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THE STORY OF MERV BENTON,
A TRUE AUSTRALIAN ROCKER

By TONY WILKINSON

Setting The Scene.
         Down in the continent of Australia in the late fifties and early sixties, there was a dynamic and thriving rock 'n' roll scene. Like in Great Britain, the youngsters picked up on the rock 'n' roll avalanche that had swept the world from America and pretty soon they were lauding their own home grown heroes. The name of Johnny O'Keefe, the wild one, is pretty well known. He lived and breathed rock 'n' roll and performing, with his enthusiasm knowing no boundaries.


         There were also the likes of Col Joye and Johnny Devlin (who was actually from New Zealand) but all these artists were primarily based in or around the Sydney area of New South Wales that was also the location for the principle national record companies Festival Records and EMI, who had superior recording facilities over the smaller labels. In addition, there was also a very regionalized scene, due to the vast distances between cities and the then relatively immature state of the internal transportation infrastructure.
         In the northern hemisphere, our knowledge of Aussie rock 'n' roll was initially limited to the music of Johnny O'Keefe who had made several attempts to break into the international market. However come the rock 'n' roll/rockabilly revival of the seventies and eighties, a twenty track various artists album titled 'Rockin' At The Kangaroo Hop' (Teen Records TC-001 LP 61) appeared in the specialist shops around Europe. Once one could get beyond the pretty hideous cover of a cartoon drawing of two kangaroos jiving in front of a guitar picker, the music spoke volumes regarding the high quality of rock 'n' roll that had been produced in the land of Oz. This LP included four tracks by Merv Benton, who is the subject of this article and whose music is worthy of high acclaim.
         In and around the Melbourne area down in the south east part of the country, the first leader of the localized rock 'n' roll industry was Johnny Chester and The Chessmen but this was before Merv Benton came along. Born Merv Bonson in Preston Victoria on 12th August 1942 to Edward David Bonson, a porcelain manufacturer and Rae Bernadine Bonson nee Hadlow, he and sister Lexie Rae Bonson lead a relatively quiet life. But he was listening to the radio and soon became enraptured by the music of Elvis, Sam Cooke, Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis.
         Merv saw his first big show in 1957 which featured visiting American acts Bill Haley, The Platters and Freddie Bell and it was the last mentioned especially that provided him with the desire to become a singer. Merv recalls:
         I led a very sheltered life and, up till 16, I was around 4'8". I was also very shy and consequently got teased a lot at school. Seeing the adulation that Freddie Bell received rightly or wrongly at the time appeared to me a way to leave the teasing and bullying behind and made me (1) want some of the same and (2) to get that adulation meant to me acceptance of who I was. Over the years since I have grown up a lot.
         Benton became increasingly aware of the local talent that existed in Melbourne and started to attend dances at which The Planets were the headline act. He became friends with several of the group, especially the piano-ponder Graeme Howie and it was he who provided further influence and gave Merv confidence. Unbeknown to Merv, Graeme entered him in a talent contest at the local Canterbury Ballroom in October 1960. Singing 'Don't Leave Me This Way', Merv secured first place. This was also the night that he met Brian deCourcy who asked Merv one week later whether he had the courage to follow and realize his dreams. When the answer was yes, Brian became Merv's manager.
         This in turn lead to Benton becoming the vocalist with The Ramrods, a group lead by Ian B Allen and which resulted in appearances at venues such as Whittlesea Hall and the Preston Migrant Centre:
         I was the new kid on the block with the Ramrods, their main singer was a guy named Jimmy. The band I loved performing with the most was the Chessmen lead by Johnny Chester. Very very funky. Also sang with the Strangers, The Blue Jays, The Planets, The Henchmen, and The Sapphires.


The First Recordings.
         The leading record label in the Melbourne area was W&G, a company based at 186 Batman Street and was lead by Ron Gillespie. The company started out in 1910 as White and Gillespie (Melbourne) Limited and was formed by E A White and J Gillespie to make printing plates. Circa 1936, it commenced making records and so the W&G Record Processing Co. Pty. Ltd. came into being. It was affectionately known as The Woggle & Goggle label, a name given it by Geoff Haynes, a disc jockey on Radio station 3UZ. They had on their books the aforementioned Johnny Chester and The Chessmen, The Loved Ones and The Thunderbirds. Sensing the potential talent that was Merv Benton, he was invited to make a demo recording for the company. This was produced by Johnny Chester and in the studio was the late Stan Rofe, a man who as a leading disc jockey was instrumental in spearheading rock 'n' roll into Australia, especially helping the home grown talent to realize their dreams. Backed up by The Chessmen, Merv laid down his versions of 'Baby Let's Play House' and 'Endless Sleep'. On the topside, Merv really gets into the feel of the song and turns in an exciting interpretation whilst the flip is full of menace. Both sides have a lovely sparse backing.
         As Merv says: To finally have the chance to record and to hear that record on radio for the first time, was a time of excitement that I'll never forget. All the hard work, all the singing lessons and all the nights working for a $1, at last had bought to fruition, the next step.
         The disc was released in March 1964 and reached position # 17 on the Melbourne charts. Merv was on his way. This lead to television appearances on Graham Kennedy's 'In Melbourne Tonight', the top local show all of which raised Benton's public profile. He fondly remembers: One of the main reasons that I had changed to Benton was, at that time I worked for the State Savings Bank of Victoria. In those days Banks frowned upon anyone having two jobs, as the Bank was very image conscience. After 'Baby Lets Play House' was released, and with the consequent appearances to promote it, some fans recognized me at the Bank and wasted no time in letting others know where I was. All hell broke loose and the Bank was swamped with fans wanting autographs etc. I was called to Head Office the next day and requested to make a choice, the Bank or music - the choice was not a hard one.
         W&G wasted no time in getting Benton back into the studio and this time backed up by The Strangers, he recorded his interpretations of Eddie Cochran's 'Nervous Breakdown' and Elvis's 'Don' Cha Think It's Time'. The topside is a fine rockin' performance of what is now rightly regarded as a rock 'n' roll classic song. The Thin Men, who turn in a good Jordanaires style performance, provided vocal backing on the last mentioned track.
         Merv on the record: The first choice for the follow up single was to be 'Honey Don't', our reworking of the Carl Perkins number. However The Beatles had just released this song. With Beatlemania raging and the forthcoming Beatles' tour not far away, we felt that our version would be lost in all the excitement. As with a lot of records that were released at that time, no one paid much attention to anything unless it centered on The Beatles or it was recorded in England. 'Nervous Breakdown' suffered the same fate of so many other sons, it hardly got heard. Yet to this day, it remains one of my most requested numbers.
         Unfortunately, this disc only made position #40 on the Melbourne charts when issued in June 1964 but W&G had confidence in Merv. For his third disc 'Be Sweet' c/w 'You're The Dog' released in August 1964, Merv sang vocals over a track originally recorded in Germany. However, Merv tells the story better: The original recording was a German pressing that came to W&G through one of their many affiliations. The original song title was 'Shake Hands' sung by Hans somebody. Due to the constant criticism by DJ's of the sound quality that came out on W&G pressings and due to the success of Johnny Chester's 'Teeny on which the vocals also were recorded over a German backing tape, W&G requested that we follow suit. I'm reasonably sure tat it also had something to do with publishing rights and the income that could be generated.
         Noel Watson wrote the words to 'Be Sweet' and 'You're A Dog'. What to say about this record? By no means is it in any way my favourite recording. Today I find the words offensive and male chauvinistic. Did I feel that way at the time, I have no idea? I don't believe nor do I recall that I ever sang this song live. The song did receive strong airplay, particularly from Barry Ferber at the time. So while everyone liked the sound, I didn't like the words, not does Noel.

         Noel Watson recalls that 'Be Sweet' came about with a deal with Ron Tudor who was the A&R man at W&G: Tudor had obtained a series of backing tracks from Germany and he needed English lyrics for them. Here was a flat fee of 'two quid' to use the backing track and away you go. We all have our crosses to bear, and 'Be Sweet' is one of mine.
         This record did however prove reasonably popular with the public and reached position #22, again on the Melbourne charts. Merv was increasingly becoming well known throughout Australia. He appeared on national television shows such as Brian Henderson's 'Bandstand' and Johnny O'Keefe's 'Sing Sing Sing'. Benton learned an invaluable experience from O'Keefe who, living up to his wild man image slammed his fist into Merv's diaphragm and telling him to give it all he had. As Merv concedes, this was a lesson he had to learn.





The Tamlas Are Formed.
         However it was back to covers for the next record with Merv's versions of Fabian's 'Come On And Get Me' and Bobby Freeman's '(I Do The) Shimmy Shimmy'. Unlike Fabian, Merv can really sing and the disc abounds with menacing vocals. This release made its way onto the Melbourne charts in December 1964 and on its back, W&G Records issued Benton's first album.
         Merv again: Both of these tracks come off the 'Come On And Get Me' album. At this time, I was putting together a group of musicians that I admired and who later became The Tamlas. I wanted the next session to be recorded with them. W&G wanted to keep the momentum going and I had no disagreement with that at all, so these two songs were released to fill the gap until the next session. I love the guitar solo by Charlie Gauld on 'Shimmy Shimmy' with Les Stacpool driving the song playing rhythm. In fact at the time I thought the instrumental was so good that I hesitated to put my voice on the track. In the rare case that I perform these days, both 'Come On and Get Me' and 'Shimmy Shimmy' are always a must to perform, one because it really rocks, the other for obvious reasons.
         Merv had now been a recording artist for nine months and in that time, he had released four singles, one EP and one LP, a considerable output of quality music. Come early 1965, it was back to the recording studio but this time with musicians personally handpicked: At last my own group of musicians, an exciting time for me, recording with not only people whose talent I admired and respected but also counted as friends. No more country shows with mom on piano, dad on the sax and son on drums with a fifteen-minute rehearsal. With Les Stacpool and Noel Watson on guitars, Dennis Tucker on bass, Edie Chappell on drums and Murray Robertson on piano, I felt that I was ready to take on the world.
         For his next release, the Jackie De Shannon song 'It's Love Baby' was selected along wit a rockin' update of 'Goodnight Irene' and like its predecessors it entered onto the Melbourne charts. Merv's star was continuing its ascendancy and the tours continued. There are a number of songs that Merv remembers singing live on the stage but unfortunately did not get around to recording. Some of the most popular were Ronnie Self's rocker 'Bop A Lena', Ricky Nelson's 'Believe What You Say' and Lonnie Mack's 'Baby What's Wrong'. With these he used to tear the house down and there were many young ladies who used to go home with moist underwear.


National Success
         The next release in May 1965 saw the national break through for Merv Benton music. For this issue, Merv's versions of Ral Donner's 'I Got Burned' and Johnny Burnette's 'Cincinnati Fireball' were selected and the record proved popular the length and width of Oz. In Victoria it was 'I Got Burned' that was accepted as the 'A' side but everywhere else 'Cincinnati Fireball' reigned supreme. The record made position # 3 on the Melbourne charts. Country wide tours were now the call of the day together with appearances on national television shows.
         Keeping up the momentum, Merv's next record was issued in August 1965 and made number 6 on the Melbourne hit parade. This was 'Twenty Flight Rock' and 'Yield Not To Temptation' and came complete with a picture sleeve. Merv fondly remembers: The musicians on 'Twenty Flight Rock' are the same as mentioned on the 'Come On And Get Me' album. On 'Yield Not To Temptation', Henri Bource's sax solo sets the song alight and Murray Robertson's hands were red raw after the handclapping that features throughout. Thought the big band sound was great. Found the song one day whilst sitting in the offices at W&G. W&G had the rights to many black artists much to my surprise and I could not believe some of the records they had in their library. 'Yield Not Temptation' was one of those records. Got lots of exposure on Bandstand with this track, even got to open the show. This disc also saw release in the USA on the Marvel label, a fact that Merv was unaware of until 2002 when a reproduction of the label was used as part of the artwork for the Canetoad CD 'Greatest Hits: 1964-1967'. There is also the possibility that Merv's first album, 'Come On And Get Me', was also issued in America but, at the time of writing, this cannot be confirmed.
         Merv's second album, 'Sounds Great' was also released and included sparkling versions of 'Rocky Road Blues', 'When I Get Paid', 'Hello Josephine' and 'Too Much'.
         The next release, in October 1965, also made position #6 in Melbourne. This time around it was an original song with 'Can I Believe It's True' with a cover of Crash Craddock's 'Don't Destroy Me'. Merv about the record: From the start the A side was to be 'Can I Believe It's True'. A strong rocking number, written by Noel Watson, that was very different I felt from anything else that I had recorded. I was disappointed when radio picked up on 'Don't Destroy Me' and played little of 'Can I Believe It's True'. It was hard in those days to get original material recorded and then played. Be that as it may, this record was the second biggest during Merv's career. Incidentally, the saga of Crash Craddock as a chart-making star in Australia is interesting. The leading Oz promoter Lee Gordon saw an advertisement for Crash and his then current USA record 'Boom Boom Baby' whilst flipping through an imported copy of Cash Box magazine Impressed with the potential he saw, he signed up Crash for a nation wide tour of Australia in 1960 along with Duane Eddy and The Rebels, Santo and Johnny, The Diamonds, Johnny Restivo, Floyd Robinson, Johnny O'Keefe and Dig Richards. Much to everybody's surprise, Crash was the hit of the tour and enjoyed phenomenal acclaim in Australia, more that he had achieved up to then in his native USA. 'Don't Destroy Me' was the flip to 'Boom Boom Baby'.
         However we digress and return to the story of Merv Benton. The very next month, W&G issued a further Merv Benton single with '(I Do The) Shimmy Shimmy '65' and 'Baby Let's Play House'. The flip was a reissue of Merv's first single whilst the topside was a slightly modified version of his fourth record. Merv: 'Why this single was released I have no idea. Obviously W&G issued it as a fill in for whatever reason. The only difference from my original recording of 'Shimmy shimmy' is that Noel Watson's voice was added to the vocal backing to try and tone down the screeching female backing that existed. No one was more surprised that I was when I heard it on radio. The record charted in Melbourne.
         But 1965 was not over for Merv Benton record releases. December 1965 saw the issue of yet another single and again it was the combination of an original song and a cover. The former was titled 'Sell My Soul' and was a good rocker from the pen of Noel Watson from Merv's backing group The Tamlas. The topside 'We Got Love' was originally by that well-known frantic rocker Bobby Rydell.
         Merv recalls: Around this time all I was hearing was you have to be commercial, you have to make records that sell, whereas my leanings were, especially after 'Yield Not To Temptation', were in a completely different direction. I wanted to record songs that were not expected from me. 'We Got Love' was my surrendering of the direction I wanted to take. 'We Got Love' to me was a Sing Along With Mitch type of song. I don't believe that this was anywhere near my best work by any stretch of the imagination. I can't complain, as a lot of people appeared to like the song. However, I was more into 'Sell My Soul. The record did make the Melbourne hit parade.
         Let us recap for a moment. Merv had now been a recording artist for twenty-one months and in that time he had released a total of ten singles, two EPs and two albums. For sure, he was prolific and indeed this total exceeds that of many other artists who recorded over a considerably longer period. However, to reinforce a point made earlier, it was in the main quality rockin' music. Overall, a remarkable achievement.






Sounds Of '65 Tour
         1965 was also the year that Merv went on a national tour that consisted of Australian artists only. The other acts on the shows were Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs, Ray Brown and The Whispers, Max Merrit and The Meteors, Jade Hurley and a young lady by the name of Donna Gaye. It lasted for over three weeks and, in true rock 'n' roll tradition, was undertaken by bus! This trip mainly concentrated on the more rural areas of Australia and was rightly regarded as a success; indeed the show that took place in Perth was broadcast nationally on Brian Henderson's 'Bandstand' television show. Merv has many fond memories of this tour but it is best to let him tell some of the stories:
         Some of the stories I cannot tell you under threat from those involved, when you are on a bus for over three weeks in that confined area, anything can happen and usually does. However in Bundaberg, a rural Queensland town, we filled Jade Hurley's boots with toothpaste and whilst performing, his feet became a mass of foam. In Moree, a New South Wales town which survives by farming, sheep and cattle, Thorpie, Ray Brown and I were all singing our songs including a few ballads and love songs and the silence was deafening. When the lights went on and the curtain went down at the end of the show, the reason became obvious the audience was pretty much all male.
         There were about thirty of us in total on this tour and, after the show at Moree, we were all sick and tired of the bus when a local suggested that we go kangaroo shooting. So they organized the local gun shop to open and we all purchased 303's and off we went into the bush, The Sounds Of '65 Big Game Hunters. To cut a long story short, we came across a large kangaroo and all of us opened fire. When we finished, the kangaroo just looked at us and bounded away, not one of us hit it much to the delight of the locals who never stopped laughing on the way back into town. So we sold our 303's back to the gunsmith, at a discounted price of course! I'm sure he made more in that one night than he did in the previous six months. We went on our way to the next town.
         The majority of these rural towns had never had a show the size of this one and, in general, the reaction was excellent to all involved. There did not exist any rivalry between the artists. In fact, if the opportunity ever arises when we meet these days, the tour is always discussed with a lot of laughter and fondness. The tour was successful and the experience each of us got out of performing to different types of crowds (than we had been previously used to) enabled us to perform in the future in a far more professional manner and expand our appeal. Most of us after this tour realized that rock 'n' roll was more about getting in touch with fans, spending time with them and getting them to not to believe everything that was written or reported about us. Without our audiences and their acceptance, whatever you do will be less.



A Dispute With W&G Records
         It was quickly back into the Melbourne charts in February 1966 when Merv's next single, 'You Got What It Takes c/w Shake, Rattle And Roll' made position #16. This disc consolidated Benton's position as the top draw attraction in the Melbourne and surrounding area but not without difficulties. The topside was a cover of the Joe Tex song whilst the flip of the rock 'n' roll standard was rockabillyish in treatment. Merv comments on this release: 'You Got What It Takes' was one of my favourites. I'm happy with the vocals and the completed record. Criticized on its release as being too laid back, it took a while to gain public acceptance. Most of the DJs at the time thought we should have added a brass section, to me its appeal is in its simplicity. I love singing this song. It was banned at the time due to the so-called sexual connotations that could be read into the words. With some of the words that are written today, you can compare it too a nursery rhyme. How times have changed. 'Shake Rattle And Roll' was us messing around at the end of the session and making some uncomplicated rock 'n' roll on the Joe Turner song.
         The next disc from Merv was released in May 1966 and reached even higher in the local charts when it peaked at position # 14. This was a top-notch cover of Tommy Sands 'The Worryin' Kind' together with Benton's reading of a relatively obscure song from the pen of Charlie Rich, namely 'Big Jack'. Merv is pleased the way this recordings turned out: 'The Worryin' Kind' was getting back to basics, a no nonsense good old rock 'n' roll song. Les Stacpool shines through with his guitar work and Eddie Chappell on drums drives the 'roughness' of the song. It was just the right type of number we were looking for at the time, as many had regarded 'You Got What It Takes' as a ballad. Why, I have no idea. 'The Worryin' Kind' became one of the songs that was always included in every show that I performed in, usually complimented by those that attended line dancing. Line dancing is nothing new, used to do it myself at Preston Town Hall when I was 16 years old. Made me remember those days of pegged pants, white T-shirts, Canadian jackets and blue suede shoes or oxblood slip ons. Like the song says: I Love Rock 'n' Roll.
         Sadly this was the last record to chart by Merv, there were problems with the record company and his health. However, the same month saw the release of Merv's third album, a greatest hits compilation.
         Merv on the subject: After 'The Worryin' Kind' things came to a head at W&G. Constant complaints from DJs and fans about distribution and quality had got to the point where something had to be done. EMI expressed an interest and (manager) Brian DeCourcy started negotiations for us to change labels. In preparation for the move, Merv and The Tamlas went to the Bill Armstrong Studio in South Melbourne and laid down five tracks. Merv: the difference in sound was amazing to me and there was an atmosphere of excitement as to the direction we were taking. However this was to no avail as the action to move from W&G went against me unfortunately. The dispute with W&G was all about distribution and sound quality. There were so many complaints from so many DJs' about both situations. When we recorded for EMI with Roger Savage engineering on a four-track machine, I must tell you that the sound difference was amazing to me. When the dispute was over in W&G's favour, they took the five tracks we recorded and when they were released, some of the presence of the session was lost as on previous pressings. One thing with W&G that I must say is that they took chances on local talent when on one else was interested and I shall be forever grateful for the opportunity they gave me. Two tracks from this session were released on the W&G label in October 1966. These were an exciting work up of the James Brown R&B song 'I'll Go Crazy' and an interesting cover of 'It Hurts', a song that Elvis Presley had originally recorded for the 'Kissin' Cousins' movie. The record did little business due to distribution difficulties.
         Two more tracks, 'King Of Love c/w 'Who'll Be The Next In Line', from sessions at the Bill Armstrong Studio were released by W&G in December 1966. It was back to the Fabian songbook for the superior reading of 'King Of Love', boy does this record cook.
         Merv: The musicians on these records were The Tamlas with guest appearances by Henri Bource on sax and Peter Robinson on six string bass. Peter had just purchased the instrument and had brought it to the studio to let us hear the sound. He wanted to play the solo on 'King Of Love', so we let him. He had a smile on his face from ear to ear when he heard the playback. 'Who'll Be The Next In Line' was recorded at the EMI session. This was a song that Billy Thorpe, Ray Brown and I discovered on 'The Sounds Of '65' tour. It was a race between the three of us as to who would record it first.
         After the dispute with W&G was settled, Merv returned to the W&G studio to record but with a modified line up for The Tamlas. Both guitarists Les Stacpool and Noel Watson had gone onto other things and had been replaced by Bernie O'Brien and Ron Gilbee. It was around this time that Merv started to have vocal problems and believes that he never performed live with the new line up. The first single from this session was released in May 1967 and was his version of Billy Grammer's 1959 hit 'Bonaparte's Retreat' coupled with 'Do It A Little Bit Slower', a song originally recorded by Jon & Robbin. Merv was only partially happy with the record: Here we were back at W&G Studio for the first time after the dispute. 'Do It Again A Little Bit Slower' was suggested by W&G as the song had come to them from one of their subsidiary affiliations with other companies. Similar to the 'Be Sweet' situation. However because for the publishing rights etc. etc., and the fact that there was a tension between us all, I decided to keep the peace. There really was not a choice. The song is a bit to bubblegum for my tastes, not something I really wanted to record taking into consideration the direction I was yearning to go in.
         Two records, his final singles for W&G, followed in August 1967. The first was 'Too Many Fishes In the Sea' c/w You Didn't Have To Be So Nice' and was followed by 'Lovin' Up A Storm and 'Come On Up. Merv on the last mentioned: A double sided in your face rock 'n' roll single. As I had stopped singing when these singles were released and could not gout there and perform them, they received very little support from the industry. Interest in Merv Benton had diminished to the point that it was obvious the time had come to leave the scene gracefully. 'Lovin' Up A Storm', the Jerry Lee Lewis number, really thumps along and while it's easy to tell the voice was starting to go by the wayside on 'Come On Up, I'm more than happy with the end result.
         Two good songs to finish up with.


Throat Problems and A New Career
         We have mentioned that Merv was having problems with his vocal chords but it is best that he tells the way it really was: Much has been written about the end. It was not a nervous breakdown, although the dispute with W&G was stressful and probably did not help a lot. Quite simply I had polyps growing at the back of my throat, they needed to be removed. They were not caused by singing, you either get them or you don't. As laser surgery was not even thought of in those days, they had to be burnt off. During the surgery the vocal chords received a laceration, consequently I could not sing, neither could I talk.. By the time my throat had healed some six to eight months later, there was no interest (except for a few loyal fans) in the career of Merv Benton. Due to the lack of positive interest, I made the decision that it was time to bow out gracefully as one could, it was time for the dream to end. For those few short years that I lived what I had dreamt, I thank all the fans and all those that supported and contributed to allow me to realize that which occurred.
         With the cessation of his show business career, Merv returned to banking and went to work with the State Savings Bank in their public relations department. However this became boring to him and he began to feel stifled and frustrated with the red tape and bureaucracy. He wished to be able to make his own decisions with regard to his direction his life was to take. Accordingly, he relocated to Queensland in 1969 and set up his own real estate business, concentrating on speculative building. Merv: It was an up and down existence due to the financial state of Australia at the time. During this part of my career, I built a Child Care Centre and became fascinated with the early years of a child's development. I ended up building twelve of these centers in Australia and found a direction that excited me and brought to me a feeling of achievement and satisfaction. Something I am still doing today.
         However, Merv did make some final recordings after recovering from his throat problems. Accompanied Melbourne based group The Fendermen, he returned to the studio in 1970 to cut a number of country tunes that were released by W&G on the album 'Great Country Songs (Movin' On)'. This is a hard album to find but there is a selection of tracks on the Canetoad CD 'Great Shakin' Fever'.
         There was to be one more visit to the recording studio in the early eighties. Merv was approached by Ian B Allen to perform again in Melbourne. When he found out that the backing band, The Allstars, comprised Les Stacpool on guitar, Henri Bource on sax, Murray Robertson on keyboard, Ron Chapman on drums and Ian B Allen on bass, he wanted in. A five track E.P resulted from this line up and Merv sang on three of the cuts: I did perform live with the Allstars several times in the late eighties and early nineties. The E.P. was issued by the Allstars themselves for the fans to have something for the shows. I sang on three of the tracks but was not happy with the final take on 'Baby What's Wrong'. The other two, 'Rocky Road Blues' and 'You Got What It Takes' were revamps and I have no regrets about ether of them.
         In 1991, Merv immigrated to the USA. It is only fitting that Merv tells the story: The house building side of the company I was with struggled with financial difficulties and was placed in bankruptcy in 1990. I had had nothing to do with the speculative building side since 1981 and fortunately was not involved with these proceedings in any way. However the building side of the company was the Parent Company and the Child Care Centres were included in the wash up of the bankruptcy. An American company (Mary Moppets Day Care Schools, now called American Child Car Centers) had heard of my expertise in the field of child care and made me an offer to become their child care consultant and manager. I'm still doing it to this day. As for myself, I have a great family and proudly have four children, Stuart (31), Matthew (29), Frei (23) and Shae (20).

         Merv has only made occasional live musical appearances since those heady days. For the last couple of years, he has journeyed from his home near Phoenix, Arizona to Melbourne Australia for an annual reunion concert. He is a man who is happy to look back on the glory days with a fondness and little regret. He sure did make some great music.

Tony Wilkinson
October, 2003

Thanks for this article have to go Merv Benton who answered all questions posed with a willingness and frankness and the loan of many of his personal archives. This feature also would not have been possible without the help of Bob Hayden who also gave unlimited use of his files. Finally thanks to David McLean of Canetoad Records for supplying the review copies of Merv's two CDs from which I was able to consolidate my opinion of Merv's music and to Jack Warner who kindly loaned us the singles used to illustrate this article. Truly appreciated, gentlemen.










Merv Benton Discography
By Bob Hayden (with additions by Tony Wilkinson)

Singles
W&G WG-S-1844 Baby Let's Play House/Endless Sleep - March 1964
W&G WG-S-1885 Nervous Breakdown/Doncha Think It's Time - June 1964
W&G WG-S-1944 Be Sweet/You're The Dog - August 1964
W&G WG-S-2319 Come On And Get Me/(I Do The) Shimmy Shimmy - November 1964
W&G WG-S-2360 It's Love Baby/Goodnight Irene - March 1965
W&G WG-S-2384 Cincinnati Fireball/I Got Burned - May 1965
W&G WG-S-2432 Yield Not To Temptation/Twenty Flight Rock August - 1965
Marvel 401 Twenty Flight Rock/Yield Not To Temptation - 1965
W&G WG-S-2474 Don't Destroy Me/Can I Believe It's True October - 1965
W&G WG-S-2491 (I Do The) Shimmy Shimmy '65/Baby Lets Play House November - 1965
W&G WG-S-2518 We Got Love/Sell My Soul - December - 1965
W&G WG-S-2545 You Got What It Takes/Shake, Rattle And Roll - February 1966
W&G WG-S-2601 The Worryin' Kind/Big Jack - May 1966
W&G WG-S-8015 I'll Go Crazy/It Hurts Me - October 1966
W&G WG-S-8039 King Of Love/Who'll Be Next In Line - December 1966
W&G WG-S-8072 Do It Again A Little Bit Slower/Bonaparte's Retreat - May 1967
W&G WG-S-8101 Too Many Fish In The Sea/You Didn't Have To Be So Nice - August 1967
W&G WG-S-8133 Lovin' Up A Storm/Come On Up - August 1967

Extended Plays
W&G WG-E-1976 'The Hits Of Merv Benton' - September 1964
        Be Sweet/Nervous Breakdown/Baby Let's Play House/ You're The Dog
W&G WG-E-2407 'Dollars And Dimes' - May 1965
        Honey Don't/Put The Blame/It's Love Baby/Dollars And Dimes
W&G WG-E-2555 'Rockin' Hot' - January 1966
        I Got Burned/Shake Rattle And Roll/Save My Soul/When I Get Paid
W&G WG-E-2556 'We Got Love' - January 1966
King Of Love/Love e Tender/It's Love Baby/We Got Love
W&G WG-E-2707 'More Merv Benton' - August 1966
        I'll Go Crazy
ASR 1000 'Merv Benton And The Allstars' - 1986
        Peter Gunn/New Orleans Beat/Baby What's Wrong/
        You've Got What It Takes/Rocky Road Blues


Albums
W&G WG-B-1916 'Come On And Get Me' - June 1964
        (I Do The) Shimmy Shimmy/Mess Of Blues/Lotta Lovin'/
        Cincinnati Fireball/Twenty Flight Rock/Come On And
        Get Me/Baby Let's Play House/Nervous Breakdown/
        Love Me Tender/Pretty Girls Everywhere/Don't Leave Me Now/Honey Don't
W&G WG-B-2494 'Sounds Great' - October 1965
        Feel It/Rocky Road Blues/When I Get Paid/You Send
        Me/It's Love Baby/I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine/
        I Got Burned/King Of Love/Sell My Soul/Dollars
        And Dimes/Hello Josephine/Too Much/Goodnight
        Irene/Yield Not To Temptation
W&G WG-B-2631 'The Best Of Merv Benton' - May 1966
        I Got Burned/We Got Love/Don't Destroy Me/It's
        Love Baby/ Cincinnati Fireball/Be Sweet/(I Do The)
        Shimmy Shimmy '65/Nervous Breakdown/Come On
        And Get Me/Baby Let's Play House/Yield Not To
        Temptation/You Got What It Takes/Sell My Soul/The Worryin' Kind
W&G WG-25/S/5481 'Great Country Songs (Movin' On) - May 1970
        I'm Movin' On/500 Miles/Memphis Tennessee/
        Lonesome Town/Don't Think Twice, It's All Right/
        A Born Loser/Abilene/Ruby/Kentucky Woman/
        I Walk The Line/Jailer Bring Me Water
Teen TC-001LP61 'Rockin' At The Kangaroo Hop' - Circa 1979
        Can I Believe its True/Baby Let's Play House/
        Nervous Breakdown/Cincinnati Fireball
        (Remainder of tracks by other artists)
Raven RVLP-16 'The Fabulous Merv Benton' - 1984
        Yield Not To Temptation/It's Love Baby/Put The
        Blame On Me/Can I Believe It's True?/Be Sweet/
        King Of Love/Come On and Get Me/Lonely
        Weekends/The Worrying Kind/You Got What It
        Takes (To Take What I Got)/Don't Destroy Me/
        Baby, Let's Play House/Nervous Breakdown/
        Cincinnati Fireball/Rocky Road Blues/ My Girl
        Josephine/Honey Don't/Twenty Flight Rock/
        (I Do The) Shimmy Shimmy '65/I'll Go Crazy/
        I Got Burned/Sell My Soul.


Compact Discs
Canetoad Records 'Greatest Hits: 1964-1967'- August 2002
        CTCD-031 Baby Let's Play House/Endless Sleep/Nervous
        Breakdown/Doncha' Think It's Time/Be Sweet/
        You're The Dog/Come On And Get Me/It's
        Love Baby/Goodnight Irene/Cincinnati Fireball/
        I Got Burned/Twenty Flight Rock/Yield Not To
        Temptation/Don't Destroy Me/Can I Believe
        It's True/(I Do The) Shimmy Shimmy '65/We
        Got Love/Sell My Soul/You Got What It Takes/
        Shake, Rattle And Roll/The Worryin' Kind/Big
        Jack/I'll Go Crazy/It Hurts Me/King Of Love/
        Who'll Be The Next In Line/Bonaparte's Retreat/
        Do It Again A Little Bit Slower/Too Many Fish
        In The Sea/You Didn't Have To Be So Nice/
        Lovin' Up A Storm/Come On Up
Canetoad Records 'Great Shakin' Fever' - August 2002
        CTCD-032 (I Do The) Shimmy Shimmy/Honey Don't/Dollars
        And Dimes/Put The Blame On Me/When I Get
        Paid/Lotta Lovin'/Love Me Tender/Feel It/Mess
        Of Blues/Pretty Girls Everywhere/Don't Leave Me
        Now/Rocky Road Blues/You Send Me/I Don't Care
        If The Sun Don't Shine/My Girl Josephine/Too
        Much/Great Shakin' Fever/Runaway Lover/Girl
        Machine/I Want That/One Sided Love Affair/
        Lonely weekends/Always/Pride And Joy/Roll
        Over Beethoven/Don't Leave Me Now/Yield
        Not To Temptation/500 Miles/Memphis Tennessee/
        Don't Think Twice, It's Alright/A Born Loser/
        Jailer Bring Me Water.








Page posted March, 2004





Tony Wilkinson & Rockabilly Hall of Fame