Take Five, George Benson
Happy Birthday, George Benson! Guitarist and singer-songwriter George Benson was born March 22, 1943 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Benson gave his first concert on ukelele when he was 7, and at age 8 he started playing guitar in nightclubs. He was 10 when his first single record was released under the name “Little Georgie.” At twenty-one he released his first album The New Boss Guitar, featuring organist Jack McDuff, and began touring and recording with the likes of Miles Davis, Jack McDuff, Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder and more.
Benson then signed with Creed Taylor’s jazz label CTI Records, where he recorded several albums, with jazz heavyweights guesting, to some success, mainly in the jazz field. His 1974 release, Bad Benson, climbed to the top spot in the Billboard jazz chart, while the follow-ups, Good King Bad (#51 Pop album) and Benson and Farrell (with Joe Farrell), both reached the jazz top-three sellers. Benson also did a version of The Beatles’s 1969 album Abbey Road called The Other Side of Abbey Road, also released in 1969, and a version of White Rabbit, originally written and recorded by San Francisco rock group Great Society, and made famous by Jefferson Airplane. Benson played on numerous sessions for other CTI artists during this time, including Freddie Hubbard and Stanley Turrentine, notably on the latter’s acclaimed album Sugar.
Benson’s unique guitar style is reminiscent of gypsy jazz. He sang This Masquerade on his 1976 LP Breezin winning him a Grammy Award for Record of the Year. He would begin singing more frequently as his career progressed and has become known for a tendency to alternate between jazz and R&B.
Benson has received 10 Grammys for his performances, and continues to tour and
record new albums. Here he is playing the classic tune “Take Five” for a live audience.