'Guitar' Bennett, according to 'BLUES RECORDS 1943 -1966', made two
records in 1965, one on World Artists and one on the Junior label, neither
of which sold. What Leadbitter & Slaven don't tell us is that Bennett is
alive and doing very well in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia has
never been known as a blues town and it was quite by accident that a friend
and I happened to run across him in Scottty's Bar on 52nd Street in West
Philadelphia. Scotty's, quite apart from the bars and lounges in Chicago
where entertainment is featured, has a well‘furnished interior and even a
small lounge where the musician can go after each set. There was about fifty
people in Scotty's when Bobby's first set started and barely any notice was
given to the group as they ran through the current R&B standards. On the
last number though, more than a few eyebrows were raised as Bobby broke into
a flashy Freddy King type instrumental, showing off some of his guitar
prowess. After the set we called him over and he was more than happy to talk
Bobby was born in Rayford, N.C. and when he was learning to play, fashioned
himself after B.B. King and
Jimmy Reed. He toured with soul singer Chuck
Jackson for a while until he settled in Philadelphia, where he plays today
in one of many bars throughout the city which feature live entertainment.
Since the first set consisted mainly of soul material except for the teasing
last number, we asked him if he would play some blues, an idea which he
happily obliged to. He opened the set with a version of 'Stormy Monday'
which would have made T- Bone sit up and take notice, with his big guitar
screaming...punctuating Bobby's strident, ballsy vocal.
The set continued like this for the best part of forty‘five minutes and the
normally passive audience was screaming for more, whereupon Bobby launched
into a ten-minute version of B.B's 'Don't Answer The Door',and ended the set
completely exhausted, with an instrumental in which he stole a few tricks
from Buddy Guy's book and played the guitar with his teeth, one handed, and
wrapped round a curtain!
Bobby Bennett, like many bluesmen, has had to adapt to changing tastes, but
it is plain from the audience reaction that the blues still has a few fans
in Philadelphia. Although Bobby doesn't usually include many blues in his
sets he is always happy to play them when requested, and he always
shows off his guitar playing virtuosity. Bobby reputation has even reached.
Chicago, and. one man there who has seen the best Chicago got to offer,
compared. him favorably to people like Otis Rush and Magic Sam, Bobby is
doing okay financially but a little publicity might get him playing outside
of Philadelphia and. maybe a record. company contract with a company that
knows how to treat blues musicians.
Joe McEwen 'Philadelphia Blues' in BU 92, June 1972