Cliff Bennett
& The Rebel Rousers

TrackSingle / Album
AlrightParlophone R 5080
One Way LoveParlophone R 5173
Steal Your Heart AwayCliff Bennett And The Rebel Rousers
I Can't Stand ItCliff Bennett And The Rebel Rousers
Ain't That Lovin' You BabyCliff Bennett And The Rebel Rousers
Got To Get You Into My LifeParlophone R 5489
Three Rooms With Running WaterDrivin' You Wild
I Have Cried My Last TearDrivin' You Wild
(That's Why) I Love You SoDrivin' You Wild
You're Breaking Me Up ...Cliff Bennett Branches Out

Cliff Bennett (vocals), Dave Wendels (lead guitar), Mick Burt (drums), Bobby Thomson (bass), Roy Young (piano), Maurice Groves (sax), Sid Phillips (sax)


Cliff Bennett playlist



Contributor: Dave Stephens

Those with memories long enough will recall that Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers had a couple of Top Ten hits in the mid sixties. Anyone else probably won’t know anything about him at all. For the much larger second group and maybe even a few from the first, let me get a few things straight:

* Cliff was easily the most consistent and, arguably the best, R&B cum Soul Shouter produced by these islands. I’d even go further and state that Cliff was better than any white singer anywhere operating in the R&B field in the mid sixties.

* His band, the Rebel Rousers, were the best band operating in the UK in the R&B sector in the mid to late sixties. They were at least on a par with Georgie Fame’s Blue Flames but I would maintain were capable of greater variation.

* Cliff was one of the greatest covers singer ever and that’s not intended as any form of backhanded compliment. A very high proportion of the output from Cliff and his band consisted of covers and a high proportion of those covers came with spanking new arrangements. This implied risk taking and you know the saying “you’ll never get anywhere if you don’t take risks”, well, they believed it. Not everything worked but the evidence suggests that they had fun trying and many of the reinterpreted versions give us valid alternate takes on sometimes over-played originals.

An example: most of us are aware of Muddy Waters’ Got My Mojo Working and I’ve even been known to use words like warhorse about it. The Blues Incorporated version added a riff but was otherwise pretty faithful. Take a listen to the Bennett version; there’s another new riff only this time performed by a supremely drilled sax section, yup there’s a guitar present playing some nice astringent stuff, the drummer is hammering the hell out of his kit and the bass man and pianist are doing their damnedest to be heard. Cliff is either double tracked or has a pretty telepathic double singing along. “Goes like the clappers” is the usual phrase and – yes it does. According to Jimmy Page’s Discography that was him on guitar, with the session dated 27th March 1964.



A broad idea of the sound of Cliff and the band will have been gleaned from that clip. The double sax section of Sid Phillips and Maurice “Moss” Groves immediately differentiated them from the vast mass of British bands who were seeking fame and fortune circa ’63/’64. If you were to select from that long list of purely those bands which associated themselves with what we called R&B then, yes, there were others with the odd horn player but none had the density of the Rebel Rousers. That thickness started with Cliff himself whose tones had a molasses richness that you couldn’t pin down to any single American influence. Indeed the person who came closest to matching those tones might have been Roy Young who provided back-up vocal as well as organ and piano throughout the bulk of the existence of the Rebel Rousers. It was most likely Roy alongside Cliff on Got My Mojo Working.

And those influences were wider than one might have expected. The first album, the eponymous Cliff Bennett And The Rebel Rousers which was largely (and entirely predictably) a grab bag of singles, flips and a few others, gives some idea of that diversity. There was one Jimmy Reed track – which as far as I know was the only Reed number ever done by the band – and zero Berry or Diddley. Elsewhere, there were two Curtis Mayfield/Impressions numbers, one Don Covay, one from the Shirelles, one Motown, and two that had been released over here by Sue UK –the Soul Sisters’ I Can’t Stand It (originally on US Sue) and Bobby Parker’s Steal Your Love Away, the flip to his cult single Watch Your Step. In addition, and more surprisingly, Sweet And Lovely, the oldie that had been revived successfully by Nino Tempo and April Stevens got included alongside an attempt by the boys to do something similar with Stephen Foster’s Beautiful Dreamer. Most unexpected of all was the closer, The Pick-Up which had Conway Twitty’s name down as composer. The number can be found on the flip of a very obscure single from Twitty released in the UK in January 1963. I’ll leave the reader to search out the original but I can assure you that the reinterpretation, opening with a mammoth beat, took it up through a few gears with the twin horns adding beef. And it’s that number which gives us a bit more of a clue to Cliff and the Rebel Rousers’ background.

They’d been gigging since 1958 and recording since ’61. The saxes didn’t appear immediately but were in place by ’63. Early influences included Sun artists Jerry Lee Lewis and Charlie Rich – Lonely Weekends would appear as a Bennett flip in ’68 and they covered Jerry on their second single in ’61.

Take this pair of artists plus Twitty, whose even more obscure It’s Drivin’ Me Wild would crop up as title of the second Bennett/Rebel Rousers LP, and you had other elements of that Bennett vocal. There was a certain thickness in the voices of both Rich and Twitty (plus the odd croaks from the latter which Cliff rather liked – you could tell!) though Cliff didn’t have such a propensity for ballads as either of this pair. And he certainly didn’t make the crossover to country like them.

From Jerry he picked up the wide ranging taste buds and the “I can do that” ebullience. It’s worth a listen to that Lewis cover. The number was When I Get Paid, from that Sun period when he and Sam Phillips were desperately trying to resuscitate Jerry’s career after the child bride episode. The song was atypical Jerry in that it was much more like R&B than his usual material.

Producer Joe Meek makes an absolute pig’s ear of his attempts at replicating the famed Phillips Sun echo and manages to largely ruin the piano track on the record. However, Cliff sounds confident and doesn’t come across as merely a Lewis copyist. For comparison purposes here’s the Killer sounding as relaxed as usual. It was interesting that Phillips had a sax player in the studio for this one. Wonder if this gave Cliff ideas.

As a final comment on the Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers sound from mid ’63 to late ’67, much of their music was solidly aimed at the dance floor like many black bands of the era – think Sam & Dave at Stax – though that didn’t stop them from dropping in the odd blues soaked ballad. A good example is the number I mentioned a few paras ago, Bobby Parker’s Steal Your Heart Away. Note, particularly, Cliff’s delivery in the stop time sections:



Cliff was born in Slough on 4th June 1940 and first started working with a band in 1957 though for the first year or two they operated on an amateur basis. The following year they christened themselves the “Rebel Rousers” with the name taken from the Duane Eddy hit. There’s a lovely picture of the very early band in the Top UK Artists Biographies site, 45rpm: follow the “click here” in the sentence “If you’d like to know more about Cliff and the early days of the Rebel Rousers, then just click here and be prepared for some very special pictures”. The picture shows the band in skiffle mode but they dropped that as soon as they could and switched to rock and roll. The feature also talks about connections to Arthur Wood (of the Artwoods) and brother Ronnie (of you know who). In ’61 they started recording for the Parlophone label, with Joe Meek handling the production duties at his Holloway Road studios. Meek arranged for distribution via Parlophone. While picking up consistent praise from their fellow artists, the early records did very little, in part hampered by lack of promotion.

As a recognition of the quality of their live performances, in early 1962 Cliff and the boys started a six month’s residence at the Star Club, Hamburg. It was there that they met the Beatles. They also came across Roy Young and were impressed with his act. Roy dated back to the first generation of Brit rock and roll: he was the one who did the Little Richard numbers in Jack Good’s Oh Boy television show. Arrangements were made for Roy to join the Rebel Rousers at the end of his contract which duly happened.

In 1964, they were signed up by Brian Epstein and this signalled an improvement in their fortunes in terms of records. One Way Love, a Drifters song which had done zilch in terms of sales in the UK, was given a punchy new arrangement with horns riffing strongly and the public seemed to like it, resulting in the record reaching No.9 in the UK chart. Follow-ups maintained the quality but found only limited reward.

It wasn’t until ’66 that the band got another Top Ten hit, this time with the Beatles-written and McCartney-produced, Got To Get You Into My Life, a song from the Revolver album. Reportedly, McCartney played the song to Cliff when the band were playing down the bill a bit on a Beatles European tour. There were no plans at the time for the Beatles to release the song as a single (though it did come out in the US in ’76) and its presence on Revolver undoubtedly helped boost sales for Cliff.

The boys recorded three albums under the Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers name but in June ’68 there was a split resulting in Cliff recruiting a new band (called alternatively Rebellion or the Cliff Bennett Band). The Rebel Rousers continued but under the name of the Roy Young Band. Cliff’s new outfit included two ex-members of Johnny Kidd’s Pirates, guitarist Mick Green and drummer Frank Farley. The new band continued putting out singles, including a cover of Back In The USSR plus an album, Cliff Bennett Branches Out.

1969 saw the formation of Toe Fat, a semi-progressive outfit consisting of the rump of Rebellion plus new members. Cliff was slightly ahead of one of his peers in this sort of move: Chris Farlowe joined jazz rock outfit Colosseum in September 1970. Toe Fat released a couple of albums before dissolving. Cliff continued as a solo artist and worked for a time with a band called Shanghai. There used to be a clip on YT of the band performing on The Old Grey Whistle Test. It’s no longer there but here’s the track they played, Over The Wall.

In the late seventies Cliff left music altogether. Wiki states that “Bennett retired from the music industry to go into shipping, through which he made a considerable amount of money” which I confess to finding a tad amazing. However, he was back performing in the nineties and a few albums came out featuring a rather more grizzled Cliff, one of which, in 2009, has the appropriate title Nearly Retired.



The Drifters’ One Way Love was a record that just didn’t click in the UK. It was written by Bert Berns and Jerry Ragavoy with both using pseudonyms. The single, plus a few others that were released in between On Broadway and Under The Boardwalk, didn’t seem to get airplay (or my memory’s playing tricks). It was a great record, well up to the group’s high standards and should have been a hit:

The Bennett version, released five months later (September ’64), replaced the elegance of the easy rolling original with a speeded up and more urgent interpretation which, arguably, was a better match for the lyrics. For those who’d never seen or heard of Bennett before, this must have been quite something; a white boy sounding so comfortable with black material, and a stabbing, thrusting band, the like of which you rarely heard in the UK. The clip below features the boys on UK telly. Cliff wasn’t the greatest at lip synching but at least it’s a chance to see the group. Note the band outfits which appear to be the ones featured on the first album sleeve.

Those readers who’ve heard Cliff’s Got To Get You Into My Life are likely to also know the Beatles’ Revolver original. McCartney was spot on with his identification of Cliff and his ditty as ideal singer/song match with the Rebel Rousers brass being perfect for back-up. No comment necessary but here are Cliff & co with a really live version this time, and don’t they do it well!



Any mention of the word ‘favourites’ in association with Cliff Bennett immediately takes me with no hesitation to the second album, Drivin’ You Wild. I bought the LP somewhere around late ’66 or early ’67 i.e. well into the flower power period to which I was an immediate convert. I don’t recall precisely what tempted me into the purchase. I guess I hadn’t entirely deserted my love for soul, R&B and blues, I appreciated Cliff’s pair of hit singles though hadn’t bought either. I did own Cliff’s first single though, the Lewis inspired You’ve Got What I Like / I’m In Love With You, and the fact that Cliff was, at least at some stage, a Jerry Lee fan, gave him a big tick from me. Lastly, the fact that the LP was released on the EMI budget label, Music For Pleasure, hence retailing at a massive 12/6 in old money, might just have weighed into that decision.

It was an odd album to sit alongside Surrealistic Pillow, Tim Buckley’s first and the Byrds’ third but it probably got played even more than some of the delights from sunny California. To use a very poor pun, the music from Cliff and the Rebel Rousers when listened to at LP length gave me a whole lotta pleasure. With hindsight it’s easy to identify the set as the A-sides of three singles and several other tracks recorded in order to fill out to album length. What came across however was cohesion, with what I’d term the Cliff Bennett/Rebel Rousers sound running the show. Which could sound bland or forced but it was anything but. Only a few tracks were obvious inclusions and even those tracks weren’t in the set lists of most Brit R&B bands, and I’d seen a lot of such outfits live in the ’64/’65 period. Elsewhere there were tracks, the originals of which I’d never come across and that same comment would apply to most people.

In terms of mood setting, the opener Three Rooms With Running Water, was an absolute delight. This was one of the three singles I alluded to though I don’t recall it getting any airplay, a regular refrain of mine on Bennett records. The song was co-written by Jimmy Radcliffe, a man who is famed as much for his writing ability as his performing. The original version was recorded by H B Barnum in ’64 though there were later ones from Johnny Nash and Clyde McPhatter. A great song (with a magnificent hook) and a great original but I’m glad that Cliff’s arranger decided to do without the shrill strings.

Whether those whoops and hollers from Cliff during the break and at the close were entirely suited to the barren existence of the singer since she’d left him to his three rooms etc., I’m a tad unsure, but they don’t detract from the atmosphere for me.

I mentally bracket that one with another semi-ballad from the set, Ernie K-Doe’s I Have Cried My Last Tear, which was the flip of A Certain Girl in 1961, itself covered by the Yardbirds early in their career. No one seemed to have bothered to turn that record over until Cliff did. Both songs were written and both sides were produced by the great Allen Toussaint and were excellent examples of New Orleans Soul with a bounce never too far away from the teardrops. Cliff and the boys manage to emphasise that bounce with greater stridency, replacing the general air of mournfulness in the original with an only slightly wobbly upper lip and “I’m gonna make it attitude”. And that “semi” I used in introducing the song was merely an indication that the reinterpretation took the song from a ballad, if a bit on the up tempo side to something that was rather more anthemic if not outright knees-up.

My third selection from Drivin’ You Wild is something of a curiosity. The song is (That’s Why) I Love You So and the writers are listed as Gordy and Carlo. This ties in to a song with that title written by Berry Gordy and Tyran Carlo for Jackie Wilson, which resulted in a fine record from Jackie in 1959. The only discernible surface difference between this one and the Bennett track was the brackets which had transferred themselves to the second half of the title in the Wilson song, as in That’s Why (I Love You So). But there was more to it than that; the Bennett ‘version’ seemed to be a different song altogether, albeit a rather nice chunky strutter. I have no explanation for this confusion but my suspicion is that the song has been incorrectly attributed on the album (see also comment in the Footnotes).

I shouldn’t leave the set without acknowledging the songs I referred to as “obvious” which were Sam Cooke’s Another Saturday Night, Little Milton’s Who’s Cheating Who and Marvin Gaye’s I’ll Be Doggone. All three Bennett performances are solid and differ enough from the originals to make them welcome. The last, indeed, almost made the Ten.

My second LP purchase from Cliff and co. was their first, the self-titled one. The tracks on this album took a little time to worm their way into the grey matter, but they got there. My problem this time was over-familiarity with some of the originals. For example their take on You Really Got A Hold On Me wasn’t a million miles away from the Beatles version, though that, of course, wasn’t the original. It was arguably almost as good as the Fabs but it didn’t have Lennon. I don’t know actual recording dates but there’s a chance their single – released November ’63 – might have been recorded before the Beatles’ album cut, since With The Beatles was released in the same month.

The album opener, I Can’t Stand It, could have presented a similar problem. I own the original from the Soul Sisters and had even seen the ladies on stage in, I think, 1965 on their London visit (at the Flamingo). Cliff, Roy and the band kick that potential issue into touch by doubling up the tempo, chucking in some improv, and generally making the number sound more vital. I don’t know how I’ve managed to get this far into this essay and only once referenced Sam & Dave but that’s broadly how Cliff and Roy treat the number:

Another number, Jimmy Reed’s Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby sounds as if it has undergone a major transformation but it sort of has and sort of hasn’t. The original sounded like almost typical Jimmy Reed only deploying a different melody line and somewhat more urgency than usual. But there was a later version; Betty Everett & Jerry Butler got together for a take in ’64 which threw out all the downhome aspects and replaced them with something between a swing and funk big band arrangement. Very nice it was too. As indeed was the Bennett version which, in terms of arrangement, owed something to the Everett/Butler take – he acknowledges as such on the sleeve – but it’s hotter. Those horns are positively steaming and Roy is encouraging Cliff into even more intense declarations of lurve for the lady he calls his baby.

Round about this time – mid ’66 to be more precise – Cliff and Roy outed themselves as Sam & Dave lovers. Hold On I’m Comin’ saw release as a single and You Don’t Know Like I Know appeared on the third album Got To Get You Into Our Life, released in ’67. The full intensity of that love became clear on Cliff Bennett Branches Out which contained not one, not two, but five S & D numbers. Was Cliff conscious that the end was nigh and wanting to pack in numbers that he’d been performing on stage, invariably with Roy Young from the old band taking the other vocal role? There’s a distinct irony present.

In theory, at this time, Roy Young had gone off with the other Rebel Rousers to pursue their own destiny. In reality, I don’t believe it could have been anyone other than him on second vocal. For me, though, the strongest track in the set was the opener You’re Breaking Me Up (And I’m Wasting Away) written by a Roy Wood, and I’m assuming it’s the same Roy Wood. Is it my imagination or is there some Beatles similarity on this one? And I mean the number, not the treatment. The Move/ELO/Wizzard Wood was something of a dab hand at writing pastiches. The track was released as a single but you know and I know it didn’t get any sales.

On the subject of singles, if I appear to have ignored them it’s merely that a goodly number got bundled onto the LPs. I’m certainly not ignoring one though. I’ve already referred to the boys’ take on You Really Got A Hold On Me which appeared as the fifth single. It was the first not to have “An R.G.M. Sound Recording” sitting underneath the record number on the label, indicating that Joe Meek was the producer. “Hold On Me” was the first of the John Burgess productions and the first to have that CB and RR’s sound that would continue through till early ’67. Even the Cliff Bennett Band tracks produced by David Paramor weren’t drastically different. The flip of “Hold On Me”, Alright, wasn’t another semi-ignored nugget from the US, instead it was an attempt to give Cliff some of the Mersey Magic. The earliest recording of the song I’ve managed to track down appears on the first EP from the Searchers in Summer ’63 – the scousers were then riding high on the success of Sweets For My Sweet. The song proved to be an ideal match for the aggression of the Rebel Rousers approach with the horns providing hints of Stax. Maybe rabble rousing more than rebel rousing but fabulous party stuff.




There were so many goodies from this band that ten selections doesn’t do them justice. So here are my bubbling under / honorary mentions / you know what I mean. Where tracks don’t appear e.g. Solomon Burke’s You Can’t Love ’Em All and a few others, it’s only because I’m so infatuated with the original that a cover just isn’t going to do it justice. Subjective but I think you know what I’m getting at.

You’ve Got What I Like (1961)
A-side of the first single and one that deserves to be included in that tiny handful of seriously good British rock ‘n’ roll alongside the Move It’s and Shaking All Over’s. But it never does. In my eyes this was as good as anything Vince Taylor produced.

She Said “Yeh” (1964) (and Parlophone’s spelling)
From the first EP. There were three EPs released and none of the songs on them appeared on any single or LP from Cliff and the boys. And, yes, this was the great Larry Williams number and Cliff’s version was recorded before the take from the Stones (on Out Of Our Heads). I love both the original and the Stones more metallic effort but Cliff took the song closer to up tempo soul which is where I felt the original was intended to be targeted. Williams, of course, did move into the soul arena both with, and without, Johnny “Guitar” Watson.

Do You Love Him (1965)
Flip of I’ll Take You Home and the first Bennett written song of any note.

If Only You’d Reply (1965)
Another Bennett written effort and again relegated to a B-side. His best song to date and one that aimed more towards a pop rather than a soul audience. Given proper promotion it could have picked up healthy sales.

Sweet And Lovely (1965)
From the first LP but certainly not filler; none of his album tracks were. I’ve given a namecheck to the song and original artists already but am bringing it up again to highlight the fact that Cliff and the boys used the approach as a template for “rocked-up oldies” like Irving Berlin’s Always. Not on YT but it is on Spotify so dig it out.

Talking About My Baby (1965)
Also from the first LP and a typical example of the Bennett/RR approach as applied to a song from Curtis Mayfield, one of the more idiosyncratic song writers.

It’s Drivin’ Me Wild (1966)
The title track from the second LP and another song sourced from Conway Twitty but sounding for all the world like Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers. Cliff was evidently a big fan since he included in this set the B-side of that 1961 Twitty single, Sweet Sorrow. It’s worth a listen to both originals, It’s Drivin’ Me Wild and Sweet Sorrow to see how much Cliff took from Conway. You can pick up those inflections elsewhere in the Bennett oeuvre but they’re somewhat toned back from the CT extremes.

Baby Baby Baby (1966)
Second track, first side, immediately following Three Rooms With Running Water and a switch from a marginally downbeat one, for Cliff that is, to full-on hedonism. Cliff & Roy do their Sam & Dave act only this time they’re actually doing Anna King & Bobby Byrd who, when they recorded this, were in the James Brown Revue.

Who’s Cheating Who (1966)
Another from the second LP. Probably not technically as good as the original but it works so well in the context of the album.

I’m Not Tired (1967)
From the Got To Get You Into Our Life album and originally the flip to Wilson Pickett’s Midnight Hour. A more contemplative Pickett than usual and the same comment applies to Cliff.

I’ll Take Good Care Of You (1967)
Single and one that took me to the Garnet Mimms original rather than the other way round. One of Cliff’s gentler efforts.

One More Heartache (1968)
Single with the original coming from Marvin Gaye plus subsequent cover from the Paul Butterfield Band.

When Something Is Wrong With My Baby (1968)
From Cliff Bennett Branches Out. And, no, it’s not as good as the Sam & Dave classic ballad but no one could have matched that. Brave try though and well worth a listen.

That’s enough. If the reader is at all into Cliff Bennett then he or she will have his or her favourites.



Throughout the mid sixties in the UK, Cliff Bennett seemed to be part of a pleasing backdrop to the music scene in general; never making bad records but not up there with the innovators. It didn’t help that he had a tendency to fall between two stools; a bit too R&B for the pop audience for much of the time but too pop for the culturally more snobbish R&B sector. The fact that he didn’t play the big London clubs like the Marquee and the Flamingo could have been part of the rationale for him being ignored by the R&B fans. Another could well have been his habit of sticking very largely to medium to up tempo dance style numbers rather than taking on big soul ballads or blues. It was often the latter which got artists like Winwood and Farlowe taken seriously by the cognoscenti.

White Soul as a genre has always been jam packed with copies of black artists and their songs. Only a few artists transcended this approach – Elvis and Charlie Rich come to mind; there weren’t many others. Cliff Bennett’s voice, while taking on board a number of influences, not all black, was his own, and recognisably so. But his inability to produce sufficient songs of quality himself or find others to do so for him, led to a reliance on existing black R&B material which eventually caused record buyers to lose interest. Add in to this, support in the UK for soul and R&B in the late sixties dropping down the other side of the bell curve, and other forms of music including psych taking its place, and it should be clear why interest in Cliff evaporated.

But Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers bequeathed to the world a simply glorious body of music. That is all that matters. Just listen and put any prejudices along the lines of “can blue men sing the whites” to one side.



1. The Rebel Rousers were almost as important as the lead singer. Even when the players went their own way, the new band formed to support Cliff was very much in the Rousers image. I’ve already attempted to give some credit to vocal and keyboards man, Roy Young. The post Cliff Bennett Rebel Rousers under the new name of the Roy Young Band released a couple of albums in the early seventies. Another name of note in the RR was that of Chas Hodges who went on to form Chas and Dave with Dave Peacock. Hodges was a versatile musician who switched to piano when forming C&D. He also took RR drummer Mick Burt with him to support the new combo. Whether Peacock ever played with the RR I’m not sure – his name doesn’t appear in any lists I’ve seen. An earlier bassist with the RR, Frank Allen, went on to replace Tony Jackson in the Searchers in ’64.

2. I casually used the wording Brit R&B in the text. The term Rhythm and Blues was open to very wide interpretation in the UK in the mid sixties, encompassing several musical forms including all forms of blues performed by small groups ranging up to big bands: jazz blues from sax & organ outfits but also including more experimental work (Graham Bond, later versions of Blues Incorporated, some of Georgie Fame’s work); plus the wide field of black American R&B and soul music which had started simmering in the US in the previous decade. The majority of bands that got labelled Brit R&B – early Stones, Yardbirds, Pretty Things, Animals and many more – zeroed in on Berry and Diddley, stirred in some blues (which in the main, came from Chicago) and odds & sods of black R&B/soul. Some groups, most notably John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, focused almost exclusively on blues. There weren’t actually all that many outfits which concentrated on providing R&B in the way that black groups did in the US. Bands led by black ex-US servicemen Geno Washington and Herbie Goins did so and, to an extent, so did Zoot Money and Georgie Fame who straddled some of those artificial boundaries that I’ve just gone and created. And that’s all a simplification of course; I’ve not even touched on early Who/High Numbers, Small Faces or Manfred Mann.

3. On the clip for the song When I Get Paid you’ll notice the sleeve of a CD set entitled Into Our Lives: The EMI Years 1961-1969. It’s a great set (see link below) which claims to contain all the records Cliff made for Parlophone (and does as far as I know). It’s in broadly chronological order but for some reason puts the first four singles and their flips on CD4. It also contains a number of previously unreleased tracks.

4. I’ve already used the word ‘irony’ in this document, but there’s another one present in the text which I didn’t spot until a later read through. I used Muddy Waters’s Got My Mojo Working as a source that Cliff and co. used as the base for their interpretation. I didn’t explicitly state that the Waters version was the original (though might have unintentionally implied). It wasn’t. The first version of the number was recorded by a lady called Ann Cole in 1956. In fact it was not at all unusual for Waters to pick up songs from others and record them in his highly distinctive style. Cal Taylor talks a little on this topic in the Footnotes to the Cyril Davies Toppermost. Maybe this is pushing it but is there a parallel here to Cliff Bennett recording others’ songs?

5. In the main text I referred to the wholly admirable practice by Parlophone in releasing EPs which didn’t duplicate tracks appearing elsewhere by Cliff. Slightly less admirable was their managing to get the credits incorrect for the song Whole Lotta Woman which appeared on the We’re Gonna Make It EP. They attribute the song to Marvin Rainwater who did have a hit with a song with this title. Unfortunately, it was a different number. One of the contributors to 45cat notes that Cliff’s song actually came from a Chicago based vocal group called the Radiants and was actually called Whole Lot Of Woman. Maybe not terribly important in the grand scheme of things (except to the song’s writers of course) but it does make me wonder if a similar error was made with (That’s Why) I Love You So on Drivin’ You Wild.

6. Sometimes whilst putting these things together I start to ponder why we actually do it. One of the reasons has to be a desire to relentlessly promote a favourite artist in much the same way you would push a well loved book on someone. I’ll put my hand up to just such a rationale in this instance. I don’t regard Cliff and the boys as important or influential in the grand saga of rock history. While I happen to believe those claims at the beginning of this essay, the majority of the world has never heard of Cliff Bennett so he’s unlikely to have been seriously influential. However, his records haven’t half given me pleasure over the years and I’d like others to enjoy this music too.

7. I’ve been in contact with the online magazine and roots music networking group Tales From The Woods (@RealTFTW on Twitter) and they brought to my attention a YouTube clip which claims to be a demo recorded by Cliff in the very early days working with Joe Meek. The uploader states: “Cliff Bennett didn’t get on too well with Joe Meek, he was very talented and didn’t like being directed too much. This is a largely unknown track that he recorded with Meek that never saw the light of day.” This is the clip. On balance I think it probably is Cliff though his vocal delivery is far from the finished article. The main influence would appear to be Buddy Holly but you could probably say that about at least every other would-be Brit rocker circa 1960/61.

8. As of November 2018, I have something to add to the foregoing: there are plans to issue a new LP of Cliff and his 1968 Band gleaned from sessions held for BBC Radio that year. As a bonus there should also be a few tracks with the Rebel Rousers from similar sessions in ’67. The provisional title is Cliff Bennett: His Band ’68 and the date currently penned in for release is the end of April 2019. I’ve heard the tracks and they’re well up to standard, and that means really good.


And in case anyone’s wondering, my opening clip featured Cliff and the boys with a live version of I Take What I Want. My closer just has to be another Sam & Dave number.


Into Our Lives: The EMI Years 1961-1969 (4xCD)

Cliff Bennett at 45cat

Roy Young (1934–2018) obituary

Roy Young official website

Chas Hodges (1943-2018) obituary

Chas & Dave official website

Cliff Bennett biography (Apple Music)

Dave Stephens is the author of two books on popular music. His first, “RocknRoll”, is described by one reviewer as “probably the most useful single source of information on 50s & 60s music I’ve come across”. Dave followed this up with “London Rocks” in 2016, an analysis of the early years of the London (American) record label in the UK. You can follow him on Twitter @DangerousDaveXX

TopperPost #681


  1. Andrew Shields
    Dec 4, 2017

    Dave – thanks for this excellent piece – a very interesting slice of music history. Was interesting to go back and listen to some of his earlier stuff, with the very strong Jerry Lee influence. Am guessing this is where you came in…

  2. Peter Viney
    Dec 13, 2017

    Another fabulous piece, Dave. Cliff Bennett habitually lost bass guitarists to “pop” bands. You mention Frankie Allen going to The Searchers, but then Bobby Thomson replaced him, and went to The Rockin’ Berries. Then of course Chas Hodges. I agree that the complete EMI set is essential listening. I reckon they did well in the large ballrooms outside London – big audiences, big fees compared to London clubs … a role that Geno Washington, Jimmy James & The Vagabonds then The Alan Bown Set took over.

  3. Dave Stephens
    Dec 17, 2017

    Peter and Andrew, thanks for your kind words. Several of my Toppermosts have arisen due to a feeling that a particular artist hasn’t been treated well by history. Cliff is a case in point, which in part accounts for my slightly tongue-in-cheek claims at the start. Mind you, I still stand by them. All part of the glorious subjective / objective nature of these things.

  4. Lars Lundquist
    Jan 11, 2019

    Brilliant biography.

    • Dave Stephens
      Jan 11, 2019

      Many thanks for that very kind comment. You might be interested to know that there’s an LP – yes LP, not CD – scheduled for release in April titled “Cliff Bennett his Band ’68 & The Rebel Rousers”. It contains tracks recorded for the BBC in 1968 with the Cliff Bennett Band (which included a couple of the Pirates) plus three tracks from ’67 when he was still working with the Rebel Rousers).

      • Garry Pye
        Nov 27, 2020

        Dave and Lars will hardly need me to inform them that all of the Cliff Bennett sessions for the BBC during the 60s (including performances by Toe Fat) have been released on a 3 cd set earlier this year. It’s a great item of any fan of CB and 60s British beat/R&B in general. Great bio, by the way. I’m a fervent CB collector and have seen him live several times.

        • Dave Stephens
          Nov 28, 2020

          Garry, I hadn’t seen the set but have now had a gander at it on Amazon. It looks excellent and the live sound should be good since it’s BBC. Thanks.

  5. Jack Mellor
    Nov 15, 2020

    What was the name of Cliff Bennett’s shipping line?

  6. Dave Stephens
    Nov 16, 2020

    Good question Jack and I’m pleased to see that I did include the source of the quote – Wikipedia – and actually added a slightly sceptical note. However I’m happy to be able to tell you that Googling does reveal that Cliff actually became a Shipping Agent in the seventies. Please see quote below from contributor Lloyd Johnson to this Chatroom. I know Lloyd only refers to a “Cliff” but it’s clear from other contributions that it’s Cliff Bennett he’s talking about.

    “Lloyd Johnson: I saw them at The Assembly Rooms in Tunbridge Wells in 1964. Fast forward to 1981 and I had a visit from a shipping agent at our Kings Road Shop. The company was Benco and the person who came to see me was Cliff. He became our shipping agent. Several years later when Chris Sayer and I were organising ‘The Big Beat Reunion’ on The Pier Cliff asked me if he could come down and join in, of course I jumped at the chance to have on the bill. I spoke to Chris about it and Henry Harvey, Jonah & Chris said we’ll back him!…they practiced for a hour with Cliff on the afternoon whilst we were dressing the stage. Cliff was so pleased to meet his old mate that was in The Searchers. We’d booked The Searchers as top of the bill. The night was a dream and a huge crowd showed up.”

  7. Alan V. Karr
    Dec 19, 2021

    Where has Toppermost been all my life, I ask?
    This fine article has prompted me to make a few pertinent comments – it’s a shame this underrated talent often gets overlooked, but at least Cliff had a few moments of pop glory. I agree that he was almost too smooth in his approach but the quality is borne out on repeated listening.
    Going back to the beginning, as I once mentioned to Frank Allen (to which he modestly takes little credit), You’ve Got What I Like is one of the very finest British RnR tracks, even if it is an attempt at imitating Jerry Lee Lewis – how many artists anywhere then could even approach to copy that unique style as sincerely and come anywhere close as the Rebel Rousers?
    The tricksy leitmotifs (tack piano, echo) that often marred a RGM track seem to enhance it here – the piano was played with great feeling by Sid Phillips, who gave it a more freewheeling aura like Thunderclap Jones might have done more than Geoff Goddard, no slouch on the keys himself.
    Meek pushing his autobiographical, self-pitying copyrights on his artists such as “Poor Joe” and “Lonely Joe” did them no favors and are among the weakest tracks in his catalog. Joe’s Holly obsession also led him to foist Buddy-inflected items on all his groups no matter how good the fit their style like “Try Once More” (by Ivor Raymonde) (interestingly, used as a foundation for “Telstar”) and more successfully in Cliff’s case, the unheard-to-me-before-today “Have Pity On Me” online. “Pity” is definitely the kind of song that Johnny Worth (aka Les Vandyke) would have written for and have issued by Adam Faith or Eden Kane, although Cliff gamely makes it work for him too IMO. I have not located its origin yet but I’d bet it was by Worth (who recently passed this year)
    It must not go unsaid that The Searchers took “Needles And Pins” from Cliff’s repertoire, hearing it performed live in Hamburg. In the ensuing interval before the Searchers’ definitive version Pye labelmate Petula Clark also issued an evocative French language take “La Nuit N’en Finit Plus” with a choral denouement which to me emulated frustrated felines in heat (in a good way). It would be interesting to know how these versions came about and who influenced who to tape it.
    Lastly, “I Can’t Stand It” scraped the bottom of the UK Top 50 in a version by The Spencer Davis Group issued on Fontana (the production helmed by Blackwell’s BPR team) in 10/64 – the Soul Sisters were outdone by both Cliff and Stevie IMO.

    • Dave Stephens
      Dec 19, 2021

      Many thanks for your kind words Alan plus the informative and intriguing Comment. I have a few thoughts in response:
      * I was never overly enthusiastic about Holly-influenced Brit singers of the 50’s/60’s. They were never going to match The Great Buddy so it all seemed a tad pointless. I might have to make an exception for Faith since (a) Our Esteemed Editor generated his Toppermost, and, (b) I found you got rather used to the delivery over time.
      * I must have led a quiet life. I’d never come across Petula and La Nuit Ne Finit Pas. Thanks for introducing me to the record. I do recall that every now and again I had a sneaky liking for a Ms Clark record way back then but probably didn’t want to admit to it.
      * There’s another version of I Can’t Stand It from Roy Head who for me was a little like an American Cliff (though I’d stress that the comparison isn’t that strong). I wrote his Toppermost too. Indeed most of my Toppers have been of American artists.

      • Alan V. Karr
        Dec 26, 2021

        Opining here as a Buddy-ologist, I think it is too easy to dismiss en bloc all the UK attempts to imitate him without acknowledging that some efforts really are very good and could possibly have been performed by our hero himself-after all, even Buddy had a few clinkers IMO. “What To Do”? Wait Til The Sun Shines, Nellie”? Bah!
        I like most of Adam Faith’s output, despite the overt BH affectation but I would not place most of his repertoire in the upper tier of Buddy imitations, of which so many originated in the land who celebrated and appreciated him most, Great Britain.
        My British origin favorites in a Buddy style are first off, a clutch of Joe Meek/Mike Berry & The Outlaws tracks, Tribute To Buddy Holly (HMV A, 1961), My Baby Doll (Decca B, 1960) and “Doll”’s withdrawn coupling which is perhaps the best of all, Set Me Free. Set Me Free has surfaced sourced from a poorer quality safety/copy tape so I’m hoping Cherry Red will unearth a pristine version in its current “Tea Chest Tapes” restoration efforts.
        Other clones I like a lot: another RGM item, “Goodness Knows” by Ricky Wayne & The Off-Beats (Pye B,1960) (penned by Wayne) who shortly morphed into Lee Diamond & The Cherokees releasing a transformative version of Tepper-Bennett’s “I’ll Step Down” (Fontana A, 1961) unrecognizable from a competing soppy version by Garry Mills (who nabbed a minor hit on Decca and soon had a short-lived teaming with the same Cherokees) and another by Aussie songstress Judy Stone.
        Although…according to Lisa Saunders who hosted a fine US based Buddy web site some years back, I’ll Step Down suffers from a very un-Buddy-like lack of determination-for sure, the singer who proclaimed, “I’m gonna do my best to hook ya” is not going to yield to a competitor so easily, if at all.
        Another Buddy-ish track from a somewhat unlikely source is The Viscounts’ own Gordon Mills-penned original version of I’ll Never Get Over You (Pye B, 1963); Johnny Kidd’s slashing, clangorous hit is predated by a rollicking Tex-Mex romp. Don’t know who is providing the backing here, but they get in the Lubbock groove…
        Finally, Dean Sterling & The Teen-Beats’ “Lost Love” (Pye B, 1961) is a wistful, obscure gem that unlike its oft-anthologized top side “Send Me A Girl” is truer to the Buddy spirit, I feel.
        One more final note, I don’t know why, but Joe Brown provides the lightning fast guitar stylings on “Made You” instead of Vic Flick, which for me takes it somewhat out of the Holly oeuvre… certainly the English record buying public didn’t mind.

  8. Dave Stephens
    Dec 27, 2021

    Thanks for that long and opinion-packed (and why not) Comment. I will readily confess to being someone whose musical interest has been very largely focussed on artists from the other side of the big pond as evidenced by the Toppers I have written, sometimes solely, sometimes with collaborators. The only other Brit artists I have covered have been Billy Fury, Joe Brown, Johnny Kidd, John Mayall, Georgie Fame and Mickey Jupp (as in “Legend”) and that’s compared with loads of yanks including real biggies like Richard, Domino, Lewis (half), Cline and several blues and country guys (and some psych) – I would have done Donegan but someone else got there first. I did show more interest in homegrown performers when the Brit R&B boom started and yes, I do have some records from (and memories of seeing) the Brits above plus Animals, Yardbirds etc.
    That said I did enjoy listening (to varying degrees) to all the records you mentioned, only one of which I’d heard before. Top of the list just has to be the Lee Diamond I’ll Step Down which gets very high marks for unusual – swinging is a word that I might use – rhythm plus unique chord structure. It’s only the trademark Holly hiccup late on in the verse which brings that comparison to mind. Indeed I’m inclined to the view that it should have been omitted and the record left to sink or swim without. With plugging this would have been a hit.
    I’m also rather inclined towards the Dean Sterling/Teen-beats Lost Love. Good usage of the Doo Wop Progression, endearing semi-unplugged arrangement and one of those teen pop records which belied the rule of most/all teen pop being rubbish. And Dean doesn’t really play up the Holly thing.
    Ref. the Viscounts I’ll Never Get Over You, I did mention it in my Kidd Topper but without any accompanying adjectives. Perhaps I should have listened harder.
    Ref. Mike Berry, I think I saw him once, down the bill a bit to Jerry Lee somewhere in South London, in a cinema type venue, the distinguishing feature of which was fruit machines along the sides near the stage.
    A final thought from me: Buddy Holly was amongst the big American names I’ve done. AND, I included Wait Till The Sun Shines Nellie. Just thought I’d end on a provocative note.

    • Alan V. Karr
      Dec 30, 2021

      Dave, thanks for the reply and continuing the conversation, I will peruse your linked articles soon. Years back I had a wonderful pen-pal like correspondence with the Off-Beats / Cherokees rhythm guitarist, Ron Bowdery, but failed to syndicate/publish it. Ron related how the Off-Beats split from Wayne/Meek, not fully pro, but he later found himself in a new edition of the group which coalesced with the addition of Lee Diamond on vocals. Ron’s dad worked at Stanhope Place and unbeknownst to the band submitted a tape which found them soon recording for Jack Baverstock. IIRC the song was provided by Baverstock but rearranged by the group in a sparkling, sprightly arrangement unlike the demo. Ron B. said the group worked really hard on it and felt it would click.
      Unfortunately, a competing version on Decca truer to the demo was issued by Garry Mills, a more connected and well-known name (e. g. he was Nat Gonella’s nephew and had scored hits for Rank) and the sales were split in mid-1961, with Mills taking chart “honors” at #39. Philips’ “advertising”, or paucity thereof, did their artists no favors. Cherokees review in Disc, p.10: Mills review in Disc, p.11: Decca ad in Disc, p.10.
      Diamond got bitten hard by the solo singer bug and decided to break away; his version of Jerry Naylor’s Holly/Vee/Burnette styled “Stop Your Crying” was not a success. The Cherokees next move interestingly was to back Mills as Garry Mills and The Cherokees briefly – Ron Bowdery said the highlight of this union was a Gene Vincent concert date in late ‘61 but contractual issues precluded the short-lived combo recording together. The Off-Beats later reformed to back Deke Arlon and also recorded again with Ricky Wayne; Mills issued several more noncharting discs with the last in ‘64 following the Johnny Kidd/Adam Faith blueprint of teaming a pre-Beat artist with tougher beat group backing as “Gary & The Ariels” .
      As a footnote, a really terrific instro called “Break-Thru” that has been used over the years on various media ranging from American NFL Football films to “SpongeBob” has been credited to Mills-although it is usually sourced as anonymous production library music, it’s an energetic, skillful work possibly by a moonlighting Krewkats or suchlike.

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