The Lincolnite has caught up with a Sleaford man who became the lead singer of T. Rex in the 90s and 00s – a week after he showed the band his Marc Bolan impression during a reunion gig he went to as a fan.
Rob Benson, a 60-year-old musician originally from Lincoln, had always been a big fan of notorious glam rockers T. Rex when he decided to watch Mickey Finn’s band in Northampton in 1998. Little did he know, that evening would change his life forever.
T. Rex are one of the most famous bands to ever emerge from the United Kingdom, with four number one singles in the 1970s and over 50 million album copies sold worldwide.
The centrepiece and foundation of the band was lead singer Marc Bolan, who founded T. Rex in 1967 and was the star of the show before his sudden death in a car crash in 1977.
The band split soon after losing its key cog, and it wasn’t until some 20 years later T. Rex decided to Get It On again.
In September 1997, to celebrate what would have been Marc Bolan’s 50th birthday, the former band members were invited to a reunion by their former tour manager Mick Gray.
It was the spark they all needed, and they decided to tour again under the name Mickey Finn’s T-Rex, due to the obvious lack of Bolan.
A year on from that, Finn and co. were playing a gig at the Chicago Rock cafe, a show which Rob Benson, living in Sleaford at this time, attended.
“I was there as a fan”, he told The Lincolnite. “I did enjoy the gig, but I couldn’t help but feel there was something missing, the spirit of Marc Bolan was absent.
“I met the band after the gig and told them I could sing just like Marc, and they told me to send over a demo tape. They liked what they heard and invited me to rehearsals in the Isle of Wight.
“A week later I was performing at the Porsche festival in Germany in front of thousands of people, live on TV, as the lead singer of T. Rex. I didn’t know where to look. It was mad.”
Rob had gone from watching his heroes from the crowd to standing on stage performing with them in stadiums across the world, he was now a bonafide rock star. The largest crowd he performed to was 70,000 in a stadium in Germany.
He continued: “It was utterly terrifying to start with, but Mickey and the rest of the guys were very helpful, we just built a chemistry up there on stage and eventually things were coming together great and I got more confident up there.
“I was truly thrown in at the deep end but I loved it. After that first show the stage manager walked into our room and said ‘great show guys’ then pointed at me and told me I looked like a scared rabbit! It was a very humbling experience.”
Rob saw the sights of stardom and got to hang around with countless celebrities during his time with the band, even befriending popular band Slade, but at that time it didn’t get much more famous than Oasis, the crown jewel of 90s Britpop.
“We did a festival in Copenhagen and were on the bill with Oasis, I got to spend the night partying with Liam Gallagher.
“Here I am, just an ordinary guy plunged into the world of show business, it was incredible.”
The good times kept rolling despite the death of the legendary conga player Mickey Finn in 2003, and Rob remained with the band until 2010, before he was replaced by current lead vocalist Jay Spargo.
Rob now lives in Derbyshire, and before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he performed a couple of shows a year in Germany with The Classic Rock All-Stars, comprising of famous musicians from the 60s and 70s.
Reflecting on his whirlwind time, in the band he grew up adoring, Rob concluded: “98% of the time I spent in the band was just hanging about, meeting people, I got really close with the band members which felt normal at the time.
“I knew the songs off by heart, I was a huge fan, and here I was touring the world with them. It’s certainly one that’s been helpful to have on the CV!”