Benny Preston has been as much of a staple of Sheridan's Irish Pub in Smyrna as its delectable shepherd's pie. And he's not even on the menu.
Preston, a cover singer and guitarist, of Newark, has been performing monthly at Sheridan's since owners Joe and Shirley Sheridan opened the establishment in 2004.
Prior to Sheridan's, Preston gigged at Joe and Shirley's previous pub in Newark, A Piece of Ireland, from the early 2000s through 2010, the final year the venue was open.
Usually joined by Pennsylvania keyboardist and mandolin player Bill Differ, in which they play as the acoustic duo Benny & Bill, the 55-year-old Preston will return to Sheridan's this Friday as a solo act. And despite his age, Preston will drum up much more than classic rock covers.
Q Benny, give us a preview of Friday's show.
A I'll try to do a lot of things that me and Bill don't do together. Most people who come in and see us as Benny & Bill, when they come on Friday and see it's just me, if I'm playing the same exact stuff just without Bill, it'll sound empty. So I'll try to reach into my repertoire of more songs that I can even remember [laughs] and try to cover that. I play stuff from the early '50s up through now: I can cover everything from Elvis to Green Day. I have teenage boys, so I probably listen to more indie-type music than they do.
Q That's ironic, since you'd think it'd be the other way around.
A Well, that's what I've been hoping for, and then… one of my sons is into rap, so it's kind of tough for a one-man act to play any rap music; plus I don't really care for it [laughs]. We'll bounce back and forth: my son will say, "Hey dad, have you heard this band or any of these guys?" Most people my age are listening to classic rock and they'll hear the same songs they've been hearing for the last 40 years. The last thing I need to hear is "Sweet Home Alabama." I love the song, but I don't need to hear it another 500 times.
Q You've been performing at Sheridan's for a long time. What do you like about the venue?
A I love Smyrna because it has a town feel, whereas A Piece of Ireland in Newark didn't have that. When it's Smyrna's homecoming, you've got the whole town coming out. And I think Joe and Shirley have done a great job of just making themselves part of Smyrna. It's really nice. There's good people there and I see a lot of regulars that come in every month when we're playing there, so I've gotten to know them pretty well. And you never know, you're going to get some nights where the bar is full and the tables are full. Then you have other nights when it's not so full, but you really get a chance to… it's almost like you're hanging out with the people at their table.
Page 2 of 2 - Q Sounds like you're describing a house concert.
A Right. And it's more fun that way. I love taking request, especially if people pull a song out of the air that I usually don't play and that I knew as a kid.
Q What's the strangest song request you've received at Sheridan's?
A You get some interesting ones. Somebody has asked for Madonna. I can't do any Madonna songs. I said, " You know — I'm a 55-year-old man." (Madonna is 55, too, I think.) I guess there's not an age difference. But an old guy with an acoustic guitar is probably not going to be able to pull off any Madonna songs, nor would he want to [laughs].
IF YOU GO
WHEN Benny Preston in concert
WHAT 8:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16
WHERE Sheridan's Irish Pub, 44 W. Commerce St., Smyrna
INFO sheridansirishpub-smyrna.com or 659-5566