Danny Cedrone was born Donato Joseph Cedrone in Jamesville, New York. Cedrone's musical career began in the 1940s, but he came into his own in the early 1950s, first as a session guitarist hired by what was then a country and western musical group based out of Chester, Pennsylvania called Bill Haley and His Saddlemen. In 1951, Cedrone played lead on their recording of "Rocket 88" which is considered one of the first acknowledged rock and roll recordings.
At around this time, Cedrone formed his own group, The Esquire Boys and this is believed to be one of the reasons he never joined Haley's group as a full-time member. In 1952, Cedrone played lead guitar on Haley's version of "Rock the Joint", and his swift guitar solo, which combined a jazz-influenced first half followed by a lightning-fast down-scale run, was a highlight of the recording. (Haley's piano player, Johnny Grande, later described this solo as a "gimmick" that Cedrone often used.)
Cedrone's involvement with the Esquire Boys kept him off of Haley's recordng schedule for most of 1952 and 1953 (noted jazz guitarist Art Ryerson replaced him). During this time, Cedrone made a number of recordings with the Esquires, most notably a version of the Bill Haley composition, "Rock-A-Beatin' Boogie", several years before Haley would record it himself. The Esquire Boys recording of "Rock-A-Beatin' Boogie", released as Guyden 705-A, reached no. 42 on the Cashbox pop singles chart on October 30, 1954. "Rock-A-Beatin' Boogie" would also be recorded by Bill Haley and the Comets in 1955 on Decca, Buddy Morrow on Mercury, Johnny Curtis with the Toppers on Tops, Gabe Drake and his Rockets with the Orchestra under Maury Laws on Prom 1135, Willie Restum and His Music on Capitol, the Deep River Boys on HMV in 1956, Ivor and the Basil Kirchin Band in the UK, Artie Malvin and the Rhythm Rockets on Waldorf Music Hall Records MH 33 149 in 1955 on the Rock and Roll album, Artie Malvin with the Deerhill Dudes on the Waldorf 33 BU 2 Rock 'N Roll Jamboree album in 1958, The Treniers on Okeh 7023, Truck Stop in 1973, Omar Lamparter, The Original Band, The Danish Sharks, The Jodimars in 1955 for Capitol which was unissued, and the Brian Setzer Orchestra in 2000.
Cedrone returned to work with Haley's group in 1954, by which time it had been renamed The Comets. He played a key role in the band's first recording session for Decca Records on April 12, 1954 when they recorded "Rock Around the Clock" in New York City.
According to the book Rock Around the Clock by Jim Dawson, Cedrone had been unable to attend the session rehearsal and was uncertain what to play for the first instrumental break in the song. One of the Comets (accounts differ as to exactly who) suggested Cedrone repeat the solo he'd played on "Rock the Joint". Although Danny's wife Millie and daughter Marie recall an informal rehearsal at their home in South Philadelphia after dinner where the two men ran through a few solos, and the Rock The Joint break was one of them. The resulting solo, which was smoother than the previous recorded version, is widely considered one of the greatest rock and roll guitar solos of all time.
Cedrone was paid only $21 for his work on the session, as at that time Haley chose not to hire a full-time guitarist for his group. Cedrone would also play on the June 7, 1954 recording session for Haley's version of "Shake, Rattle and Roll" although he was not allotted the chance for another notable guitar solo.
On June 17, ten days after this session, Cedrone died of a broken neck after falling down a staircase (some sources say he died of a heart attack). His place as session musician in the Comets was taken by Franny Beecher, who would later graduate to full Comets member.
Eight months after Cedrone's death, "Rock Around the Clock" was included on the opening credits of the film Blackboard Jungle and became the first rock and roll recording to hit the top of the American charts. Subsequently the song was performed on TV many times by Haley and the Comets; on several occasions (depending upon the demands of the program) the band would lip-synch to the 1954 recording. As a result, footage exists of both Bill Haley (on The Milton Berle Show) and Franny Beecher (American Bandstand and the 1956 film, Rock Around the Clock) miming to Cedrone's original solo. Beecher, himself an acclaimed and respected guitarist, did not begin to actually emulate Cedrone's solo until as late as the 1980s. Up until that point, Beecher replaced the down-scale run that Cedrone used to conclude his "Clock" guitar solo with a series of fast arpeggios.
Personal life and legacy
Cedrone had four daughters with wife Millie; in recent years his family has attempted to get Cedrone named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where his guitar has been on display in the Hall since 1998 (this is due to the Hall changing its rules a few years back to allow noted session musicians and backing groups to be admitted separately; at present only Bill Haley (not The Comets or individual members thereof) is a member of the Hall). Numerous guitar players over the years, including Jimi Hendrix, Pete Townshend, Chris Spedding, Brian Setzer, Danny Gatton, Reverend Horton Heat and the group Ten Years After have gone on record as naming Cedrone's solo on "Rock Around the Clock" as an influence on their own work.
Recordings with Haley
Although well-identified with Bill Haley & His Comets, in fact Cedrone only appears on a handful of the group's recordings. This is a list of the known Haley recordings on which Cedrone is either believed to have performed or has been confirmed, including recordings when the band was known as the Saddlemen. Due to a lack of documentation, Cedrone's involvement in recordings from 1951-52 are not confirmed but are supported by anecdotal evidence from surviving musicians, as well as books such as the Haley biographies Sound and Glory by John Haley and John von Hoelle and Bill Haley by John Swenson. (Additional source: Chris Gardner's Bill Haley Database at Bill Haley Central.com)
- "Rocket 88" (June 14, 1951)
- "Tearstains On My Heart" (B-side of above; same recording date)
- "I'm Crying" (August 1951)
- "Pretty Baby" (B-side of above; same recording date)
- "Tag Along" (unreleased recording, August 1951)
- "A Year Ago This Christmas" (October 1951)
- "I Don't Want to Be Alone This Christmas" (B-side of above)
- "Sundown Boogie" (January 1952) - note: the A-side of this recording, "Jukebox Cannonball", does not feature a lead guitar.
- "Rock the Joint" (April 1952) - note: this is the earliest recording on which Cedrone's involvement is definitely confirmed. According to Cedrone's children, he did not perform on the song's B-side, "Icy Heart".
- "Dance With a Dolly" (1952)
- "Rockin' Chair On the Moon" (1952)
- "Stop Beatin' Around the Mulberry Bush" (1952)
- "Real Rock Drive" (1952)
- "Rock Around the Clock" (April 12, 1954)
- "Thirteen Women" (B-side of above)
- "Shake, Rattle and Roll" (June 7, 1954)
- "ABC Boogie" (B-side of above)
Some sources such as Swenson's biography of Haley erroneously indicate that Cedrone performed on "Crazy Man Crazy" and other recordings in 1953, however during these sessions the lead guitar player (per Gardner) was Art Ryerson. According to Gardner's database, a second unreleased recording from the August 1951 recording session may exist, but to date it has yet to be located and identified.
No film footage or live performance recordings of Cedrone performing with the Comets is known to exist, and it is believed that he never performed with the band on stage.
Esquire Boys Discography
- "Darling Come Back To Me"/"Forgetting You" with Kay Karol, Top Tune 447, 1951
- "We Drifted Apart"/"Caravan", Rainbow 188, 1952
- "Rock-A-Beatin' Boogie"[Version #1]/"If It's Love You Want To Borrow" with Kay Karol, Rainbow 200, 1952.
- "Guitar Boogie Shuffle"/"Taboo", Nickelodeon 102, 1953
- "Bobby Sox Jamboree" by The Squires/"St. Louie Blues Walk", Guyden 601, 1953
- "Rock-A-Beatin' Boogie"[Version #2]/"St. Louis Blues", Guyden 705, 1954, #42, Cashbox, October 30, 1954
- Bill Haley and his Comets
- Rock Around the Clock
- Jim Dawson: Rock Around the Clock: The Record That Started the Rock Revolution (Backbeat Books, 2005)
- John W. Haley and John von Hoelle: Sound and Glory (Dyne-American, 1990)
- John Swenson: Bill Haley (Star Books, 1982)
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