PASSINGS: Franny Beecher

Franny Beecher, 92, a guitarist for Bill Haley and the Comets, who helped kick off the rock 'n' roll era with the hit "Rock Around the Clock" in 1955, died in his sleep Monday night at a nursing home near Philadelphia, his daughter Pauline Grinstead said.

The Comets, whose hits also included "See You Later, Alligator," are credited by some music historians with having recorded the first rock 'n' roll song in 1953 with "Crazy Man, Crazy," according to the group's biography on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website.

Francis Beecher was born Sept. 29, 1921, in Norristown, Pa., started playing guitar before crowds when he was 17 and continued until he was 90; before the Comets, he performed with Buddy Greco and Benny Goodman, his daughter said.

Although Philadelphia session musician Danny Cedrone played the lead guitar part on the original recording of "Rock Around the Clock" before his death in 1954, Beecher played the signature song for the first time on national television in 1955 and also played with the group in the 1955 film "The Blackboard Jungle."

"Rock Around the Clock" became a hit again nearly 20 years after its release when it was included on the soundtrack of the George Lucas film "American Graffiti."

The Comets broke up in 1962, and Haley died in 1981. Beecher and some of the original members of the Comets reunited in the 1980s and played tour dates around the United States and internationally for years.

Times wire reports

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