The clack of the aluminum storm door shutting ricocheted through the quiet suburban neighborhood. I took a step back from the doorway and waited patiently with the rest of the Revelo crew to interview a rock icon hiding in plain sight in Lititz.
We should have been running on rock and roll time; instead, we showed up at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Joey Welz’s door a couple minutes early. I mean, if you’re gonna rock around the clock, you gotta expect visitors to be at least fashionably late. We should have known. The boogie-woogie piano man wasn’t quite ready for us.
After reaching a more respectable time of day, Joey reappears—golden hair still wet from his shower, shuffling barefoot, amped about our interest—and meets us outside before taking us all on a tour of his home-turned-museum.
“I’m busier than a snake in tall grass,” says Joey as we exchange introductions. Fresh off a return flight from Chicago, he may be particularly animated this afternoon; he’s riding a wave of excitement after learning his newest version of Rock Around the Clock (iTunes / Amazon / Google Play) will be released worldwide later in the day. By his own hands, the song—his song—is revamped for a 21st century audience.
“What I did was do it hip-rock—my own creation—in today’s music. It’s hot. I’m gonna start the tour off by playing that when you come in,” says Joey, going on a bit about potential gigs, late night television, and a potential boom in his career.
And so, we go on inside …
Except for the stretch limo and matching Cadillac parked out front bearing Joey’s name and record company, the home is a nondescript rancher built sometime mid-century. Stepping inside is an entirely different experience.
Joey has taken on the role of steward to one of the most iconic rock and roll songs of all time: Rock Around the Clock. Made famous by Bill Haley and His Comets in 1954, Rock Around the Clock is the anthem of 1950s youth. The song reached number one on the US and UK charts and was named on Rolling Stone’s list as one of “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
His home is dedicated to the song. It is literally the Rock Around The Clock Hall of Fame.
Passing through the threshold, we enter the front room; every inch of wall space is covered with photos. There’s a who’s who of rockabilly and 50s rock collaged all around the living space. The tops of the walls are trimmed with Welz wax. In his 62-year career, the Baltimore-born musician has consecutively recorded 60 albums (plus 75 45s and more than 100 CDs) granting him the distinction of being the only musician to do so, of his own accord.
After a brief tickle of the ivories and a Wikipedia-inspired history of The Welz, we move to the other rooms of the house—all of them except his bedroom. Each one is packed with rock and roll memorabilia, music equipment of one shape or sort, and enough old photos to make a collector drool. It is in one of his offices that he grabs a piece of paper and holds it up as if a Christian having found a divine doctrine forever demystifying the presence of God. The pink piece of paper is an ASCAP notice proclaiming Joey the co-author of and rights-bearer to Rock Around the Clock.
His song is the one used in the intro to the television hit “Happy Days,” he says; it’s notably more up-tempo than the 50s hit. Changes to the original and sometimes dated lyrics, like converting “glad rags” to “blue jeans,” are his handiwork.
Joey’s official claim to fame is “the co-writer of the revised version of Rock Around the Clock.”
“I’m always interested in telling the truth. It’s always been that way. People always say, ‘Oh, you wrote Rock Around the Clock.’ And I have to interrupt and say, ‘I didn’t write the original. I co-wrote and revised,’” explains Joey.