Ottawa Citizen Preview

June 25, 2010 | News | 0 comments

A husband at age 18, guitarist-singer George Benson knew music as a career was a risky proposition, so he tried other jobs, becoming as handy with tools as he was with a guitar. But then a sudden realization hit him.

Photograph by: Paul Kane, Getty Images

George Benson buried the hatchet for music

Career choice paid off for versatile performer

By MARKE ANDREWS, Vancouver Sun June 23, 2010George Benson

When: Saturday, 8 p.m.

Where: Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Tickets: $67 to $77 from ticketmaster.ca

A husband at age 18, guitarist-singer George Benson knew music as a career was a risky proposition, so he tried other jobs, becoming as handy with tools as he was with a guitar. But then a sudden realization hit him.

“I knew my biggest potential was in the music world, and one day I had a hatchet in my hand and I realized that if I made a mistake with that hatchet, any career I might have would be over,” says Benson by phone from his home in Pardise Valley, Ariz., on a brief break between tours. Benson performs Saturday at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

It makes sense that Benson stayed with music. He began playing for money at the tender age of seven, performing numbers on a ukulele at stores and street corners in his home town of Pittsburgh. The city was known for its musicians, which included drummer Art Blakey, pianists Ahmad Jamal and Earl (Fatha) Hines, saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, and singers Billy Eckstine and Eddie Jefferson. The latter befriended Benson when the young ukulele player was in second grade.

“He had a recording, I Got the Blues, that I sang around town as a little kid with my ukulele,” says Benson. “He came to me on the street corner when I was seven and asked me to sing that song for him. I sang it and he laughed so hard he rolled on the ground.”

Benson started living the musician’s life early, making his first record at age 10, switching to guitar and playing in jazz and R&B bands during his teens, and recording his first album as bandleader at age 21. His formal musical training was minimal; he relied on his ear to learn how to play.

“I learned what I learned by listening to other artists, and hanging around great people who knew what they were doing,” says Benson. “I’m still doing the same thing, just going through different sources.”

Although he didn’t start singing on his recordings until his 1976 album Breezin’, Benson always sang, and had a particular fondness for rhythm and blues. You can hear strains of the late singer Donny Hathaway in Benson’s voice, which makes some sense when you learn that Benson and Hathaway were good friends, even though Hathaway did not have a clue that his guitar-playing buddy wanted to sing.

“We were friends toward the latter part of his life,” said Benson. “We hung out together, and wrote songs together, although nothing that came out. To be around that voice, man. He was a natural. At that time I wasn’t known as a singer even though I did sing, but he didn’t find that out until a short time before he died, when I sang On Broadway and Masquerade.”

On his most recent release, Songs and Stories (2009), Benson performs a Hathaway number, Someday We’ll All Be Free, and sings a duet with the late singer’s daughter, Lalah Hathaway.

Though he spends a good part of his year on the road touring, Benson likes to spend his time off at home, either at the Benson house in Paradise Valley, or his other place in Inglewood, N.J. In his spare time, he conducts Bible studies.

And choosing music for a career not only made for a happy individual, Benson has been successful enough to win 10 Grammy Awards, and he and his wife have raised seven sons on a musician’s income.

mandrews@vancouversun.com

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/entertainment/music/Benson+buried+hatchet+music/3191036/story.html#ixzz0rp2Q5KTd

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

© 2014 All Rights Reserved.
Website by   Killdisco Design