A Rockapaedia Obituary
Band: Bill Haley's Comets
Marshall Lytle died aged seventy-nine on 25th May, 2013, of lung cancer at his home in New Port Richey, Florida, United States of America..
Marshall Lytle was born on 1st September, 1933 in Old Fort, North Carolina, U.S.A. He was a guitar player before joining Bill Haley's country music group, The Saddlemen, in 1951. But Marshall Lytle was hired to play double bass for the group, replacing departing musician Al Rex, so Haley taught Marshall Lytle the basics of slap bass playing. Marshall Lytle, who was only a teenager at the time, grew a moustache in order to look a little older, and became a full-time member of The Saddlemen and, in September 1952, he was with the group when they changed their name to Bill Haley & His Comets. Soon after, Marshall Lytle 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.
Marshall Lytle played on all of Bill Haley's recordings between mid-1951 and the summer of 1955, including the epochal "Rock Around the Clock" in 1954. He played a late 1940s model Epiphone B5 upright double bass, purchased in October 1951, for about $275. He used gut strings for the G and D strings while the A and E strings were wound. Marshall 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 Marshall Lytle also developed a stage routine, along with Joey 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.
Marshall was part of the band when they appeared on the NBC Texaco Star Theatre show hosted by Milton Berle and the Ed Sullivan Show on CBS in 1955.
In September 1955, Marshall Lytle, along with drummer Dick Richards and Joey Ambrose, quit The Comets in a salary dispute and formed their own musical group, The Jodimars. Before leaving, Marshall Lytle and his colleagues offered to train their replacements in the art of rock and roll playing, Comets style. Marshall Lytle was succeeded by Al Rex—ironically, the same musician he had originally been hired to replace.
The Jodimars became one of the first rock and roll groups to take up residence in Las Vegas showrooms, but only managed to score minor hits for Capitol Records and, later, smaller labels. By 1958 they had broken up, though Marshall Lytle attempted to continue the group on his own. Marshall 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 1987, six 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 Marshall 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. Marshall Lytle also recorded a solo album in 1993 entitled 'Air Mail Special' backed by members of The Stargazers, a UK rockabilly group; the album was credited to "Marshall and the Shooting Stars".
Marshall Lytle continued to write music, and 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 popular on radio stations in Florida.
On 5th July, 2005, The Comets played a high-profile concert for NASA employees at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California to celebrate the success of the Deep Impact space mission. The next day, the band played to a standing-room-only audience at the Viper Room in West Hollywood; the show ended with Marshall Lytle duetting with Bill Haley's youngest daughter, Gina Haley on "Rock the Joint" and a reprise of "Rock Around the Clock".
As of December 2009, Marshall Lytle retired from performing and touring with the Comets, stating twenty years was a long enough reunion for him, and he wished to try some new things including concentrating on a solo project. In 2009, Marshall Lytle released his memoir, entitled 'Still Rockin' Around The Clock'. At that time, he underwent surgery to remove part of his leg. Despite that setback, Marshall Lytle continued to perform, albeit with other musicians and without the other Comets.
In 2012, Marshall Lytle was inducted as a member of the Comets into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Bill Haley had previously been inducted in 1987, but at the time the Hall did not include backing groups in its inductions; this was rectified in later years, resulting in the Comets and several other backing groups being inducted on their own in 2012.