Boyd Bennett (1924-2002) is the late American rockabilly singer-songwriter who, together with his band Boyd Bennett and His Rockets, achieved several hit singles during the 50s music era such as “My Boy – Flat Top,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Boogie Beat” and their biggest hit “Seventeen.” Bennett later worked as a radio DJ in Kentucky. More on Boyd Bennett here in this article!
Early life and career
Boyd Byron Bennett was born in Muscle Shoals, Alabama on December 7, 1924. However, he grew up in Tennessee where he also had his early education.
It’s no wonder why Boyd Bennett was musically talented, for music was his family’s passion. His grandfather used to teach music at their church community.
During the Depression era Bennett used his talent in order to make ends meet. He performed with several bands and busked outside clubs for extra money. However, his music career went to a halt when World War II broke out, and he went into service for four years. After the war, Bennett resumed his music career by playing at local dances and appearing on TV shows.
He appeared on his own show Boyd Bennett and His Space Buddies which originated from a concept by Bennett himself. It also starred the late actor Foster Brooks, who considered this show as his first break in showbiz. Despite becoming a hit among local fans, it was axed off the air after seven editions. Bennett and his Southlanders group continued to perform at several more local dances.
Boyd Bennett and His Rockets
Bennett and the Southlanders had changed their name into Boyd Bennett and His Rockets and continued to perform at ballrooms. Bennett started to experiment different music styles that would attract the teenaged listeners. Boyd and His Rockets rented a studio at King Records and recorded a handful of singles (including their cover of “Poison Ivy”) which were selling very well and because of this, they were re-released on King label. The label’s honcho Syd Nathan signed Boyd and His Rockets to a recording contract.
In 1955 the group released a song that Boyd himself wrote, titled “Seventeen.” It peaked at #5 on the Billboard pop chart and #7 on the R&B chart. It also became a sizable hit in the UK as it reached at #16 there.
Later that year Boyd Bennett and His Rockets followed “Seventeen” with “My Boy – Flat Top” (co-written by Boyd and John Young) which became a lesser hit, reaching the Top 40 pop chart at #39. Around the same time Bennett also became a radio disc jockey in Louisville, Kentucky.
Boyd Bennett’s later life
After King, Bennett moved to Mercury Records, without notable success. Realizing that he was losing appeal to the teenage audience, Bennett abandoned performing altogether and became an entrepreneur. He ran several establishments including nightclubs and an air-conditioning parts manufacturer.
Bennett would make sporadic concert appearances (often with country singer Ray Price). He later made a few gospel records as well including the LP Step into the Sunshine in 1980.
Bennett was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2002. On June 2 that year, he passed away after suffering a lung ailment. He was 77 years old. He will always be a legend remembered by most lovers of 50s classic rock and oldies music.
“Seventeen” has been re-recorded several times by other artists. Notable covers include:
- The Fontane Sisters (who brought the song to #3 on the Billboard pop chart in 1955)
- Rusty Draper (#18 pop, 1955)
- Dorothy Collins (#16 pop, 1955)
- Frankie Vaughn (#18 UK, 1956)
- Frankie Ford (#72 pop, 1961)