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His Life and Career In the Entertainment Industry

    Boyd Bennett, a
    Rock and Roll Pioneer

Boyd Bennett was a pioneer in the music industry. He will be missed by thousands of people he touched with not only his unique music, but also his caring, giving sensitivity to people. In 1955, he wrote and sang the first two teenage rock & roll hits "Seventeen" and "My Boy Flattop". Over 3 million copies were sold, instantly making him wealthy beyond his wildest dreams.

"Seventeen" and "My Boy Flattop"
Revolutionized the Music Industry

"Seventeen" was the first rock & roll song created for teenage girls. "My Boy Flattop" focused on teenage boys. Boyd's songs revolutionized the music industry. They created an entirely new sound. Teenagers suddenly became a huge marketing focus.
          Boyd was demonstrating that cutting edge sensitivity that marked his career and his business career. Boyd understood people and had a gift for knowing what they wanted. He listened to them and learned how to meet their needs.



 

Biography
Boyd Bennett's Musical Career
Boyd Bennett was born in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, December 7, 1924. He was raised in the town of Goodlettsville North Davidson County, TN, just outside of Nashville. His family was very musically oriented.
          Boyd's grandfather instructed members of local churches how to read music and sing biblical songs. He taught Boyd to read shape note music from church hymnals before he could actually read the English printed lyrics.
          Boyd began singing gospel songs with his grandfather at 4 years of age. He grew up singing gospel music with local quartets. During the hard times of his youth, the aftermath of the Great Depression, Boyd played the guitar and sang outside of the old-time Honky Tonks for whatever donations he could muster from patrons.
          At the age of 16, in 1941, Boyd's music career was interrupted for four years by the outbreak of World War II. While in service, he perfected the art of playing the guitar.
          Boyd trained at the San Diego Naval Training Center and served on different Navy troop transports. He suffered a severe leg wound in the Solomon Islands. Unfortunately, he did not realize until later that his lungs and those of all his shipmates were filled with deadly asbestos dust from the insulation on the exposed pipes.
          This lethal asbestos dust disabled and eventually killed many men who served on these ships years later. Pulmonary fibrosis and mesothelioma (cancer of the lungs) became a fatal curse of the sailors that served on navy ships during World War II. Boyd is a miracle survivor, due to alternative medicine therapies and the grace of God. He survived pulmonary fibrosis for 20 years.
          After the war, Boyd sang in nightclubs nightly. He continually impressed his audiences with the depth of his repertoire of songs, instrumental versatility and voice quality. He effortlessly fulfilled the audience's musical requests.
          During this time, Boyd worked in the music industry and performed with a number of different bands. He had a temporary gig as a drummer and singer with a band led by Francis Craig. Unfortunately, Boyd could not make a decent living playing at the nightclubs so he supplemented his income by working as a disk jockey and radio announcer for local radio stations. Soon he was a famous local radio personality.
          In the early 50's, a friend in Owensboro, Kentucky who owned a record store introduced him to a Columbia Records executive. The company liked Boyd's songs and signed him to his first record contract.
          His big break in show business came when he was performing regularly on a local radio station as a disk jockey, announcer, and singer. He assembled a band named the "Southlanders". They created a unique sound similar to western swing. There was a little honky tonk attitude in the music. Boyd soon reformed and renamed his band, " The Rockets".
          The members of "Boyd Bennett and His Rockets" were also famous musicians in their own right. They played all types of music and were considered a hotel type band, not specifically rock and roll, rockabilly or pop.
          Jim Muzey, known as "Big Moe", played the trumpet extremely well. At 425 pounds, he was one of the funniest men Boyd ever performed with. M.D. Allen, quite the opposite of "Big Moe", weighed only 110 pounds. He played the guitar and was a great comedian. Kenny Cobb, played the bass fiddle and was considered one of the best in the country. Boots Randolph, now famous for his saxophone expertise, contributed greatly to the quality music produced by "The Rockets".
          Jimmy McDaniels, was an incredible piano player and pioneer in his own right. He was the first black musician to tour with a multi-racial band through the Midwest and South. Boyd constantly battled racism across the country. Some clubs would allow Jimmy to play in the band but not allow him to eat in the dining room. Boyd quickly solved the problem whenever it reared its ugly head.
          During the early 50's, Boyd Bennett and his "Rockets" performed consistently at local dances and on variety TV shows. In 1952, while working at WAVE-TV Louisville, KY, Boyd came up with the brilliant idea of a musical variety show called "Boyd Bennett and His Space Buddies".
          For Foster Brooks, a famous comedian, this was his first big break in show business. The show was a take off of the "Gene Autry Show". Instead of singing cowboys, it was singing space cadets. The humor, music, and originality made the show a great hit with local fans. Unfortunately, the owner of the station was not so farsighted and the show was cancelled after only seven shows (see picture and story below).
          The next couple of years they performed at numerous dances and shows in Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio area. Every Saturday night you could see 1,500 to 2,000 people in the Rustic Ballroom in Jasper, Indiana. Boyd and his group played there on a regular basis for a number of years.
          "Boyd Bennett and His Rockets" eventually came to the attention of Sid Nathan, owner of King Records. They produced a couple of mediocre country hits "Time and Hopeless Case" on the King Label.
          In 1955, the same year "Bill Haley and the Comets" topped the pop music chart with Rock Around the Clock, Boyd created a new sound while playing the drums during a number of recording sessions with such musicians as Earl Bostick, Bill Doggett, and "Otis Williams and The Charms".
          Boyd realized country music was not the best music for future success. He began to experiment with songs that would appeal to teenagers. Boyd and his band rented the King Record's studio to produce revolutionary new songs. They recorded Poison Ivy, You upset Me Baby and Boogie at Midnight. When sales topped 100,000 copies on each session, Boyd leased the masters to King Record Company. Singles were then re-released under King Records. They eventually signed Boyd to a contract.
          In 1955, "Boyd Bennett and His Rockets" hit pay dirt. They produced the chart topper, "Seventeen" and the rest is history.
          Boyd wanted to lease the master to Syd Nathan, but Syd was not interested. He did not think teenagers had enough money to buy records.
          Boyd convinced Henry Glover, who was Syd Nathan's assistant, that Seventeen would be a big hit. Henry made one of the best decisions of his life. While Sid was in Florida on a vacation, he released Seventeen.
          During the first three months after the release of Seventeen, Boyd and his band traveled all over the country being interviewed by disk jockeys. He used a very effective marketing technique to get his record air time. He gave each disk jockey a personally autographed copy.
          Bill Randall, a disk jockey in Cleveland, Ohio, was primarily responsible for the initial exposure on the airwaves that made Seventeen a big hit. After Bill Randall played it continuously as the number one record on his dance party shows, Allen Freed, in New York, followed suit. Boyd performed for different groups almost every night.
          During the first year, "Seventeen" was a blockbuster hit in the U.S., Boyd performed with many bands. "Bill Haley and the Comets" appeared regularly with Boyd's band. The promoters generated large crowds by selling the idea of a "Battle of Bands". All shows sold outstanding room only. People thought "Boyd Bennett and His Rockets" and "Bill Haley and the Comets" were competing on stage to determine who was the best band.
          While working in NY during Christmas of 1955, Boyd was offered an audition for some western TV shows. The two shows were Maverick and Wyatt Erp. Boyd decided to stay with Rock & Roll. It was during this time, Boyd wrote "My Boy Flat Top".
          In 1956, Boyd and his "Rockets" provided musical and lyrical support for Moon Mullican on the classic rockabilly single Seven Nights To Rock. The "Rockets" had one more successful single in 1956 with Blue Suede Shoes. In 1957 and 1958, they recorded several regional hits "Hit That Jive" and "High School Hop".
          In 1959, Boyd signed with Mercury records. That year he had another minor hit record called, Boogie Bear. After a series of unsuccessful singles, Boyd realized the time had come. He realized he was too old for the current rock & roll audience.
          At the ripe old age of 31, Boyd was considered a grandpa by most of his fans who were under 16 years of age. The age differential was just too great. Boyd wisely decided to retire in 1960 to raise his family.
          Boyd's early records are extremely rare and command a large price on the collector's music market. The reason is King Records had very low overhead cause of their total control of their music products from the beginning to end. At one site, the artists were recorded, masters produced, records pressed, album covers designed and printed and all music products warehoused and shipped. They could economically produce records in very small numbers, sometimes as few as 50. This is why so many of the King Records are extremely rare.


 

Original Releases
Date & Source, Titles {& References to LP/CD List}
1955/Jan. 15, Waterloo - I've Had Enough
1955/Feb., You Upset Me Baby, - Poison Ivy, - Boogie At Midnight, Everlovin'
1955/May 14, Seventeen, Little Ole You - All
1955/May 28, Tennessee Rock And Roll - Oo-Oo-Oo
1955/Sept. 17, My Boy Flat-Top - Banjo Rock And Roll
1955/Nov. 26, The Most - Desperately
1956/Jan. 28, Right Around The Corner - Partners For Life
1956/Mar. 10, Blue Suede Shoes - Mumbles Blues
1956/Apr. 28, The Groovy Age (b) - Let Me Love You
1956/Aug. 18, Hit That Jive, Jack - Rabbit-Eye Pink And Charcoal Black
1956/Oct. 27, Rockin' Up A Storm, - A Lock Of Your Hair
1957/Mar. 16, I'm Moving On - Big Jay Shuffle [instr.]
1957/May 20, Big Boy - Put The Chain On The Door
1957/Dec. 16, Boy Meets Girl - Sentimental Journey
1958/Feb., Her Momma Doesn't Think It's Right - Signed, Sealed, Delivered
1959/ Feb. 17, Move (a,d) - Click Clack {c}
1959/July 13, Boogie Bear, - A Boy Can Tell 1959/Nov. 2, High School Hop - Cool Disk Jockey
1959/Nov. 16, Naughty Rock And Roll - Lover's Night
1960/Apr. 4, It's Wonderful - Amos, Amas, Arnat
1960/June, Seventeen - Sarasota
1960/July 18, Seventeen - My Boy Flat Top
1960/Dec. 5, Big Junior - Hershey Bar
1961/June 26, Coffee Break - The Brain
1963/Apr. 27, Teenage Years Hear Me Talking

Groups formed in 1954 Blossoms, Cadets, Chambers Brothers, Chantones, Collins Kids, Country Boys, El Dorados, Everly Brothers, Fast Forward, Isley Brothers, Mellows, Monotones, decided to retire from performing. With the money he earned from "Seventeen", co-owned a television station. A decate after his retirement, he founded Hardcast Manufacturing, which primarily constructed parts for air conditioning. For most of his musical retirement, Bennett lived in Dallas. With the expectation of the occasional charity concert with Ray Price, Boyd Bennett, never reentered the music business. -Steven Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide


 

Charts
Rock & Roll
1996 KING, not rated

Tennessee Rock 'n' Roll
Seventeen (2:04), Mumbles Blues(2:28), Oo-Oo-Oo (2:28), Most (2:17), Switchie, Witchie, Titchie (2:11), You Upset Me Baby ( 2:22), Hit That Jive, Jack! (2:36), Groovy Age (2:14), Blue Suede Shoes (2:08), Boogie At Midnight (2:24), Little Ole You All (2:02), Partners For Life (2:20), Banjo Rock & Roll (2:50), Cool Disk Jockey (2:02), High School Hop (1:54), Poison Ivy (2:14), Right Around The Corner (2:30), Tennessee Rock & Roll (2:18), Little Ole You All (2:24), Everlovin' (2:15), Groovy Age( 2:30), Waterloo (2:38), Dig Like You Never Dug (2:46), My Boy Flat Top (2:28)

Sock Hop (King) 1995
At The Hop, Twist, Rock Around The Clock, Twist And Shout, Rockin' Robin, Stroll, Do You Want To Dance?, Blue Suede Shoes

The Complete Original Dixieland Jazz Band
Livery Stables Blues (3:05), Dixie Jazz Band One-Step (2:35), At The Jazz Band Ball (2:36), Ostrich Walk (3:09), Skeleton Jangle (2:50), Tiger Rag (3:05), Bluin' The Blues (3:11), Fidgety Feet (War Cloud), Sensational Rag (2:51), Mournin' Blues (2:47), Clarinet Marmalade Blues (2:43), Lazy Daddy (3:12), Margie (3:14), Palesteena (2:43), Broadway Rose (3:10), Sweet Mama ( Papa's Getting Mad) (3:15), Home Again Blues (2:46), Crazy Blues (2:38), Jazz Me Blues (3:00), St. Louis Blues (2:38), Royal Garden Blues (2:58), Dangerous Blues (3:03), Bow Wow Blues (My Mama Treats Me Like A Dog) (3:08), Skeleton Jangle, Clarinet Marmalade (2:25), Bluin' The Blues (2:38), Tiger rag (2:36), Barnyard Blues (2:32), Original Dixieland One-Step (2:31), Bluin' the Blues (2:45), Tiger Rag (2:46), Ostrich Walk (2:35), Original Dixieland One-Step (2:33), Satanic Blues (2:43), Toddlin' Blues (2:45), Who Loves You? (2:32), And Fidgety Feet (2:19)

Lost Treasures II
(not rated track listing)
1. YOU CAN MAKE IT IF YOU TRY
2. TEARDROPS ON YOUR LETTER
3. CLAP YOUR HANDS
4. SEVENTEEN'
5. BUZZ BUZZ A-DIDDLE-IT
6. LATER ALLIGATOR
7. SUGAR BEE
8. HENRIETTA
9. HERE I STAND
10. NOTHIN' SHAKIN'
11. DARK MOON
12. YOU CAN HAVE HER
13. DARLING LORRAINE
14. LIFE'S TO SHORT
15. THERE IS SOMETHING BAD ON YOUR MIND
16. BALLAD OF THUNDER ROAD
17. DANCE BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON
18. POOR BOY
19. ALONE
20. TALK THAT TALK
21. SUGAREE
22. WHAT'S A ...


Original Rock & Roll, Vol. 2 1987 HOLLYWOOD
(not rated track listing)
1. HONKYTONK
2. FINGERPOPPIN' TIME
3. SEVENTEEN
4. IVORY TOWER
5. TOSSIN' AND TURNIN'
6. TALK TO ME
7. ONLY YOU
8. DEDICATED TO THE ONE THAT I LOVE
9. LOVE POTION NO. 9


Greatest Hits 1956 1987
You've Got The Magic Touch, Why do Fools Fall In Love?, Honky Tonk Pt. 1, Ivory Tower, Green Door, Ain't Got No Home, Let The Good Times Roll, Ooby Dooby, Boppin' The Blues, What Can I Do?, Seventeen, In The Still Of The Night, Fool, Fever, Short Fat Fannie, Ling-Ting-Tong, Gone, Young Blood, Rip It Up, So Rare

Boyd Bennett 1957
(not rated)
Instruments: Drummer, Vocals
Date of Birth: December 7, 1924
Place of Birth: Muscle Shoals, Alabama
Williamson on steel guitar, Johnny Grande on piano, Marshall Lytle on bass, and Dick Richards on drums.

          Following the success of "Rock Around The Clock", Haley and the Comets placed nine more records in the Top 40 over the next three years, among them the Top Tens "Bum That Candle" and "See You Later, Alligator." Haley was largely eclipsed as the king of rock & roll by Elvis Presley and other flamboyant performers who followed him from 1956 on. Nevertheless, he continued to perform over seas and in oldies shows in the United States, and "Rock Around The Clock" even got back into the Top 40 in 1974. -William Ruhlmann & Richie Unterberger

Early in 1955, Bennett and the Rockets
recorded the rock & roller "Seventeen."


SEVENTEEN
(Boyd Bennett-John Young-Carl Gorman)
BOYD BENNETT (KING 1470,1955)
Seventeen, seventeen
Cool and solid seventeen
Young enough to dance and sing
Old enough to get that swing
Past sixteen, just been kissed
Graduated and go that twist
Kind of love I can't resist
At seventeen
Now, sloppy shirt, old blue jeans
Dirty shoes by all means
Patch of blonde, peroxide hair
Juke-box baby, ain't no square
Seventeen, hot rod queen
Cutest girl you've ever seen
Tell the world I'm really keen
On my hemp-cat doll of seventeen
          King Records was unsure of the record's commercial appeal, yet they eventually released it, which proved to be fortunate. "Seventeen" rocketed to number five on the pop charts, eventually becoming one of the best-selling records in the label's history. Not only was the original successful, but the song spawned several cover versions, making Bennett and his co-author John Young several million dollars.
          A veteran Chicago mainstay of the piano, Young likes modal or mainstream textures. We can play the blues. He evokes favorable comparisons to McCoy Tyner or Kenny Drew.
          The Rockets' next single, My Boy Flat-Top," was sung by the group's Big Moe (b. James Muzey), and it also made it into the pop Top 40.


MY BOY-FLAT TOP
Dorothy Collins
Young and strong, his top is flat
Cool haircut, never wears a hat
I don't mean maybe, he's a real hep cat
My boy-flat top
Big broad shoulders, man they're pips
Dreamy eyes really crazy lips
When he shouts "Hey baby"
Well the girls they flip
My boy-flat top
I'm tellin you that snazzy guy
Really sends you my oh, my
He's the most, the dreamers goal
You ought to see him rock and roll
Got no dough, but just a nod
Gets the girls, tho it may seem odd
He's a real smooth lover in his old hot rod
My boy-flat top

 

In Brief
In 1956, the Rockets supported Moon Mullican on the classic rockabilly single " Seven Nights To Rock". One more Rockets single - a 1956 cover of Carl Perkins' "Blue Suede Shoes"- was a minor pop success, but the Rockets couldn't replicate their success with "Seventeen."
          Throughout 1957 & 1958, they recorded "Hit That Jive", and "High School Hop". These songs touched on rockabilly, they were significantly tamer than most of their contemporaries. Boyd's music fell somewhere between the emerging Rockabilly sound and early rock and roll. His "cutting edge" sensitivity had correctly interpreted the times and he was able to leave his "mark" on the 50's decade.
          Bennett left King Records in 1959, signing with Mercury records. Late in '59, he had one minor hit on his new label, "Boogie Bear". After a series of unsuccessful singles, the current rock and roll audience and decided to retire from performing. With the money he earned from "Seventeen", he went into several businesses and co-owned a television station. Decade after his retirement, he founded Hardcast Manufacturing, which primarily manufactured sealants for the heating and air conditioning industry. At the time Bennett lived in Dallas Texas. With the exception of an occasional charity concert with Ray Price, Boyd Bennett never reentered the music business.
          In 1980, Boyd returned to his musical roots and recorded four gospel albums: "It Get's Sweeter", Amazing Grace", "Steps Into The Sunshine", "Boyd Bennett Sings Your Favorite Hymns".
          In 1996, Boyd made his last public musical appearance in the old city of Jerusalem, Israel. He sang "Amazing Grace" with the worship leader of the Garden Tomb Center where Jesus was buried. He also sang "The Our Father" at the church of the Nativity where the natural acoustics are some of the best in the world.
          In 2002, Boyd and Margaret, his wife of thirty years, moved the national headquarters of their medical supply company, Encore, Inc., to Sarasota, Florida. Boyd's rendition of one of his favorite gospel song, "Because He Lives" was played at his funeral.



 

The King Label
Years: 1952-1959

After a stint in the military at the end of World War II, Boyd became a regular performer on a local radio station assembling a band named Southlanders. The Southlanders sounded similar to Western swing, with some additional honky tonk grit. Bennett signed with King Records in late 1952, recording his first single in December. The resulting record, "Time," became a minor country hit the following year.
          The King label was founded in 1943 by Sydney Nathan in Cincinnati, Ohio. The first two releases appeared on King in November of that year, but the King Record Company was not officially incorporated until August of 1944. Syd Nathan started the company to exploit a niche market that the major record companies were not filling. He provided country music recordings for the many Appalachians that had migrated north to work in the manufacturing plants in the Midwest, and for the first years the only releases on King were country and western recordings.
          Syd Nathan located the offices of King Record Company in a former ice storage building at 1540 Brewster Avenue in Cincinnati. King continued to operate there until the label was sold after Nathan's death in the late 1960s.
          Nathan quickly saw that black music was another musical field that was not effectively covered by the major record companies, so In August, 1945, he formed a subsidiary called Queen devoted to black artists. The first release on Queen was in September 1945. Initially, Nathan used purchase masters from other record companies, but soon started recording original sessions with artists such as Bullmoose Jackson and Slim Gaillard. He also recorded many black gospel groups for the Queen label. In 1947, Queen was discontinued and rhythm and blues was released on a King Race series,
          The DeLuxe Record Company was formed in 1944 by David and Jules Braun in Linden, New Jersey. The label recorded popular music, rhythm and blues, jazz, gospel and country & western. In 1947, Syd Nathan purchase a majority interest in the label, although it continued to operate out of Linden by the Braun brothers until, 1949, when the offices were moved to Cincinnati. The Brauns evidently left the company at that time to form the Regal label. Nathan officially acquired the Braun brothers' interest in the DeLuxe label in February, 1951. Many of the DeLuxe masters were issued on King singles and albums. In the early 1950s, Nathan revived the label with new releases.
          The Federal subsidiary was formed in late 1950. At first, the label was used for West Coast black artists, but soon it was used as a vehicle for Billy Ward and the Dominoes, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters and James Brown and His Famous Flames. The label was operated until the early '60s. The producers for Federal were Johnny Otis and Ralph Bass.
          The two main sources of King were R&B and C&W, but Nathan also had extensive releases of jazz, gospel and popular music. Nathan was willing to record anything that he felt had a chance of commercial success, even international material.
          The King, Federal, and DeLuxe roster of talent was extensive, certainly as strong as any of the major record labels. In the R&B instrumental field they had Tiny Bradshaw, Luck Millinder, Todd Rhodes, Bill Doggett, Big Jay McNeely, Sonny Thompson and Earl Bostic.
          Their vocal R&B lineup included Roy Brown, Ivory Joe Hunter, James Brown, Little Willie John, Wynonie Harris, Bullmoose Jackson, Little Willie Littlefield, Eddie Vinson, Jimmy Witherspoon, Little Esther (Phillips), Annie Laurie, and Lula Reed.
          In the C&W field they had Moon Mullican, Cowboy Copas, Grandpa Jones, the Delmore Brothers, Hawkshaw Hawkins, T. Texas Tyler, Ferlin Husky, Webb Pierce, Reno & Smiley, the Stanley Brothers, Wayne Raney, Hank Penny, Jimmie Osborne and Clyde Moody.
          The groups on King included the Platters, Chanters, Checkers, Royals (Midnighters), Billy Ward and the Dominoes, Ink Spots, Five Keys, Swallows, Five Royales and Otis Williams and the Charms.
          The gospel/sacred roster included Spirit of Memphis Quartet. Wings Over Jordan Choir, Swan's Silvertone Singers, the Four Internes, and Brown's Ferry Four.
          Jazz on King included Lorez Alexandria, Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, Johnny Pate and Etta Jones. The blues singers/guitarists on the label included Lonnie Johnson, Albert King, Freddie King, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Memphis Slim, Smokey Smothers, John Lee Hooker and Champion Jack DuPree.
          Although King had limited success in the rock and roll field, they had have some good artists, such as Mac Curtis, Hayden Thompson, Charlie Feathers, Bonnie Lou, and Boyd Bennett and the Rockets.
          King had a very low overhead, since everything was done at the Brewster location. The artists were recorded there, the masters were made there, the records were pressed at this location, the album covers were designed and printed there, and the records were warehoused and shipped from there. Because the records could be pressed economically in very small numbers, Nathan could press as few as 50, put them in the back of his car and start visiting radio stations. If a single or album did not generate any interest, no more would be pressed. This is why so many of the King records are extreme rarities.
          King Records was unique among independent record companies to have equally strong R&B and C&W catalogs. Its location in Cincinnati allowed it to record both country and black performers that were on tour of the Midwest and South. Nathan encouraged cross pollination between the musical types by having his black artists record country songs and vice versa.
          The ability of Nathan to get the R&B he was recording to cross over into the popular record charts was hampered by the lyrics, which were considered too risque to be accepted by the general pop audience. Songs like the "Annie trilogy" by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters ("Work With Me Annie." "Annie Had a Baby" and "Annie's Aunt Fanny") were big sellers on the R&B charts, but never appeared on the popular charts. Black in 1951, "Sixty Minute Man" by the Dominoes, another song with risque lyrics, had been such an enormous R&B smash (14 weeks at #1) that it scraped into the bottom of pop top-20 (#17), but that was on the strength of R&B sales, as it generally wasn't played at all on the pop radio stations of the time. Nathan knew that financial success would be a lot easier if he could crack the charts and also radio playlists.
          Two of the most popular disc jockeys were Bill Randall in Cleveland, Oho and Alan Freed. Boyd Bennett became friends with them and the Rockets played many shows for them for free. Alan Freed was the first person to call the new sound "Rock & Roll." These two men contributed greatly to the success of the record "Seventeen."
          Rock & Roll is often used as a generic term, but its sound is rarely predictable. From the outset, when the early rockers merged country and blues, rock has been defined by its energy, rebellion and catchy hooks, but as the genre aged, it began to shed those very characteristics, placing equal emphasis on craftsmanship and pushing the boundaries of the music. As a result, everything ... from Cherry Berry's pounding three-chord rockers and the sweet harmonies of the Beatles to the soulful pleas of Otis Redding and the jarring, atonal white noise of Sonic Youth, has been categorized as "rock." That' accurate - rock & roll had a specific sound and image for only a handful of years. For the most of its life, rock has been fragmented, spinning off new styles and variations every few years, from Brill Building Pop and heavy metal to dance-op and grunge. And that's only natural for a genre that began its life as fusion of styles. Remember the times it mirrored and expressed.
          In its purist form, rock & roll has three chords, a strong, insistent back beat and a catchy melody. Early rock & rock drew from a variety of sources, primarily blues, R&B and country, but also gospel, traditional pop, jazz and folk. All of these influences combined in a simple, blues-based song structure that was fast, danceable and catchy. The first wave of rock & rollers - Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Bo Diddley, Bill Haley, Gene Vincent, the Everly Brothers, Carl Perkins and Boyd Bennett among many others - set the template for rock & rock that was followed over over the next four decades. During each decade, a number if artists replicated the sound of the first rockers, while some expanded that definition and others completely explored the constrictions of the genre. From the British Invasion, folk-rock, and psychedelia, and through hard rock, heavy metal, glam rock and punk, most subgenres of rock & roll initially demonstrated an allegiance to the basic structure of rock & roll.
          Once those permutations emerged, traditional rock & roll faded away from the pop charts, yet there were always artists that kept the flame alive. Some, like the Rolling Stones and the Faces, adhered to the basic rules of traditional rock & roll but played the music fast and loose. Others, like proto-punk rockers the Velvet Underground, the New York Dolls, and the Stooges, kept the basic song structure, but played it with more menace. Still others, like Dave Edmunds and Graham Parker, became rock & roll traditionalists, writing and recording music that never wavered from the sound of the late '50s and early '60s. Although the term "roll & roll" came to refer to a number of different music styles in the decades following it's inception, the essential form of the music never changed.
          In 1953, Bennett revamped the Southlanders renaming them the Rockets and adding R&B and blues elements to his music with the intention of gaining a younger audience. Not coincidentally, this occurred at the same time Bill Haley was reworking his sound and renaming his backing band the Comets.
          Early in 1955, Bennett and the Rockets recorded the rock & roller "Seventeen." King Records was unsure of the record's commercial appeal, yet they released it, which proved to be fortunate. "Seventeen" rocketed to number five on the pop charts, eventually becoming one of the best-selling records in the label's history. Not only was the original successful, but the song spawned several cover versions, making Bennett and his co-author John Young several million dollars.




 

The Decade of the '50s
Boyd's "Emerging" Years
The dawn of the decade does not appear hopeful. The cold war was escalating with the Soviet Union. Many Americans consider 1950 the darkest time since early WWII.
          President Harry truman responded to the atom bomb warfare with the beginning and development of th nuclear bomb. The Soviet-aided North Korean army invaded South Korea. Truman sent U.S. troops in and gained the backing of the United Nations. But, after the Chinese Communists intervened, it became a three year war that no one would win ... much to the frustration of American's accustomed to victory.
          Look at how the musicians, media and marketing creativity responded to this challenge during the prime of Boyd Bennett's life.

The Early 1950's
1951
Important Events
The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution is adopted limiting the presidency to two terms.
Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood and pioneer in birth control, urges scientists to develop an oral contraceptive.
General Douglas MacAurthur retires. He closes out his 52 year military career by proclaiming, "Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.

Sports
New York Yankee Joe DiMaggio retires with a lifetime batting average of .325 and a total of 361 home runs.
Sugar Ray Robinson defeats Jake LaMotta, the "Raging Bull," for the middleweight championship of the world.

Movies
"An American In Paris" wins best picture at the Academy Awards.
Humphrey Bogart is the best actor for his role in "The African Queen."
Viven Leigh wins best actress award for her role in "A Streetcar Named Desire."

Television
CBS introduces color television in a program hosted by Ed Sullivan and Arthur Godfrey.

Technology and Medicine
UNIVAC, the first general use computer, is activated.
AT&T becomes the first corporation to have over 1 million shareholders.
Floridation is dispensed through the water system amid claims it greatly reduces tooth decay.

Business Innovations
Lacoste tennis shirts with the alligator symbol are introduced in to the US by French manufacturer "Izod."
Earl Tupper creates the home sales party to market his food storage containers directly to customers. Publishing Industry
"Jet Magazine," Herman Wouk's "The Caine Mutiny" and J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" are published.

New Products
Power steering developed by Chrysler Corporation.
"Tropicana" products and sugarless chewing gum are released to the consumer market.

Curious Facts
Four years of college cost $1,800, a increase of 400% since 1900.
During the time Boyd was working at the two radio stations, he had been asked by WHAS-TV in Louisville to come to Kentucky and audition for a client. Boyd was offered a program on television on WHAS-TV. This was a good move. While in Owensboro, Boyd was signed to a recording contract with Columbia Records, but they never recorded him. When Boyd was free of the Columbia deal, he signed with King Records and recorded a country song called "Time." This turned out to be a minor hit.

1952
Important Events
Dwight Eisenhower is elected US President after defeating Democratic candidate Adli Stevenson.
Puerto Rico becomes an independent commonwealth of the US
British Overseas Airways inaugurates the world's first commercial jet passenger service to London and Johannesburg.
Richard Nixon, Republican vice-president nominee appears on national TV to deny accusations that he has used a secret slush fund to pay for his personal expenses. He asserts the only gift he accepted was from his dog "Checkers."
The US tests a hydrogen bomb in the Marshall Islands.

Sports
Bob Matahias breaks his own decathlon records for an unprecedented second gold medal at the Summer Olympic Games in Helsinki.

Movies
"The Greatest Show on Earth" wins best picture at the Academy Awards.
Gary Cooper is the best actor for the role in "High Noon."
Shirley Boothe wins best actress award for her role in "Come back, Little Sheba."

1953
Important Events
Dwight Eisenhower is inaugurated as president. Richard Nixon becomes the vice president.
Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin dies at the age of 72.
Earl Warren, the governor of California, is appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by President Eisenhower.
The Korean War ends with the signing of the Armistice at Panmunjom.
Elizabeth II is crowned Queen of England in a coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey.
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are executed for espionage.
Senator John F. Kennedy marries former newspaper photographer Jacqueline Lee Bouvier.

Sports
Mauren Connelly, known as "Little Mo" to her fans, becomes the woman to win the Grand Slam of tennis by beating all women challengers at the Australian, French, English and US tennis tournaments.
The New York Yankees become the first team in baseball history to win five consecutive World Series.
Mount Everest is conquered by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.
Ben Hogan becomes the first golfer to win the US Open, the Masters and the British Open in one year.

Movies
"From Here to Eternity" wins best picture at the Academy Awards.
William Holden is the best actor for his role in Stalag 17".
Audrey Hepburn wins best actress award for her role in "Roman Holiday."

Television
"The Loretta Young Show," "The Danny Thomas Show." "The Life of Riley," "You Are There," and "Name That Tune" appear on national television.

Technology & Medicine
The first instant tea "White Rose Redi-Tea" makes its debut on grocer's shelves.
Soviet Premier Gerogi Melenkov announces the Soviet Union has constructed a hydrogen bomb.

Business Innovations
The new "Corvette" is released by Chevrolet.

Publishing Industry
Ernest Hemingway wins the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for the "Old Man and the Sea."
"Playboy" magazine, "Sexual Behavior in the Human Female" by Alfred Kinsey and "Go Tell It On The Mountain" by James Baldwin are released to the public.

New Products
New products to appear on the market: "Miss Clairol Hair Coloring," "Minute Rice." "Diners Club" credit cards. "Xerox" copy machines and prefabricated fallout shelters.

Curious Facts
"Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book" is published.
Charles M. Schultz releases the "Peanuts" comic strip in eight newspapers.
US Postmaster General cuts mail delivery from twice to once a day.
Smokey the Bear, an orphaned cub found after a forest fire in New Mexico, becomes the mascot and symbol of the US Forestry Service.

1954
Important Events
The first nuclear powered submarine, the Nautilus, is launched by the US Navy.
Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio marry and are divorced 6 months later after Marilyn files.
The desegregation of the US Armed Forces is completed. All Negro units are abolished.
Four Puerto Rican nationalists wound five members of the US congress from the visitors' gallery in the House of representatives.
Senator McCarthy hearings on communist infiltrators in the US government and entertainment industry begin in Washington on April 22 and end June 17. They are broadcast on television.
The French are forced out of Vietnam when the Communist forces overrun the French fortress at Dienbienphu after a 56 day siege.
The Supreme Court unanimously overrules states rights and declares an end to discrimination in education in the "Board of Education of Topeka" decision.
President Eisenhower signs legislation that changes the wording of the Pledge of Allegiance from "one nation, indivisible" to one nation, under God, indivisible."

Sports
Roger Bannister breaks the four-minute barrier for the mile at a track and field meet in Oxford, England. He complete the distance in 3:59.4.

Music
Elvis Presley releases his first commercial recordings, "That's All Right" and "Blue Moon of Kentucky" on Sun Records.
African-Cuban dance, the mambo, takes the US by storm.
Records hits by Perry Como and Cuban-born bandleader Perez "Prez" Prado take the sensual and exuberant beat to the people.

Movies
"On The Waterfront" wins best picture at the Academy Awards.
Marlon Brando is the best actor for his role in "On The Waterfront."
Grace Kelly wins best actress award for her role in "The Country Girls."

Television
New TV programs "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin," "Caesar's Hour," "Father Knows Best," "Lassie." "Tonight" with Steve Allen as host and "Disneyland" revolutionized American's viewing habits.
The Miss American Pageant is first televised. Miss California, Lee Ann Meriweather, age 19 of San Francisco is crowned the top beauty queen of America.

Technology & Medicine
Mass innoculations of the Saulk Polio vaccine begins.
The silicon transistor is developed by Texas Instruments.
The Tobacco Industry Research Committee states there is "no proof that cigarette smoking is a cause of lung cancer."

Business Innovations
"Sports Illustrated" hits the news stands.
Bruce Catton writes "A Stillness at Appomattox."
J.R.R. Tolkien creates the wonder fiction, "The Lord of the Rings."

New Products
Frozen dinners by Swanson and Sons change American eating habits.
"Matchbox" miniature cars become a new "must have" toy for young boys and collectors alike.
"ConTact" paper cover the kitchen shelves.

Curious Facts
There are 154 millionaires in he United States.
A Gallup poll shows a family of four can live on $60 a week,
The price of a postage stamp rises from one cent to two cents.
"Bwana Devil," the first full-length 3-D movie, premieres when the audience uses special Polaroid glasses to provide the special effect.

Television
"The Jackie Gleason Show," "The Today Show," "Dragnet," "My Little Margie," and "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" are new TV programs.




 


Space Case
It was earth-year 1952, and WAVE-TV had just given late-afternoon birth to a bizarre new adventure-and-song series called Boyd Bennett and Hi Space Buddies. The brainchild of 26-year-old independent writer-producer Boyd Bennett - pictured above left with commercial announcer and Errol Flynn lookalike Foster Brooks - the local production was was sort of intergalactic send-up of the nationally popular Gene Autry Show, with singing star-chasers replacing singing cowboys.
          Alas, recalls Bennett, who later ran his own video production company, the series died after only seven episodes, because "it was too far-out doe the conservative broadcasters at WAVE." Proving, in Bob Dylan's words, that "there's no success like failure," the young upstart then switched gears and began penning teen anthems for Cincinnati's King Records.
         Lo and behold, in 1955 - the same year that Bill Haley and the Comets ripped open the pop-music market with "Rock Around the Clock" - Bennett struck gold with "Seventeen." (Sample lyrics: "Sloppy shirt, old blue jeans / dirty shoes, by all means / patch of blonde, peroxide hair / jukebox baby, she ain't no square").
         The upbeat tune hung around the top of the Billboard charts for a few months and won Bennett the title of "Most Promising New Artist of 1955." Foster Brooks, of course, went on to national fame as a "lush"-ious comedian specializing in hiccup swallowing.



 

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