The Rock’n’Roll Years (1971 – 1981)

This section is dedicated to the late Valdis Muncis – coolest dude of the 70s, and the late Stephen Vee Lanverton (formerly Nichols) – a complex man. Both succumbed to cancer illnesses: Valdis in the mid 1980s, Vee in early 2016.
Valdis Muncis, K JBennett, Ernest Ballard & Steve Major
A line-up of WASP, just after the departure of Steve Pearce. L to R: Valdis Muncis, K J Bennett, Ernest Ballard & Steve Major

[More images and some demo recordings can be found here.]

Leaving school was a shock to young K J Bennett. Unqualified and living in the environs of Gunnislake on the Cornwall/Devon border, where the local industry consisted of little more than a cow and a milking stool (the former of which often wandered off), he obtained a job as a trainee silkscreen printer for Cornish Signs in Liskeard (a thirteen mile journey each way, often hitch-hiked). This was not the arty-farty cottage industry ‘print me a tee shirt’ kind of screen printing, but screen printing on an industrial scale. K J Bennett’s career path was severely hampered by the fact he had no artistic ability and had an aversion to the chemicals used in the inks – oh, and the fact the pay for 40 hours was £8.00. Six months later, unemployment loomed. But not for long.

Young, fit, brawny and beautifully muscled, K J Bennett found his way into the building industry, working for a local man who paid a whole £10 per week, which meant a whacking 25% rise. In this role he was able to pose shirtless on high scaffolding and bathe in the glorious rays of a Cornish summer. It worked: a few weeks later his pay was increased to £15 – riches beyond Kevin’s wildest dreams. (Note for non-UK readers: that was irony. K J Bennett’s imagination, even in 1972, was very well-developed. On a good day he could imagine far greater riches: £20 per week, for example.)

But all this employment was merely a cover for the hidden agenda – ROCK STARDOM and WRITING. Together with two friends, drummer Steve Nichols (renamed Vee Lanverton, now deceased) and Andrew Montgomery (aka Andy or Monty) their master plan to dominate the world of rock music was instigated. It was the summer of 1975 when a fateful phone call directed the three would-be rock heroes to a top secret location (the site office of Tarmac Construction) in Exeter, Devon, where work on the A38 road beckoned – at least it was an escape route from Cornwall, and ninety miles closer to the metropolis that is London. Several weeks on a jack-hammer persuaded Monty to depart for home, whilst Steve Nichols couldn’t cope with a dumper truck landing on top of him when he turned it over on a mound of earth.

Abandoned, lonely, made redundant after three months, and living in a freezing caravan seven miles out of Exeter in midwinter, and with his rock’n’roll dreams in tatters, the still perfectly formed K J Bennett sought employment in the pub trade. Or rather, he wanted a job and it’s all he could get.

“The pay was crap,” says K J Bennett, “and the hours were long. The clientele was frisky. I worked in the Horse & Groom, a famous gay meeting place in the 1970s.”

Of course, the butch and manly K J Bennett has no inclination in that direction at all, which led to many a misunderstanding when he would be wearing skin-tight black trousers, Cuban heeled boots and an open necked shirt, and had to bend over to the lower shelves.

K J Bennett - prolific reader and would-be rock star, aged about 20 years
K J Bennett – prolific reader and would-be rock star, aged about 20 years

“I put myself out on a limb,” K J Bennett is reported to have said, without a hint of double entendre, “I lived life on the edge, but once the guys realised I was straight they soon recovered from their broken hearts and helped me out on many occasions in the local nightspots, often volunteering to dance with the ugly bird so I could get close to the looker!”

It was during his third Exeter based job – this time in a timber yard – that K J Bennett met up with a young man who would change everything: Steve Bolt.

Three fifths of WASP – K J Bennett, Valdis Muncis & Steve Pearce – during a testosterone fulled performance at the Mecca Ballroom, Exeter, in the mid 1970s

Bolt introduced K J Bennett to Steve Pearce and Steve Major, two guitarists who had never worked together. Pearce was a song writer of high calibre, and both were trying to form a band. K J Bennett’s vocal talents were just what they needed. Soon they were joined by bassist Valdis Muncis, and then by a string of drummers including Steve Rickaby and Ernest (Ernie) Ballard. After two years of head banging and partying as Exeter’s top rock band WASP and, for a short time, under the banner of Riot Squad, and many gigs in the New Vic pub, Muncis, Major and Bennett moved to London, where the streets are not paved with gold.

Major left the trio to become a draughtsman in Blackheath: Muncis and Bennett became the nucleus of several line-ups and were a song writing duo on a par with Lennon and McCartney, a matter confirmed by the man himself: “That’s exactly what we were – but don’t quote me, because Sir Paul gets very precious about it.”

K J Bennett -ages 22 years
K J Bennett – aged 22 years

K J Bennett endured a series of jobs during this period of his life, including that of foreman storeman for The Power Equipment Company & Castell, and partsman for Volvo. During this period his literary talents lay dormant, subdued by a punishing schedule of work, play and play. The band, by now named Red Hot in Alex – a nod to the classic movie Ice Cold in Alex – played a number of gigs in diverse settings, but they never achieved the success they craved.

Red Hot in Alex 1980 – Aussie Paul, K J Bennett, Swedish Drummer (in the vest), Scottish Andy, Valdis Muncis
Red Hot in Alex 1979 – Valdis Muncis, K J Bennett, Dave Heath, Keith Hyde

After a long struggle with unlistening audiences, money issues, Muncis’s lymphoma (Hodgkin’s) cancer, and after realising that the world was not yet ready for his unique vocal stylisations, K J Bennett left the band to get married and to enter public service.

[More images and some demo recordings can be found here.]

About K J Bennett (Intro Page) | Early Years to Teens 1957 – 1981 | The Rock’n’Roll Years 1971 – 1981 | All Growed Up | Musical Endeavours – Pass the Earplugs

FOOTNOTE – “unique vocal stylisations

unique vocal stylisations” is a euphemism:

Euphemism – The deliberate or polite use of a pleasant or neutral word or expression to avoid the emotional implications of a plain term. E.G: “passed away” = died – “unique vocal stylisations” = crap singing. BACK