Category: Benson, George

George Benson has no plans to hang up guitar

georgeBensonToday a new interview with the great George Benson from Jim Gilchrist in this past Sunday’s Scotsman. The interview covers his thoughts on the playing and recording of his huge hit This Masquerade, influences like Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery, and his early decision not to join Miles Davis’ band. From the interview, here he is on his love for Nat King Cole:

 “When I was young, Nat King Cole was the quintessential African-American singer in the United States. Everybody loved Nat. He had great variety in his music – romanticism, great musicianship – and I said to myself that if I ever became anybody in the music business, I wanted to be like that.”

Benson has sometimes been described as Nat King Cole with a guitar, a label which he says flatters him, while stressing that he in no way compares himself to Cole, who died in 1965: “I think he inspired anything good that has happened to me, but he was a very special individual and his gifts were exclusive to him.”

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Three 1970s George Benson Interviews

Today I’m posting three interviews from the 1970s with the legendary guitarist George Benson: “My Present Group” from 1974, and “This Way and That” and “A Personality Thing”, both from 1978. Here from the last of the three interviews is Mr. Benson discussing his awareness of other singers and guitarists:

How would you describe your vocal concept? Are there certain singers whose approach particularly appeals to you?

Once I hear a great singer, I’m very aware of him. I heard Nat “King” Cole when I was a baby, and I never forgot him. I followed him throughout, all the way up until the time of his death, and beyond—I’m still listening at his records, trying to find out what it is about Nat “King” Cole that is so great. It’s a personality thing, though, you know; you can’t be Nat—you can only enjoy him. I don’t think there’s so much of the technical thing that you could really put your finger on. He was a natural singer—though there were some techniques that he used in his lower tones that are very valuable.

There are many great singers—some today—who are using valuable techniques. And I’m aware of them—just like I was of the guitar players. I’m aware of Django Rheinhardt, Charlie Christian, Kenny Burrell, Wes Montgomery, Tal Farlow—all those great players. I mean, because once you hear those guys . . . how could I call myself a player, and not know who the real players are when I hear them? They’re the guys who helped to shape my concept, and to give me the idea on which to base some of my ideas. I’m never afraid to mention another great artist; I’m not trying to show that I’m better than any other player—what I want to do is to be as dedicated to what I’m doing, or to be as real about it, as I think these artists are. Because it takes a certain amount of dedication, and knowledge, and gift to be what they are. And I’m the first guy to go to their concerts when I hear of them being any placeI run and hear them. It’s a great experience, plus I learn something.

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George Benson 2006

The legendary guitarist sits down with Smitty Smith at JazzMonthly.com to discuss ‘Givin’ it Up’, his collaboration with Al Jarreau and other topics.

Click here to read George Benson 2006