b. 4 June 1940, Slough, Middlesex, England. One of the most accomplished UK R&B vocalists of his era, Bennett formed the excellent Rebel Rousers in late 1958. Taking their name from a Duane Eddy hit of the period, the band originally comprised Bennett (vocals), Mick King (guitar), Frank Allen (bass), Sid Phillips (piano/saxophone) and Ricky Winters (drums). By 1961 the line-up featured Bernie Watson (guitar), Moss Groves (saxophone) and Mick Burt (drums) alongside Bennett, Allen, Phillips. Dave Wendells replaced Watson in December 1962, and the following year Roy Young (keyboards/vocals) was brought into the line-up.
Boasting a repertoire of rock ‘n’ roll, blue-eyed soul and R&B, the band was briefly taken under the wing of madcap producer Joe Meek, with whom they recorded several unsuccessful singles. A succession of R&B cover versions brought no further success and, early in 1964, bass player Frank Allen departed to replace Tony Jackson in the Searchers. He was replaced by Bobby Thompson. The Rebel Rousers continued their busy touring schedule at home and abroad and were finally rewarded with a Top 10 hit, ‘One Way Love’, in November 1964. This brassy, upbeat cover version of the Drifters’ original augured well for the future, but the follow-up, ‘I’ll Take You Home’, stalled at number 43. Abandoning the Drifters as source material, they covered other R&B artists, without noticeable success.
A move to Brian Epstein’s NEMs management secured the Rebel Rousers the invaluable patronage of the Beatles, and Paul McCartney stepped in to produce their sparkling reading of ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’ from the recently released Revolver. Peaking at number 6, the single was the band’s second and last Top 10 hit. Thereafter, Bennett fell victim to changing musical fashions as beat groups were generally dismissed as anachronistic. The Rebel Rousers changed their name to the more prosaic Cliff Bennett And His Band and briefly sought success with contemporary writers such as Mark London and Roy Wood.
By mid-1969, Bennett decided to dissolve his band and reinvent himself for the progressive market. The result was Toe Fat, a short-lived ensemble now best remembered for their tasteless album covers rather than their music. In 1972, Bennett tried again with Rebellion, and, three years later, Shanghai, but without success. Weary of traipsing around the country, he eventually turned to working in the advertising business, but still plays semi-professionally.