Joe Bennett and the Sparkletones

Songs that nobody plays!

Gary: “I loved this group and watched them on American Bandstand all of the Time….

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Joe Bennett and The Sparkletones

(with Elvis)

  • Joe Bennett – vocals, guitar (February 21, 1940 – June 27, 2015)
  • Wayne Arthur – double bass
  • Howard “Sparky” Childress – guitar
  • Jimmy “Sticks” Denton – drums

Videos:

Black Slacks/


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Black Slacks April 2011/


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Rocket/

Audio:

1957/09/23 /  Black Slacks / ABC-Paramount 9837/ #17 Billboard

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1957/09/23 / Boppin’ Rock Boogie / B-side of Black Slacks / ABC-Paramount 9837

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1958 /  Penny Loafers and Booby Sox /  #42 Billboard

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1957 /  Rocket / B-side of Penny Loafers and Bobby Socks /

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1958 / Cotton Pickin’ Rocker

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1958 / I Dig You Baby / B-side of Cotton Pickin’ Rocker /

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1958 / Little Turtle

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1958/ Late Again

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1959 / Boys do Cry

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The Sparkletones formed in 1956 at Cowpens High School in Spartanburg when the group’s members were between the ages of 13 and 16.

In January 1957, Bob Cox, a talent scout for CBS, held auditions at the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium; The Sparkletones took first prize at the event.

Convinced they would be a success, Cox quit CBS to manage the group and flew them out to New York City to sign with ABC/Paramount.

At their first recording session they recorded the tune “Black Slacks“, with Paul Anka (who had been recording in the studio earlier that day) as an uncredited background singer! Bandmembers Joe Bennett and Jimmy Denton co-wrote “Black Slacks”.

Released as a single soon after, “Black Slacks” became a local hit and slowly built up national recognition as the group set out on a tour that crisscrossed the U.S. several times over, also performing on The Ed Sullivan Show, American Bandstand, and The Nat King Cole Show.

Black Slacks” remained on the U.S. charts for over four months (a rarity at that time), peaking at #17 on the Billboard Hot 100 late in 1957.

The Sparkletones’ next single – “Penny Loafers and Bobby Sox” – reached #42 on the Billboard charts early in 1958 (staying on the charts for 8 weeks), while “Cotton Pickin’ Rocker“, “We’ve Had It“, “Late Again“, “Run Rabbit Run” – all failed to chart over the course of the next three years.

In 1959, their contract with ABC-Paramount expired, and they released four singles on Paris Records, and only the single “Boys Do Cry” reached the charts, peaking at #105 in 1959. Around this time original guitarist Sparky Childress and drummer Jimmy Denton left, and were replaced by Gene Brown and Donnie Seay respectively.

The group broke up about 1961; Joe Bennett continued in music as a publisher and teacher, and Childress played Country in the 1960s.

The bandmembers did occasional reunions in South Carolina into the 2000’s. A compilation LP was released by MCA Records in 1980, and European bootleg CD reissues were put out in the 1990s.

–o–

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8 responses to “Joe Bennett and the Sparkletones

  1. OMG – I missed this one somehow. THESE guys were my favorite band in the 50s. Penny Loafers may have been the first 45 I ever bought! (Great guitar break, eh?) And I never knew Paul Anka sang on Black Slacks! I remember watching The Ed Sullivan Show one night, expecting to see my OTHER favorite act, Buddy Holly & the Crickets, and instead the Sparkletones came on. I was freaked out (I may have been screaming), seeing them live for the first time! I eventually tracked down Joe Bennett on the internet 10 years ago and introduced myself as the biggest Sparkletones fan in America circa 1959, and that I went to NYC with a friend specifically to shop for Sparkletones singles at the age of 12. (There I found Cotton-Picking Rocker, I’ve Had It, and Little Turtle!) I told him that when I first heard the Beatles in late December, 1963, I thought it was the Sparkletones! (He loved that.) After all, the Sparkletones may have been the first 2-vocal-4-piece rock band to make it, preceding the Fab Four by 7 years. And they were GREAT performers and solid players. Joe told me about the early rock tours his band did with the greats, including Tom & Jerry (Simon & Garfunkel) who were so nervous the Sparkletones had to nudge them out on stage! Joe confirmed – at the time – his band still played reunions almost every year, I think in Spartanburg.

    • It was soooo cooool that you got in touch with Joe Bennett, and to hear that he is still playing. I think there’s a YouTube video that shows him doing one of those reunion shows. It was also a very interesting story about the Sparkletones nudging “Tom & Jerry” (Simon & Garfunkel) to go on stage… and look what they became! I’m digging this “inside” information.

  2. Big record ! Even the flip side was good, ‘Boppin’ Rock Boogie’ with a unique turn around on the 5 which was unheard of during these rock and roll 12 bar days. Good stuff………..Ron.

  3. I LOVED “Cotton Pickin’ Rocker.” I’m sure I heard it on the radio before I bought it, so I’m surprised it didn’t register on the charts. Maybe it made it onto the Boston charts. The chorus line was: “I’m a cotton pickin’ rocker from (hic!) way back.”

    The Sparkletones were such dynamic performers with good original material I was amazed they weren’t bigger successes.

  4. I know Joe and visit with him every Saturday that I can.

  5. To ALL: Joe had to quit teaching since being diagnosed with Parkinsons and enduring some mild to moderate Parkinsons-related dementia. Music therapy is very effective for dementia patients and is absolutely crucial for patients who ARE musicians themselves. Joe and I play every Saturday that I can still and I have been bringing some of his prior students to jam with us. Although I am not a trained professional, my bandmate is a Certified Music Therapist. Somedays, Joe’s not on his game at all but somedays, he rips off leads like he was 17! Last Saturday was one of those. My best birthday present ever – Joe played and sang happy birthday and then we picked some Buddy Holly and Beatles!
    Keep Rockin Fellas!

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