Cotton Pickin Rocker
Audio Tour: Sparkletones
Propulsive rock ‘n’ roll rhythms, harmony vocals and electric guitar wizardry took Cowpens kids The Sparkletones to some of the nation’s grandest stages in the 1950s, when the band’s "Black Slacks" was heard on the Ed Sullivan Show and American Bandstand.
Original members Wayne Arthur, Joe Bennett, Howard "Sparky" Childress and Jimmy Denton got together as kids, playing local talent shows. In January of 1957, they performed at Spartanburg’s Memorial Auditorium and won a talent show that earned them a spot on the "Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour." That show also won them the interest of talent manager Bob Cox, who helped the ‘Tones secure a deal with ABC Records.
Written by Denton and Bennett on the front porch of Denton’s family’s home, "Black Slacks" was pressed as the band’s first single, as Joe Bennett & the Sparkletones. It landed in the Top 20 of the charts and allowed the Sparkletones to tour the nation, performing on television and on dates with Elvis Presley and others.
Singles "Penny Loafers and Bobby Socks" and "Cotton PIckin’ Rocker" followed, and "Black Slacks" retained a place in music culture. Simon & Garfunkel recorded a live version. The song is often covered by rockabilly bands, and the original version of "Black Slacks" was used in Disney’s "Rescuers Down Under" movie.
—Peter Cooper, author, professor, award-winning journalist, and Grammy-nominated artist
The Sparkletones are now members of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.