lot of people try to credit Alan Freed, but somebody else. Alan Freed is rock and roll.

Dan Musante: You have to admit that you did inspire that too.

Jim Myers: It was my idea for the "rock", it wasn't "rock and roll", just "rock". Freed came through with a rockin' rollin' motion.

Barry Klein: A good book to read is Nick Tosches' "Country, The Twisted Roots of Rock". He has written several books. What he does is he goes back to the 20's.

Jim Myers: I hope he is right.

Barry Klein: About "rock" and black lingo, in the jazz, pre-rock and rhythm & blues era - it meant a sex act.

Jim Myers: I don't believe that. I'm 80 years old, I've been around a lot, around the world included, and I don't believe that. I gave new cadence to that.

Dan Musante: Well you heard it first here.

Jim Myers: Well that's my opinion, and I think I can back my opinion with some experience and I say that's wrong.

Barry Klein: We're not saying that's what you were thinking of when you wrote the song?

Jim Myers: Positively not. And I'm saying that he's not right. Blatantly saying it. Well what else do you want to talk about? We have covered a lot of ground and I could talk for another six hours, but that's too long.

Barry Klein: All right. Let's talk a little about your life after Rock Around the Clock. You had a÷

Jim Myers: Well as I said, I was away from playing drums too long, so I gave up the band work and went to writing songs. I have written over 300 published songs at this point, a number of them have made the independent top 10 charts, even #1 - like Heading for Armageddon and so on, and made a few thousand dollars each and I'm happy the way it went along with the way rock went, and I continue to promote rock.

Dan Musante: Do you continue to like rock now a days?

Jim Myers: I only like the kind of rock I write.

"T": That's how I am, exactly.

Jim Myers: I do not like metal rock, it bothers my ears. It's not like the big band days - Benny Goodman - Harry James - you know. This is what I love and I still have them all, I have them on tape and 78's. I must have a thousand 78's in the chest down in the garage. They never get played, but they're there.

Dan Musante: If you ever want to get rid of them we'll give you a number.

Barry Klein: We are sitting at the table having the interview here, but I think I should mention for all the people who are going to be reading this interview that you have a museum in your own house - a Rock Around the Clock Museum - and there are all kinds of pictures, articles, whatever. Can you just look around here and share some of the memories of some of these pictures?

Jim Myers: You mentioned what happened after "Rock"(Around the Clock). I had an office in New York and Philadelphia. I had to commute between the two. I had about six people working for me at the time and I was under pressure with a thousand copyrights from other writers to do something with their songs too, and it got to me. The doctors finally, after examining me thoroughly, said, "Jim - quit the music or die" - just like that.

Barry Klein: About what year was this?

Jim Myers: '58 maybe. Don't forget the hits I have with Al Alberts and the 4 Aces who later recorded Lucinn - that is the big one I did with them.

Barry Klein: You've done everything. You were a musician, writer, promoter - you did all of that - so by 1958 ...

Jim Myers: How can you promote a record if you don't understand it? If a disc jockey wants some information from you and it's input for his show, to make him look good he has got to get it from you, and if he can't get it from you, your no good as a promoter. Same thing with a producer. How can you produce a record if you don't know that the drummer plays 26 parts to his instrument. It's not just a snare drum.

Barry Klein: Is this the time in your life you went to California?

Jim Myers: About '58. And I stayed there on and off for about 20 years. During the time I was there I worked in over 300 feature movies and TV shows and had a ball doing it, and was completely different from the music business. Although I would occasionally hop over to Cohn's during the convention they have there once a year and I get to talk to 50 or 100 different producers or directors from various parts of the world, and by doing that they said well here's a song that we would like to put in our movie - Rock Around the Clock - why don't we. So I picked up another 40 movies. It has nothing to do with Haley. It was the song itself. They either recorded it themselves or used one of the other versions like the Sex Pistols was in the movie and so on.

Dan Musante: Now the rock and roll music that you guys were writing in the 50's kind of died out in the 60's. Would you say that stuff like Happy Days or even lesser knowns like American Graffiti - did they bring it back?

Jim Myers: Sure. Back on the charts.

Dan Musante: And that's almost 15 years after you charted at the top the first time right?

Jim Myers: American Graffiti came out in 1973. That gave it a big shot in the arm. And of course the Columbia picture Rock Around The Clock that [inaudible] produced with Bill Haley and the Comets in it, which I was able to get them the job, that helped too. One picture after another came out and Superman gave it another shot in the arm, then the 4th of July gave it another shot in the arm. I would be sitting here and the phone would ring - hey they're playing the 4th of July and Rock Around the Clock.

Barry Klein: Sounds like you had a great time in California.

Jim: I did, I did. I have about 2,000 pictures with various artists that I worked with and actors and actresses. As you can see, well there is not enough room for 2,000 pictures, but we maybe have about 500 of them on the walls.

Barry Klein: What prompted you to move back?

Jim Myers: My mother was going downhill in Philadelphia. She didn't want to go to California. My brother was out there and he didn't want to come back to Philly, so I elected to go. So I closed the apartment, sold a lot of stuff, loaded the car down, and back I came.

Barry Klein: How did you wind up in Florida?

Jim Myers: Last year I got tired of having over 50 years in the house that I own in Philadelphia, and if anybody's listening to this, they can buy the house from me direct if they want to and save a few grand. It's up for sale in Philadelphia. A beautiful place. Barry Klein: The real estate agents are taking a beating again!

Jim Myers: I decided I had been there over 50 years in the same house, same phone number, and I tired of it. So Dea and I got in my 19 year old Mercedes, which is working like a clock right now, I put a 500 motor in it, I defy almost anything on the road can do better. So we drove down and I looked around Tampa and Coldwater. Everything between here and Marco Island. Finally I was almost ready to give up after about 25 or 30 lookings, and they showed me this. I said "I'll take it".

Barry Klein: When you say the picture of this home is on the Rockabilly Hall of Fame web site. I'll just say this, it's a beautiful home. We are on the Imperial River. I 'm in Naples. The Imperial River leads rights out to the Gulf of Mexico. He has two canals, a nice screened pool overlooking the river with a Jacuzzi and a dock on the river. What took you so long to get to Florida??

Jim Myers: I'm looking for a boat now. It's a whim. I was sitting in my apartment, the guy had an apartment in Hollywood, and he said I'll have one set up for you when you get here Jim. And he did. He used to be my promotion man in New York - the late Alan Sabbath. I hate having to say this all the time - the late Alan Sabbath - the late Bill Haley - the late Jack Howard and you know the late Jolly Joyce and you know all the people who were involved with me over the years.

Barry Klein: It's better than the alternative, it's better than joining them.

Jim Myers: I think so!!

Barry Klein: I interviewed Eddie Bond about six months ago and he was mentioning the same thing. And I said George Burns when he was 95.

Jim Myers: I worked in "Oh God!" with him.

Barry Klein: The original one with John Denver?

Dan Musante: The late John Denver!

Barry Klein: They asked George Burns "You know your 95 years old, you smoke 15 cigars a day, you date.

Jim Myers: Including some of mine, I used to be a heavy Havana smoker.

Barry Klein: He says "You date women almost 60 years younger than you are, you drink a quart of whiskey every day. What do your doctors say?" He said "They're all dead!."

Dan Musante: You've been in Hollywood. Are there any particular people you worked with - actors, directors - that you really enjoyed working with?

Jim Myers: Drugs! No, we all shied away from drugs.

Dan Musanate: No - not drugs. Actors - I mean are there any actors or directors you enjoyed working with?

Jim Myers: Enjoyed working with. Yes. I enjoyed the whole scene. There are very few that I didn't.

Barry Klein: Any particular stars that you enjoyed working with?

Jim Myers: I liked Stalone. He was very nice. I worked in five movies with him.

Barry Klein: All Rocky movies?

Jim Myers: No, the first three were Rocky movies and I worked in "Fist" as a strikebreaker waiving around a chain busting heads, and then I worked at another thing he did - "Paradise Alley". I was all running through that as a sort if an extra part. Every time he'd look at a string - you would see me on it. But nothing important, you know! But he paid important, that was the main thing. Jane Fonda - I worked on about five movies with her and quite a few others. They are all real nice people. You'd walk into a nightclub or a restaurant and you would see ten people you knew from working in the business and they would all waive and say hi. Nobody would snub you. Nobody would put you down because you yourself wasn't a star and I certainly was far from a star. But I worked all the time and as often as I wanted to because they knew I was pretty good.

Dan Musante: Quite modest.

Jim Myers: Quite modest.

Barry Klein: Well it sounds like you had a great 20 years there. I hope you have at least another great 20 years in Bonita Springs, in this beautiful home, in this beautiful view with this beautiful river. I hope you have nothing but happiness and pleasure for many years to come, Jim.

Jim Myers: Did this thing click yet - we still have five minutes. What do you want to talk about?

Dan Musante: You can talk about anything you want.

Jim Myers: If you think that's far enough, fine. If you want to go any further, that's up to you. I also have a black belt in Karate. Should we talk about that?

Barry Klein: When you were in "Fist" which was like a teamsters type of a movie, I was thinking that you looked like you could have been a real tough guy in your day.

Jim Myers: I worked in a lot of - I did a lot of stunts in film work and that was one of them. Basically, before I went to Hollywood, I was sitting in a very nice office I had in Philadelphia and the doctor was working on me and I'm fat and heavy from sitting behind a desk for a few years, so I belong to a gymnasium - the one the late Grace Kelly's brother owns - it was called the Broadwood in Philadelphia, and I joined that and I used to go in there for a swim and to work out a little bit and guy named Terry Uka Ogasaki came in from Japan who could speak very little English, but he was rated among the 5 best Karate men in the world. He formed a class there for fat business executives. About 20 or 30 of us joined. I loved it. I really got into it. I love Karate. I think it's added 10 to 20 years to my life. I honestly believe that.

Dan Musante: Besides your work, what other hobbies have you had?

Jim Myers: Between acting and writing and Karate, that's about the life. That's about it.

Dan Musante: What does it feel like? You would just be clicking a TV show or you will go to an establishment or a restaurant and you hear your song from a distance.

Jim Myers: It feels good. Naturally. It happens hundreds of times worldwide. I was sitting with the late Bob Hunter, an actor from Hollywood, and the two of us had decided to go to Acapulco. So we fly into Mexico City and spend two or three days there sightseeing, and then you get on a bus and you ride through the mountains to Acapulco. But on the way you stop half way and you're in a little bit of a town - a hundred houses on the side of the mountain - and we were in this little villa or hotel or whatever you want \to call it - it's nothing like Clinton would picture a hotel as - we were there sitting and eating a nice dinner they had prepared for us and all of a sudden out of this stillness you could hear "One Two Three O'Clock Four O'Clock Rock, Five Six Seven O'Clock Eight O'Clock Rock, Nine Ten Eleven O'Clock Twelve O'Clock Rock, We're going to rock around the clock tonight" But it was scratchy like a '78. So I get up and I trace the sound. Where it was coming from was a little beat up old radio in the kitchen from the little local radio station.

Dan Musante: No kidding!

Jim Myers: So that's the way it kept coming all the time. I'd be laying in bed in Berlin and put the radio on beside the bed and listen to Rock Around the Clock. All over the world that happened to me, and I feel very good about it. I was happy that I was able to contribute something to lighten other people's lives.

Dan Musante: Let me ask you a question. What advice do you give people that are in the music industry now a days that want to make a mark like you've done? What advice do you give them?

Jim Myers: To do what?

Dan Musante: To do what you've done. Make a mark like that.

Jim Myers: You mean all of it. We haven't even touched on the army days or the book that I wrote called "Hell Is A Foxhole" that sold pretty well. I hit that in the beginning a little bit, I spent a lot of time in combat.

Dan Musante: You wrote a book?

Jim Myers: Yes. "Hell Is A Foxhole".

Dan Musante: When did it come out?

Jim Myers: It came out about 30 years ago. It sold about 3,000 copies, which is fair. Plus it was syndicated in several newspapers - the entire book.

Dan Musante: If I come across it in a used bookstore I will be knocking on your door for an autograph.

Jim Myers: I wish you could fine one. I have about three left and I am not parting with them.

Barry Klein: Do we have time to go around and look?

Jim Myers: Pick anything you want as long as it don't click off we'll keep it rolling.

Barry Klein: As a matter of fact, this is about to go off. Hang on a second. Okay we are rocking around the Rock Around the Clock Museum right now with Jim Myers.

Jim Myers: As you can see there are quite a few pictures on the walls including this big one here - I played in the movie and they wanted me to play an executive, so they wanted a picture on the wall behind the desk for the set, so they had one of the leading artist on the West Coast, a black guy by the way, draw it. He had works hanging up in museums all along the West Coast - so he drew this picture here and they used it in the movie, and they gave it to me after it was over. A lot of things I have here were presented to me after the pictures were over that I worked in.

Dan Musante: Did anybody ever tell you that you look a lot like Jackie Gleason?

Jim Myers: No. But they tell me I look like Clark Gable. And they told me I look like Mickey Shaunasey, but you wouldn't remember him. He was an actor from Philly and he made about a dozen pictures. About ten people - Orson Wells in a couple of cases and so on.

Dan Musante: That's okay. My grandpa looked like George Raft.

Jim Myers: The thing that impressed me the most about George Raft is the $25,000 he got for leaning against a bar flipping coins in one of the James Bond movies, if you remember that. You turn him over and now it's a typical gangster pose. I love that.

Barry Klein: Wasn't he offered the original lead in one of the movies and didn't take it - "Casablanca" or one of those movies.

Jim Myers: I have no idea. How can you top what happened to "Casablanca?" Everything was perfection. Everything. Every little guy that did two lines in the picture was perfectly cast. When you do that you've got yourself a winner.

Barry Klein: Every scene was memorable.

Jim Myers: Just like Gone With the Wind - same way.

Here's a wall with some pictures on it here. Mae West and a lot of other people. Jimmy Stewart ...

Barry Klein: Here's Michael Caine who just won his second Oscar. Who's this handsome guy [it was Jim]?

Jim Myers: That's a gangster picture I played one of the leads in, in a wheelchair with a Thompson submachine gun blasting away. Cheap little picture, but it was fun doing. This is a picture in Spain. I did a comedy in Spain when I over there. George C. Scott, Dolly Parton, you name it. Here's from the "Oh God!" picture I told you about.

Barry Klein: Kirk Douglas, and that's an old picture of George Segal there.

Jim Myers: It might be old but how old could it be - 30 years? I don't know when I took it. Here's Jane Fonda.

Barry Klein: Glen Ford, Clint Eastwood, Liza Minelli, John Denver, Woody Allen.

Jim Myers: Yep, I worked on one of his pictures.

Barry Klein: Dustin Hoffman. Now what was this from?

Jim Myers: I did a picture called Birch Interfill up in eastern Pennsylvania one time and that was me as a minister. I had a flock.

Barry Klein: It looks like something from American Gothic. Here's Charles Bronson, Robert Mitchum.

Jim Myers: Jack Lemmon and one of the great females!

Barry Klein: Helen Hayes

Jim Myers: Here's my room with some other pictures hung up in it over here. Most of them are - there's my cameras. Being you're a photographer you can appreciate them. That's what most of these pictures were taken with - these cameras. Here is a picture of the house itself that you saw in the web site. I played William Shakespeare there in a low budget picture. It took like three days to prepare the makeup. That's me as an FBI man there, a western there.

Barry Klein: How many movies would you say you appeared in?

Jim Myers: Over 300 including TV shows/stories.

Barry Klein: We didn't see your office.

Jim Myers: This is Gregory Peck and Garson.

Barry Klein: Was that "MacArthur?"

Jim Myers: Yes. I played a general with him. Here's a good actor. Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Rock Hudson - I worked about 4 pictures with him.

Barry Klein: Here's a very impressive looking office.

Jim Myers: This just came out and sold a few million this Christmas. "It's Time to Rock - We're Going to Rock Around the Clock Tonight:

Barry Klein: This is a Sesame Street Rock and Roll Ernie and he is singing Rock Around the Clock. Does some of the ringing of the cash registers filter back to you on this?

Jim Myers: Every time.

Barry Klein: It's wonderful to see somebody who was able to be rewarded for their work over the years.

Jim Myers: I walked into Target yesterday to pick something up and there was him - I pushed his button - still selling very well they tell me.

Dan Musanate: I have to ask you - that's Al Martino isn't it?

Jim Myers: That's Al Martino, a very close and good friend.

Dan Musante: That was my grandmother's favorite singer. She loved Al Martino.

Jim Myers: Well, I helped make him a star.

Dan Musante: If she was alive today, I think she'd hug you.

Jim Myers: Well, he got in trouble with the mob in New York.

Barry Klein: And ironically he played the Frank Sinatra-type roll in the Godfather.

Jim Myers: Yes, years later. They wouldn't let him do it otherwise. But they went ahead and would do certain things and he said I'm from Philadelphia and I don't need you guys. Well nobody's from Philadelphia and don't need the mob in those days, including Frank Sinatra. So anyhow, they beat him up in Orange, New Jersey I think it was, beat the hell out of him, and when he recovered in the hospital he took off for Europe and stayed there five years. When he came back he said Jim, I recording again, but nobody will play my records. I said okay let's get in your car and we drove to about 30 radio stations, and each time I walked in they all knew me of course, and they would play his record is I asked them to.

Barry Klein: An integral part of Jim's office here is a reel-to reel and cassette recorder, CD's, all kind of music things. Do you know Rockin' Ronny Weiser, the fellow from Rollin' Rock Records that recorded Marshall Lytle's Comets' last CD, he's still rockin' around the clock.

"T": He was an Italian immigrant.

Jim Myers: Here's the cover of "Hell is a Foxhole", the book we were talking about.

Dan Musante: Have you every performed Rock Around the Clock in public yourself, I mean sang it in front of an audience?

Jim Myers: Many times - radio, television - many times. But I figure every time I do you have to pay me. I was doing a show in Canada on CBS a couple of years ago and the person escorting me around for the company said "Well will you sing something?" I said "Well you played Rock Around the Clock, what do you want me to sing?" She said, "Well one of your other songs." I said "Wait a minute, I'll let you know in a minute." So I asked the girl "Do I get paid for this?" So what did I sing - "Pen Pen Quaker Pen - to the right with a goose quill pen, took the Bible in his hand, working for the Lord in freedom land" - I got paid for that - $250.00.
Photos: Dan Newcomb (941) 841-2655


Editor's Note: Barry Klein writes for the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, and his book, "Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll", was published in 1997.

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