The first real lead singer was our good friend Carl Bennett (after a string of wannabes and just whoever said they could sing, because guitar players in those days just wanted to solo and leave the singing to people who claimed to be lead singers).
He was also a fine musician, a good friend and a geniunely nice person.
Carl passed away in July 2016 after a struggle with cancer. We attended a “tribute” at a local club a few weeks before his death, where Carl attended but didn’t sing any songs.
He looked good, he was in good spirits and I’m sure he enjoyed seeing old friends who came out to sing and play for him. I can barely remember the guy with anything but a big smile on his face. He also had a wicked, dry wit and all his humor was self-deprecating, never at anyone else’s expense.
He was a real singer back when everyone who couldn’t play an instrument claimed to be a singer just to join a band. He was also a great guitarist and song writer who recorded dozens of songs in later years at Vengeance’s egstudios.
Carl was the singer from our living room and backyard party phase to our heyday at the height of Vengeance’s “keg party” days, when thousands of kids, who couldn’t get into bars after the recently passed drinking law, raising the limit from 18 to 21, needed somewhere to go to hang out, listen to music (and drink, get high and meet girls to, um, have fun with).
At a time where lead guitarists and lead singers in these little party bands would cop a completely (considering they were not real rock stars) unreasonable ego-trip and be hard to work with and deal with, Carl stood out as being a reasonable, easy-going guy who was game for about anything the band wanted to do and I don’t remember him complaining about the terrible gigs in shithole bars, toting our own equipment and hours of rehearsal (we used to do 4 nights a week, then play nearly every weekend, Monday off) and the low pay and the crazy drunken fans (unlike some band members who remain nameless).
He played with us through the dive bars days, at the Upstairs Bottle Club where bikers shot guns at the drums, and Club 92 where a fixed battle of the bands almost resulted in a riot when hundreds of our fans showed up and went nuts when the “fixed” band won the contest even though it was obvious we must have gotten the most votes.
During all this madness, Carl rarely got angry or put out in bad crazy situations like this and usually just reacted with a laugh. At least whenever I saw or talked to him during his illness he seemed to react the same way, he didn’t seem down or angry at God or self-pitying (at least when I saw or talked to him, there might have been other times he reacted differently) he just seemed his old balanced, live and let live, easy-going self.
Most of the band members worked construction, and we’d “borrow” plywood and 2x4s, knock together a stage and drum riser the afternoon before the gig.
The nights and weekend before the show, usually our good friend Bobby Gibbs would create a flyer (literally “cutting and pasting” in those days) and with his heavy metal posse they would spread them to windshields at local clubs.
Somebody with cash would spring for the kegs (I remember one had 28 full-size kegs and they still ran out of beer) and attempt to collect money at the door (very little of which would end up with the band) and the gig was on.
Carl would soldier on through some 4 set, 4 hours long gigs singing some of the most challenging high-range metal we could throw at him, with only cigs and alcohol to sustain him.
I’m sure some of the stress of those shows contributed to his premature grey hair, but he also told us on occasion they were the best gigs of his career.
We threw amazingly hard songs at Carl and expected him to sing Dio (Kill the King, which we called “Kill the Carl” due to the high range required), Bruce Dickenson (Hallowed Be Thy Name), Freddie Mercury (Tie Your Mother and live We Will Rock You), Rob Halford (Green Manalishi), Trust (Anti-Social) and other crazy high-end operatic vocal parts.
Photos: First gig with Mike on guitar, the Sailfish Mobile Home Community Center.
Carl was mostly a rock singer and it stretched his range to the limits and past, but the guitarists dictated the songs we wanted to play and Carl’s wrecked vocal cords bore the damage.
He was always a good sport about it and rarely complained, although I seem to remember the other members giving him grief about not being able to hit all Rob Halford’s notes during a 4 hour set. So the guy was a trouper.
Carl sang at some of our biggest and craziest gigs, including both the Union Hall and the Mango Rec Center, both of which ended in near-riots where our fans destroyed the place.
Carl: lead vocals
Guy & Mike: backing vocals and guitars
In June Vengeance played a massive party at a hall rented from the Electrical Workers Union. About 1200 people showed up but only about 500 could fit inside the building, and after playing their first set, while taking a break, a huge fight broke out and the band never got to play it’s 2nd set.
There was a video of the gig, however, Carl’s irate ex-wife destroyed it, along with all his band memorabilia.
Unfortunately, I had temporarily lent him the only copy of this video and it was a victim of the destruction.
The video was shot by our good friend Ivor Stenstrom, with whom we’ve lost touch, and who presumably has the master. Ivor, if you are out there, call us!
We do still have the audio from that night, the best songs are posted above.
The band “Nightmare”, with future members of Nasty Savage, opened. Nasty Savage frontman Ronnie Galetti was one of Vengeance’s biggest boosters and leading hell-raisers at Vengeance gigs.
Carl: lead vocals
Guy & Mike: backing vocals and guitars
The last gig by the 2.0 line-up of Vengeance was a huge party at the Mango Civic Club, where party-goers nearly destroyed the place, broke windows, broke into the kitchen and trashed plates and glasses, broke an outside door off the hinges and tore a sink off the wall in the restroom.
You can hear idiots breaking bottles during Death or Glory and some asshole (cough*matt*cough) kept unplugging the power during Electric Eye until Liz deputized a giant fan (I remembered his name! Dee Vinoy! big guy, huge fan, but somewhat destructive, he pulled the door off the hinges that night to keep from missing “Hallowed be Thy Name”) to keep him away from the cord. After the gig he got his ass beat by someone.
It was a fantastic show, really fun and a great time.
There was some alcohol induced craziness and damage by both the band and the crowd and the night, while mostly a success musically (the last set was marred by drunken knocking down of guitars, cymbals and dumping a bottle whiskey into the monitor by an unnamed band member) it caused a lot of hard feelings and after this gig changes were made.
After leaving Vengeance Carl played in various blues and rock bands that better suited his range and his own taste in music and was a successful pro musician in the Tampa Bay area.
That’s how we’ll remember him, our good friend, a helluva singer and a genuinely nice guy, especially at a time when the term “lead singer” was synonymous with “major fucking asshole” Carl was always up for doing what was best for the band, trying any song we wanted to play, doing his best to entertain the crowd, handle the band’s drama and tragedy and comedy.
We love you and miss you, buddy.