Len Ford’s memories of Brian Bennett, known as BEN.
From the first moment we met when Brian auditioned to join The Hi-
Odd people who did not warm immediately to him, their attitude changed when he started to play the piano, and later on the keyboard. His talent was evident even in those early days. His musical ability was awe inspiring and as time passed along, he became very proficient at arranging songs. He was very patient and excellent at conveying, to the others his vision of how things should be.
In the early days of touring around the venues, being a piano player had its’ difficulties. A lot of the times the piano was not on the stage and so it had to be manhandled into place. So what happened when he played a few chords etc, it was well out of tune. Ben became a dab hand , initially with a pair of pliers , later on getting the proper adjusting key and a tuning fork. We always allowed a bit of extra time getting into a venue so that he could do this. Of course that gave us a bit more time in the pub before the gig.
Due to the fact that Malcolm Wright the drummer stayed in gainful employment long after Ben and I went professional, we became the best of friends. Often you would find me at his home, around the piano in Newark Road, South Croydon, learning the chords and lead riffs for new songs, as The Hi-
After sorting out these songs we nearly always went off to play snooker, we had joined the local Lucania Billiards Club next to the Davis Theatre in Croydon, just up the road from Ben’s house. This gave us entry close to gigs, for the other clubs dotted around the country.
At times it was hard existing, because of money shortages (musicians have this problem) we decided to try our luck as handymen. We had leaflets printed and distributed them out and about hoping to get some paid work. We went under the name of Len and Ben the Handymen. Some bright spark, a brother or a parent likened us to Bill & Ben the Flowerpot men, needless to say it didn’t last very long, due to the lack of takers.
Other times Ben and I went on holiday together, Brixham in Devon, Brighton and Skegness covered it. Ben got himself an old car and we set off on these holiday jaunts, expecting to break down, but luckily it never did. We won a weeks holiday at Butlins performing ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport’, when Brian accompanied me on the wobble board.
I often wonder how things would have turned out, had I not collapsed at the Pigalle Club, sadly, wonder is how it has to stay. After I came out of hospital and got on with life again, I saw very little of Ben and the group, they went to Jersey that year 1964 and then ended up in Germany for years.
I have no recollection of Ben having a girl friend as such, I had always had a girlfriend right from the early days. So it was a pleasant surprise to learn that he had got married to Paula, whom he had met in Jersey.
We did meet up again, I think it was 1969 after The Hi-