Spearville is proud of musician Mike Benish
by Charlene Scott Myers
With a cuttin torch and a disc grinder
he'd cut the metal and split the silence,
send sparks flyin in the evening air.
He'd work a while then he'd stop and study.
Smoke a pipe of Sir Walter Raleigh
till he was ready to go again.
Then with a turn of a wrench
and a pound of a hammer
there was somethin gonna get dismantled
cause my old man, ya my old man
was a Junk Man
– Lyrics from Junk Man by Mike Benish
From the day that his mom, Annette, and his dad, John, carried their adopted baby to their farm seven miles north of Spearville, the town and his family have been proud of Mike Benish.
"I was born in Wichita," said Benish, as he relaxed in his home near Spearville's Federated Church. "All of my folks' six kids were adopted. I'm the middle child, with two older brothers and three younger sisters."
His dad died five years ago, and his mom still lives on the home place that his brother Kenny farms. But Benish ventured out into the world to teach and to make a name for himself in music, as his dad had done.
"My dad played with his brother, George, for dances back in the forties, fifties, and sixties," Benish explained. "Dad started me on guitar when I was around ten years old."
Benish wrote his song Junk Man about his dad. Junk Man is one of Benish's favorite songs. An award winning singer-songwriter who plays guitar, banjo and "a little fiddle," he admits that the song he likes best is the one he happens to be working on at the time.
"I starting writing my own music when I was twelve," he said. "I called my first song 'Silent Moon.' The people and places around Spearville and surrounding areas are my inspiration for what I write, as are things that have happened in my life."
His students also have inspired him at Spearville's school, which he himself attended for twelve years and where he has taught Middle School math for ten years.
"I write songs about the kids, like Detention Blues," he chuckled. "And they co-wrote a verse or two about me -- about all the hair I used to have."
Doffing his cap to reveal his hairline, he broke into a hearty laugh. "They tell me I look like Britney Spears, who shaved her head at one time." (Benish is many years away from appearing "shaved.")
He has lost count of the number of songs he has written, but estimates that he has produced "close to sixty decent ones." He has created two solo CDs (When I Was a Boy and Stories from Home), sung to the background of his gentle, soothing and at times exciting and lively guitar music.
"I'm trying to learn some Irish songs now," said Benish, who in high school played for wedding dances with a band called The Revolutions, and later formed the Cimarron band in Nashville.
"We named it for the town of Cimarron," he explained, "and I still run into people who tell me I played for their wedding."
In 2010, Benish performed in Greensburg as the opening act for country singer George Jones, named by Rolling Stone as "one of the 100 greatest singers of all time." Benish also was the opening act for folksinger Michael Johnathon at the High Plains Public Radio Living Room Concert in Hays, and is a favorite performer at Mariah Hills restaurant in Dodge City.
Benish won a songwriter contest with Junk Man at the Prairie Fest in Arkansas City in 2010, and also won the 2010 Winfield Walnut Valley New Song Contest with Junk Man. In 2011 he won the Winfield Walnut Valley Fest New Song Contest for Hangin' Tree, as well as second place for Little Things.
He played in the Sand Hill River Band that won for the state of Kansas in the True Value Showdown Contest in the summer of 1988. For the past several years, he has performed in West and Northwest Kansas with the classic rock band out of Hays called the Blue Healers. He now performs solo promoting his new CD and new songs.
A graduate of Washburn University with a teaching degree, Benish and his wife Dawn are the parents of three sons: Jonathan, 26, Matthew, 24, and Joey, 18. Dawn is an attorney who practices in Dodge City and in Greensburg.
Called by musician Mike Ferguson, "a true artist and one of the finest talents in Kansas," Benish tends to "like songs that I write about my wife, the love songs. She loves 'em until she's heard 'em fifty times. It's hard to impress her after all these years!"
Benish's CDs may be purchased at Hastings in Dodge City, Kelly's Corner Grocery in Spearville, and the Kinsley Drug Co. You can also buy his new CD online at CD Baby.