Thursday, May 07, 2009

Rocky Benton, Corpus Christi's "Main Man," Passes Away

Rocky Benton was Corpus Christi's "main man!" No local musician was more admired and loved by so many. His passing leaves a huge hole in the local music scene.
Rocky's road to the blues began in Silsbee, Tx. about 20 miles south of Beaumont where he was born to hard working parents of moderate means. He was second to the youngest of 6 children, and was no stranger to trouble and pain. As a young child he began to lose his vision and was blind at the age of 4. At the age of 6 he attended the Texas School for the Blind in Austin where he learned to read Braille, started his education and got his nickname "Rocky".
He said one of his teachers called him 'Rocky'. His teacher would tell him that he knew someday he would drive by a billboard somewhere and would see "Rocky Benton" up in lights. The name stuck with him and since then he has had his name in lights on many a marquee.
Music came to play a role in Rocky's life at an early age. He said he grew up listening to old gospel tunes that his mother played on their record player and sang for him.
Rocky was introduced to the harmonica by his uncle Bill who could play only one song. He was fascinated with it and wanted to be able to play. Rocky got his first harmonica at the age of 6 and later learned to play drums and keyboards. At the age of 10, Rocky was performing professionally as a drummer and singer in an Austin Jazz band led by James Polk.
"I came up in a day when a kid playing a bar was kind of like an act", Benton said. "Even if I was not the headliner, it seemed I was always somehow the center of attention."
Rocky first played Corpus Christi at the Downbeat Club, while attending high school at the Texas School for the Blind.He moved to Corpus Christi in the early 80's and hooked up with Mike Cross, another excellent musician, and they made a team!
Rocky's stage prescence was powerful. He wore a leather belt that resembled a western holster belt which held twelve harmonicas in different keys. The letters "R O C K Y" were emblazoned on the back.
'Rocky' was the real thing, a consummate blues singer and a great harp player. His audiences loved him and there was no one who enjoyed rocking the house more.

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