Sep 18 2012 By Mort Smith
NICK BENNETT started playing the guitar when he was a schoolboy growing up in Chester.
He explained: “My mum used to have a Spanish acoustic guitar, but she never used it. I started playing it as a youngster and I was very quickly hooked. The first thing I played was skiffle – tunes from people like Lonnie Donegan.”
In 1957, Nick and a bunch of friends entered a talent contest at the Royalty Theatre in Chester, but it didn’t go according to plan.
He said: “There were 13 guitarists in our band – all on stage at the same time – and all our mums and dads had come along to cheer us on. Sadly, the band came last, so we thought that was the end of it.
“The manager of the theatre asked us to come back for the semi-final the following week.
“It was a business decision he said, because our relatives had swelled the audience numbers and he wanted them all back.
“And we went on to win the semi-final and the final.”
In 1961, at the age of 18, Nick bought himself a top of the range Fender Stratocaster guitar for the princely sum of £109. He and several friends had a band called Nick Bennett and The Buccaneers who played regularly around Liverpool and Chester, appearing on the same bill as bands like the Beatles, the Bachelors, Eden Kane and Helen Shapiro.
One night – at the Northwich Memorial Hall, otherwise known as ‘The Morgue’ – Nick and the boys were second from top of a bill headed by The Beatles.
Nick said: “We had some really advanced kit including a Vox PA system which was state of the art. The Beatles were also using Vox kit but their guys didn’t know how to work it so George Harrison and Paul McCartney came up to us and suggested that they’d act as our sound engineers during our set if we would do the same for them when they played.
“So we went on with George and Paul at the side of the stage working our sound equipment – it was great. We played a lot of gigs on the same bills as them and with Gerry and the Pacemakers.”
In 1964 Nick went to university to read psychology and music moved into the background while he had a successful career in human resources with companies that included GKN Engineering, International Thomson and insurance brokers, Willis Faber.
But he never forgot his first love – music and now a sprightly 68 years old and living in Ledborough Lane, Beaconsfield, he is involved with Iain Rennie Hospice at Home because his wife, Annie, is an enthusiastic member of the Beaconsfield fundraising committee. They organise events throughout the year and in 2008, Nick was asked to put together a band for a rock ’n’ roll night which turned out to be a rip-roaring success. The following year the band – again called the Buccaneers – played at Rennie High, a kind of American prom night dance at the Curzon Centre.
So it was probably not much of a surprise when Nick learned the band was lined up again this year for Rennie Rocks, a rock ’n’ roll tribute night at Beaconsfield School on Saturday, October 27.
He said: “We’ll probably play two sets, each of 45-50 minutes with a break in between. We’ll do some Elvis, Chuck Berry, a Monkees medley – that’s always good for getting people dancing – along with a couple of instrumentals.”
Tickets for the show on October 27, which starts at 7pm, can be bought on 01494 671 638. Tickets cost £37.50. They include a three-course meal and, if Nick has anything to do with it, a great trip down rock’n’roll memory lane.