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Joe Bennett & the Sparkletones on Nat King Cole TV Show doing ROCKET & BLACK SLACKS

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, Jan 28, 2010.

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  1. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter


    Back on Euu-toob after it vanished for awhile.

    Dig this great 4:00 kine clip.

    Watch my friend (and SH Forum member) Joe Bennett's great lead guitar on these two songs. JOE RULES!!!

    Joe and Sparky playing matching two-tone Sunburst Fender Stratocasters into the sunset in Spartanburg, SC. Whenever I play my Strat I'm always looking for that exact tone. Love it.

    Thanks Indy Mike for finding this again..

    Watch it now, click on the link above!

    Attached Files:

  2. boboquisp

    boboquisp Magic Prism Eye

    NE Ohio
    Cool stuff daddy-o! Thanks for the share Mr. H.
  3. jgreen

    jgreen Well-Known Member

    St. Louis,MO.
    The Sparkletones were the rockiness group of the 50s!
    I always loved the leads in their songs but thought it might be Grady Martin or somebody.
    Joe's lead here isn't perfect but it shows that he was on the records. Thanks!
  4. indy mike

    indy mike Forum Pest

    This clip has the Nat King intro intact - were there other rock and roll groups that played on his show?
  5. Thanks for sharing. :cheers:
  6. indy mike

    indy mike Forum Pest

  7. docwebb

    docwebb Forum Resident

    Great dance moves while playing the guitar!
  8. indy mike

    indy mike Forum Pest

    Those guys were all teenagers - they had a lot of poise for being so young.
  9. Elton

    Elton I Hope Being Helpful, Will Make Me Look Cool

    Carson Ca.
    Way to go, Joe!

    Great find, Mike!

    Thanks, Steve. :wave:
  10. Hawkman

    Hawkman Supercar Gort Staff

    New Jersey

    Now I need to find a good cd collection AND add those songs to my 'want list' at record shows.
  11. indy mike

    indy mike Forum Pest

    No CD compilation of their work is available - the "Collectibles" vinyl LP that Steve put together in the 1980's gathers their best ABC-Paramount material, but that set never made it to digital.
  12. bw

    bw Forum Resident

    Cincinnati, OH, US
    The Sparkletones deserve an Audio Fidelity 24k compilation...in mono of course!

    Thanks for posting.
  13. Dinsdale

    Dinsdale Dixie Fried

    South Carolina
    I had not seen the whole clip before...thanks for posting!

    Joe Bennett is one of the nicest guys (and most patient guitar teachers) on the planet. I wish he still played more public gigs - he's such a gifted guitarist to this day. It's amazing what he was doing at such a young age.

    Must've been something in the water back in the day...Hank Garland, Joe Bennett, and a little later, Toy Caldwell all grew up in close proximity.
  14. apileocole

    apileocole Lush Life Gort

    Gifted, skilled - and with infectious enthusiasm. Boy that just puts a bright smile on my face and makes me wanna move (and play guitar). :cool:
  15. AudioGirl

    AudioGirl Active Member

    Los Angeles
  16. apileocole

    apileocole Lush Life Gort

    Honestly I'm not sure, maybe one of us Nat Cole buffs has a list to reference. The Nat King Cole Show ought to be on a DVD set. Forum member Vidiot has even made quality transfers to a modern video format. Most of it is just a-sittin'. It's a bit of cultural history. Lots of talent was on that show, as we can see.
  17. Go Joe Go! :edthumbs:

    Nice condensed biography by Bruce Eder on AM.

    "The Sparkletones' story should have been a movie. For a lot of listeners, they were and are what rockabilly music was really all about -- four kids from the south, none older than 16 and one as young as 13 when they started, getting together and making fast, sometimes raunchy sounds, literally the soundtrack to their own teen years, and having a lot of fun and getting an adventure out of it. Their music at its best sounded as freewheeling as their approach to it really was, and they were rewarded in October of 1957 with a number 17 placement on the Billboard charts for the only record they ever did chart, "Black Slacks."

    The number 17 spot tells only part of the story, however. "Black Slacks" stayed on the charts for more than four months, selling a lot of copies in that time, well enough to keep the band going for three years while they vainly searched for another hit. It was one of the earliest successes for ABC-Paramount Records, a label that had been formed only two years earlier, just as rock & roll was breaking out and, along with "At the Hop" by Danny & the Juniors, helped the label succeed when no one thought that was possible. Joe Bennett (vocals, lead guitar), Wayne Arthur (upright bass), Howard "Sparky" Childress (guitar), and Jimmy "Sticks" Denton (drums) ranged in ages from 13 to 16 when they first got together, and all had been raised in Spartanburg, S.C. All four attended Cowpens High School in Spartanburg, and came from respectable, middle-class families. Indeed, in contrast to a lot of kids who wanted to play music for a living, all four members of the Sparkletones were regular churchgoers, and Joe Bennett, the singer and lead guitarist, was one of the leaders of the Church Youth Movement in South Carolina.

    They'd all been friends and had gotten together in 1956. Elvis was hitting it big nationally then, becoming a bona fide superstar (even if no one was using that word yet), and Carl Perkins had burned up the chart early that year with "Blue Suede Shoes," and thousands of working class kids from the south, in particular, now saw rock & roll as a way to grab some glory and some big money. That was the Sparkletones' situation; they loved the music and playing it, but they were all hoping for some success at doing it. Chances are that the group might've toiled in anonymity for a few months and broken up, but for sheer luck.

    A CBS talent agent named Bob Cox came through Spartanburg and was auditioning young performers for the network. The Sparkletones were one of dozens of amateur outfits from all over the state who turned up at Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium in January of 1957.

    They took first prize, and were good enough that they took Cox's career at CBS. He resigned his position to become their manager, and two days later the quartet, who'd never been out of their home state before, were on a plane to New York City, and a few days after that they were signed to ABC-Paramount. Ironically, their first recording session followed one by another new ABC artist, Paul Anka, who was cutting "Diana." He even sang background on "Black Slacks," the group's debut single, co-authored by Joe Bennett and Jimmy Denton, cut that day.

    "Black Slacks" was a stunner: fast-paced, with rippling lead guitar, and filled with teen catch-phrases of the period, it sounded a little like the Everly Brothers on uppers, with a guitar part that was somewhere midway between Carl Perkins and Buddy Holly. It was the almost perfect song at just the right moment to get the band a foothold, but it needed to be worked, and that where Bob Cox came in.

    Cox was not only the group's manager but, in effect, their legal guardian as he booked them on an extended series of concerts and personal appearances that stretched for many months. The single first broke on radio in their hometown, but gradually it spread to other stations. Encouraging radio play meant doing more concerts and hitting more towns and cities, in the hope of getting the attention of disc jockeys -- the quartet tooled around the country in a 10,000-mile trek that took them to California and back in a Desoto, and a second car, with bandmembers (including 14-year-old Sparky) sharing the driving. It was real barnstorming, but with good gigs lined up, including an extended engagement in Las Vegas -- Elvis Presley came to see them once during that period. They also did television shows, including The Nat King Cole Show, American Bandstand, and The Ed Sullivan Show, with the latter the culmination of their performing career. Those appearances allowed the Sparkletones to cross paths with the likes of the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, and Bobby Darin, among numerous others.

    Unfortunately, for the group, which released records both as Joe Bennett & the Sparkletones, and as the Sparkletones, they could never come up with a successful follow-up to "Black Slacks." Some of the problem had to do with timing. Rockabilly really didn't hold the charts or the public's interest for too long: Carl Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes" started the boomlet, and it can be argued that "Black Slacks" a year and nine months later ended it. By 1958, the public's taste was changing, and the group's sound was no longer in synch with the mass public or what radio disc jockeys were looking for (Carl Perkins never had a second hit, either).

    They soldiered on for three years, issuing "Penny Loafers and Bobby Sox," "Cotton Pickin' Rocker," "We've Had It," "Late Again," and "Run Rabbit Run," good, lively songs, none of which charted. Indeed, some of the group's B-sides were even better, such as "Rocket," which is pure, high-voltage rockabilly but manages to display elements of a Black vocal sound as well. By 1959, their contract with ABC-Paramount was up, and they moved to the Paris label, for four singles that did no better. By 1960, they'd also modified their sound somewhat, adding more of a harmony vocal component on numbers like "Beautiful One," but they still performed and recorded with a lot of energy.

    The group's membership remained remarkably stable for the first three years, but the boys had to get on with their lives and educations. Howard "Sparky" Childress left to pursue a separate career, and was replaced by Gene Brown, who was a drummer but joined on guitar. Jimmy Denton left to finish high school, and Brown took over on the drums, while Donnie Seay came in as second guitarist. The band's history came to a close around 1960-1961, and the bandmembers, having seen a considerable amount of the world and adventure as teenagers, returned to more conventional lives.

    Joe Bennett joined the Air Force and later worked as an air traffic controller, although as co-author of "Black Slacks," he retained ties to the music business through publishing, and taught music as well. Childress worked in country music in the early '60s and worked in sales, Wayne Arthur sang with a gospel group in his spare time, and Denton ran an auto parts store. Donnie Seay remained in music as a guitarist, and Gene Brown, after a stint in the paratroopers, became a corporate security director. In recent years, several members of the group have reunited informally in the area around Spartanburg. "Black Slacks" was revived by Robert Gordon in the '70s, and was later picked up by Disney for use in the movie The Borrowers Down Under, and it gets played frequently as a rockabilly classic. MCA's release of a ten-song Sparkletones LP in the early '80s sparked some interest in the group, although the company has never been willing to put out a Sparkletones CD.

    The bootleggers have taken care of that oversight -- although that fails to benefit the bandmembers -- and the Sparkletones today are immortalized as members of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame."

  18. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Thanks for that. You remembered how much I love that song.:love:

    It's very interesting (to me) how Joe Bennett's guitar tone was so different from Buddy Holly. After all, they recorded at the same time (but not at the same place), played the exact same guitar (a two-tone maple neck Sunburst Fender Stratocaster) and went through the same type of Fender tweed amp.

    Joe's tone is dirtynaughty and Buddy's is mainly cleannaughty.

    Fascinating, Captain!
  19. Propinquity

    Propinquity Forum Resident

    Gravel Switch, KY
    We need a reunion tour!
  20. indy mike

    indy mike Forum Pest

    Sort of reminds me a bit of the tone Sonny Burgess got over at Sun - little amp cranked up just a bit too high. :cool:
  21. ks45

    ks45 New Member

    There was a German CD collection from 1995 on Sparkletone records

  22. action pact

    action pact Music Omnivore

    Joe Bennett's a forum member??? WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!

    My original 45 of "Penny Loafers and Bobby Sox" is a prized jewel in my 45 collection. I was just spinning my Steve Hoffman-mastered Sparkletones LP a few days ago. GREAT ROCK'N'ROLL!!!!!!!!!!!

    Yeah, Joe got some ferocious sounds out of his Strat/Bassman combo. It sounds to me like he was using some heavy-duty flatwounds on that geetar. You can't get such a huge sound on a Strat with light gauge, roundwound strings, that's fer shur.
  23. JohnnyH

    JohnnyH Forum Resident

    The 'Trademark of Quality' looks a bit dubious... grey market?
  24. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    ya think?
  25. Propinquity

    Propinquity Forum Resident

    Gravel Switch, KY
    That Sparkletone CD has decent sound. For a while, it was advertised on Bear Family's website.
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