Although his “official” recording career began at age 21, George Benson [born March 22, 1943] has been making music long before that. As a child in Pittsburgh, he performed in a local nightclub [until it was shut down]; he won a singing contest at age 4 and cut a vocal record at age 10.
He discovered the guitar when he was 8 and by his early 20s was performing with jazz organist Jack McDuff. Moving to New York, he met up with guitarist Wes Montgomery, who would be a huge influence on his developing style. Benson was also invited to play with luminaries ranging from Miles Davis to Herbie Hancock.
Ironically enough, one of his early producers discouraged Benson from singing – but the 1976 release of Breezin, with its vocal hit, “This Masquerade,” established him as a double threat as a singer and player.
Breezin was the first jazz album to sell a million copies and won Benson 3 Grammy awards. Since that breakthrough, Benson has remained one of the most beloved and respected artists in the smooth jazz arena.
- Benson was made a National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Master in 2008.
- He also plays ukelele.
- Deeply spiritual, Benson is a part-time minister.
- Prior to Breezin’s success, Benson was ready to give up music as a career.
“As my career has progressed, I’ve had the pleasure of playing with the baddest jazz cats on the planet. But that doesn’t change my desire to entertain folks. That’s really who I am.”
“I have been doing music all my life so everyday when I get up I expect music will be part of it.”
“I listen to other guitar players, yeah. It gives me new concepts and shows me where the instrument is going for the future and it is going some places. There are some musicians who are really putting out a good vibe with new theories. I try and keep up.”
Purchase George Benson’s Music HERE