The Sparkletones formed in 1956 at Cowpens High School in Spartanburg when the group's members were between the ages of 13 and 16. In January 1957, Bob Cox, a talent scout for CBS, held auditions at the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium; The Sparkletones took first prize at the event. Convinced they would be a success, Cox quit CBS to manage the group and flew them out to New York City to sign with ABC-Paramount.
At their first recording session they recorded the 12-bar blues "Black Slacks", with Paul Anka (who had been recording in the studio earlier that day) as an uncredited background singer. Bandmembers Joe Bennett and Jimmy Denton co-wrote "Black Slacks". Released as a single soon after, "Black Slacks" became a local hit and slowly built up national recognition as the group set out on a tour that criscrossed the U.S. several times over, also performing on The Nat King Cole Show, American Bandstand, and The Ed Sullivan Show. "Black Slacks" remained on the U.S. charts for over four months (a rarity at that time), peaking at #17 on the Billboard Hot 100 late in 1957.
The Sparkletones' next single - "Penny Loafers and Bobby Sox" - reached #42 on the Billboard charts early in 1958 (staying on the charts for 8 weeks), while "Cotton Pickin' Rocker", "We've Had It", "Late Again", "Run Rabbit Run" - all failed to chart over the course of the next three years. In 1959, their contract with ABC-Paramount expired, and they released four singles on Paris Records, and only the single "Boys Do Cry" reached the charts, peaking at #105 in 1959. Around this time original guitarist Sparky Childress and drummer Jimmy Denton left, and were replaced by Gene Brown and Donnie Seay respectively. The group broke up about 1961; Joe Bennett continued in music as a publisher and teacher, and Childress played country in the 1960s.
The bandmembers did occasional reunions in South Carolina into the 2000s. An compilation LP was released by MCA Records in 1980, and European bootleg CD reissues were put out in the 1990s.
- Joe Bennett - vocals, guitar
- Wayne Arthur - double bass
- Howard "Sparky" Childress - guitar
- Jimmy "Sticks" Denton - drums
Their biggest hit "Black Slacks" can be heard in the Walt Disney cartoon The Rescuers Down Under. When Bernard and Miss Bianca enter Albatross Airlines, the character 'Wilbur' is dancing and singing to the tune on the stereo.