Graham Reid | | 2 min read
Unlike his lesser peer Ronnie Sundin who is reasonably well known in New Zealand rock'n'roll circles but a very limited talent, Teddy Bennett is harder to find information about.
In fact, Elsewhere is prepared to admit that until lunch with a friend who had found a copy of Bennett's 1961 album -- the unpromisingly titled Where Were You On Our Wedding Day -- we'd never heard of him.
Although we had actually heard him because this track is on the Pie Cart Rock'n'Roll compilation which we have certainly played. But his name didn't stick.
Even in Chris Bourke's scrupulously researched Blue Smoke, The Lost Dawn of New Zealand Popular Music 1918-1964 he only get a passing mention as “Hasting's Elvis” who recorded for HMV.
There is no photo of him in Blue Smoke, nor on the cover of Pie Cart Rock'n'Roll.
So who is this mystery man who could make a decent fist of Fifties pop, early rock'n'roll (La Bamba, Wimoweh) and standards (A Shanty in Old Shanty Town, Yellow Bird)?
To find that out you need to go to the Australian website sergeant.com.au to learn he was born in Hastings in 1941, at Napier Boys High excelled at rugby and athletics, went to university in Wellington where he formed Teddy and the Bears and they recorded three singles for the Pacific label and a fourth 'Cause You're My Girl/Angel Smile for Teen Records in Australia.
What's interesting is 'Cause Your My Girl and the Pacific A-side You Are My Girl were Bennett original songs. Unusual at the time.
In 1961 he won a talent quest and had an audition with HMV who were impressed and – backed by their house band the Premiers -- he recorded the single Wimoweh/Clap Your Hands.
Another single followed then the album (the title track was the single backed with Buono Sera).
There were other singles released in New Zealand and Australia, and again he recorded originals: the exciting Let's All Twist Tonight and Oh Me Oh My.
And The Life I Live.
On this song he namechecks various towns and cities around the country where he has girlfriends.
It's not up to much really, but Teddy Bennett was fairly decent singer in that more tame period between earthy rock'n'roll and the arrival of the Beatles and you can hear 20 of his songs – his complete recordings at a guess – at Spotify here.
As with most local singers at the time – and right into the mid Sixties – he was obliged to do covers and be expected to be a popular entertainer, not an actual rock'n'roller.
But Teddy Bennett – not exactly Hasting's Elvis – is worth hearing.
I heard he later sang religious songs, perhaps that future hinted at by the inclusion of Just a Closer Walk With Thee on the album.
For more oddities, one-offs or songs with an interesting backstory check the massive back-catalogue at From the Vaults.