Born Marvin Eugene Benefield, 21 June 1941, College Park, Georgia
Of all the Elvis Presley soundalikes, two stand head and shoulders above the rest : Ral Donner and Vince Everett. Where Ral Donner sounds mostly like the tamed- down, post-Army Elvis, Vince Everett recreates the energetic early Elvis on his best recordings. It has often been said that Everett made the kind of records that Presley should have been making in the 1960s.
Vince Everett's real name is Marvin Benefield. He was born and raised in the Atlanta suburb of College Park. When rock n roll broke through in 1956, young Marvin felt that this was the kind of music for him. The year 1959 saw his entry into the music business when he won a talent contest that was part of the Georgia Jubilee in East Point, which was the regional equivalent of the Big D Jamboree from Dallas. Part of the prize was making a recording and so Marvin entered Bill Lowery's NRC studio in Atlanta to cut his first record, "Love Me" (not the Presley song). Produced by Ray Stevens, it was issued in early 1960 on Jam 122 with artist credit going to Marvin Fields. Jam was a subsidiary of Bill Lowery's NRC label. The flip was a comedy act by a different artist. Though the record sold well locally, Marvin wisely held on to his fulltime job at the Square D Company, which was involved in the electrical switchgear business. He would continue to work there until 1992, apart from a spell in the US Armed Forces between 1966 and 1969 where he rose to the rank of First Lieutenant.
At the Georgia Jubilee Marvin had met Felton Jarvis, a singer/guitarist/producer who worked for Lowery Music. In early 1962 Jarvis asked him if he would like to record for ABC-Paramount. Marvin jumped at the chance and Jarvis rechristened him Vince Everett, after the character that Elvis played in "Jailhouse Rock". The first ABC session took place on February 21, 1962 in Nashville. It was a split session with Tommy Roe (who recorded the future number one "Sheila" and its flip), though the backing musicians for both artists were not the same. Everett recorded the Drifters' "Such A Night" and his own composition "Don't Go", with Felton Jarvis producing. "Such A Night" copied the 1960 Elvis Presley arrangement note for note and employed some of the session musicians that had also played on the Presley version : Boots Randolph, Floyd Cramer and the Jordanaires. Sales were encouraging enough to invite Vince for a second session on August 13, 1962, again in Nashville. Four tracks were laid down, two of which were never released ("Baby I Don't Care" and "Mean Old Frisco"). Selected as the A-side of the second ABC single was "I Ain't Gonna Be Your Low Down Dog No More", performed in a 1950s rock n roll style that had become very rare by 1962. The song was credited to Piano Red, who had recorded it in May 1961, but the song was much older. Joe Turner cut two versions in his pre-Atlantic days, but the original version was by Leroy Carr back in 1931. On the B-side, Vince did a good job of the Cleveland Crochet song "Sugar Bee", with Charlie McCoy on harmonica.
A third ABC session followed on May 29, 1963, at the Sun studio in Nashville, resulting in the excellent single "Baby Let's Play House"/"Livin' High". The top deck stayed close to the Presley version of 1955, with Scotty Moore recreating his original guitar licks while Bill Black slapped an acoustic bass. Again, this was a pretty groovy record for 1963, completely out of sync with what was happening at the time. The other two tracks from the session, "Sweet Flavors" and "Box Of Candy" (both very good), were scheduled for release on ABC-Paramount 10538 in 1964, but for reasons unknown to me the single was withdrawn and the two songs would not be issued until the 1980s. Vince himself was very surprised to learn - in an interview with Now Dig This, 1998 - that "Box Of Candy" had been released in 1986 (on a UK Charly compilation).
These recordings were the last to be made in Nashville under the supervision of Felton Jarvis (who would become Elvis' producer in 1966). The final ABC session was held in Atlanta in late 1964 (the ABC files state that it was "purchased" on January 20, 1965), produced and written by Joe South. The 50s sound had been Felton Jarvis's idea. Vince now tried a more contemporary sound, with the songs "Big Brother" and "To Have, To Hold And Let Go". In 1966 there followed another Joe South production, "I'm Snowed" (first recorded by South himself in 1958), coupled with the old Rosemary Clooney favourite "Come On-A My House" (written by David Seville when he was still Ross Bagdasarian). This single came out on Royalty Records, under his own name, Marvin Benefield.
After three years in the Army (1966-69) there was a long gap before Everett's final release, "Glitter And Gleam"/"To Love Is To Gamble" (1977), written and produced by Tommy Roe for Bill Lowery's 1-2-3 label and issued as by Marvin Bennefield (sic).
And that is Vince Everett's complete output, just 15 tracks. This discography http://www.rocky-52.net/chanteurse/everett_v.htm mentions several other recordings, but the releases on Saga, Town, Laurel and Gull are all by different artists. The Gull recordings are by a British Presley imitator who called himself Vince Everett in the 1970s, trying to pass himself off as the US artist, creating quite a bit of confusion in the process.
The real Vince Everett made his European debut at the Rockabilly Rock & Roll Meeting in Munich, Germany, on July 17, 1999, and by all accounts his performance went down well.
That Vince never had a hit is not surprising. His energetic rock n roll sound had become an anachronism in the 1960s and he hardly promoted his records on the road, preferring to maintain his full-time job as an electrical products assembler. But we should be grateful for his legacy, some first-rate old time rock n roll.
More info : http://russellhigh1959.org/bio/benefield_marvin.htm
CD : The Real Vince Everett (Hydra BCK 27111, Germany). 15 tracks, the complete recordings. A legal release from 1999, now out of print. This CD could have been a lot better. All tracks were dubbed from vinyl, not from the original master tapes. There are detailed liner notes by the late Tony Wilkinson, but several pages, covering the 1960-62 period, are missing (not Tony's fault, but Kettner's). The Bear Family- styled discography by Hydra owner Klaus Kettner contains several mistakes regarding dates and personnel.
In my opinion, there is still room for a Bear Family CD, with the same 15 tracks, augmented by the two unissued ABC recordings and other unreleased material that Vince might have.
Acknowledgements : Tony Wilkinson, Trevor Cajiao (interview with Vince, Now Dig This, issue 183, June 1998), Colin Escott, Michel Ruppli & Bill Daniels (ABC- Paramount CD-ROM).
Dik, August 2014
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