George Benson is one of the few musicians who has successfully crossed the divide between jazz and black popular music, neither ignoring the commercial possibilities in jazz nor abandoning his artistry when he achieved commercial success in the late 1970s and early 1980s. His hit recordings featured his light yet expressive singing voice, and to the general public he is known as well for his vocal work as for his guitar skills. But Benson came out of the jazz world, where he had a loyal cadre of fans, and returned to jazz when his connections with that world threatened to become stretched too thin. He is one of the figures most responsible for the presence of sophisticated jazz musicianship in the world of black popular music generally.
Benson was born and raised in the Hill District in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At the age of seven, he first played the ukulele in a corner drug store, for which he was paid a few dollars. At the age of eight, he played guitar in an unlicensed nightclub on Friday and Saturday nights, but the police soon closed the club down. At the age of 10, he recorded his first single record, "She Makes Me Mad", with RCA-Victor in New York, under the name "Little Georgie".
Benson attended and graduated Schenley High School. As a youth, instead, he learned how to play straight-ahead instrumental jazz during a relationship performing for several years with organist Jack McDuff. One of his many early guitar heroes was country-jazz guitarist Hank Garland. At the age of 21, he recorded his first album as leader, The New Boss Guitar, featuring McDuff. Benson's next recording was It's Uptown with the George Benson Quartet, including Lonnie Smith on organ and Ronnie Cuber on baritone saxophone. Benson followed it up with The George Benson Cookbook, also with Lonnie Smith and Ronnie Cuber on baritone and drummer Marion Booker. Miles Davis employed Benson in the mid-1960s, featuring his guitar on "Paraphernalia" on his 1968 Columbia release, Miles in the Sky before going to Verve Records.
Benson continues to tour and record, and lives in Englewood, New Jersey. His musical legacy is one of a rare ability to combine sheer talent and unfaltering musicality with commercial success. Even if judged solely on the basis of his technical abilities, he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as his forebears Charlie Christian and Wes Montgomery.
60s Jazz / Rare Groove Instr. (LP-Version) from ' The George Benson Cookbook'