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Guitarist Franny Beecher of early rock's Bill Haley and the Comets dies at 92

FILE - This March 21, 2005 file photo shows members of The Comets, from left to right, Marshall Lytle, Franny Beecher, and Joey Ambrose perform at Rock is Fifty party held at the Gibson Guitar Studio in New York. Beecher, lead guitarist for Bill Haley and the Comets, which helped kicked off the rock and roll era with the iconic hit “Rock Around the Clock” in 1955, died Monday, Feb. 25, 2014 in a nursing home near Philadelphia. He was 92. (AP Photo/Adam Rountree, File)

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FILE - This March 21, 2005 file photo shows members of The Comets, from left to right, Marshall Lytle, Franny Beecher, and Joey Ambrose perform at Rock is Fifty party held at the Gibson Guitar Studio in New York. Beecher, lead guitarist for Bill Haley and the Comets, which helped kicked off the rock and roll era with the iconic hit “Rock Around the Clock” in 1955, died Monday, Feb. 25, 2014 in a nursing home near Philadelphia. He was 92. (AP Photo/Adam Rountree, File)

NORRISTOWN, Pa. - Franny Beecher, lead guitarist for Bill Haley and the Comets, which helped kick off the rock and roll era with the hit "Rock Around the Clock" in 1955, has died. He was 92.

Beecher died in his sleep Monday night at a nursing home near Philadelphia, daughter Pauline Grinstead said Tuesday.

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

Beecher, born Francis Beecher in 1921 in Norristown, 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, Grinstead said.

"My dad didn't play music for money. He was no businessman," she said. "He played music for music."

Although Philadelphia session musician Danny Cedrone played 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 films.

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

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

Grinstead said her father also is survived by two sons and six grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

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