How George Benson Turned an Early ‘No’ Right into a Profession of ‘Sure’
With “Weekend in London,” Mr. Benson’s first reside album in 30 years, due Friday, he not solely honors his distinctive musical path, but additionally credit these alongside the way in which which have formed him and his profession — which incorporates audiences. “They’re proper down your throat,” he mentioned of taking part in the intimate membership Ronnie Scott’s, the place the set was recorded, “however I can look into their faces and see the happiness or the response by what they’re listening to on the bandstand.”
These are edited excerpts from the dialog.
How was Wes Montgomery pivotal for you?
When Wes Montgomery got here to Pittsburgh, I needed to meet him, as a result of I had heard about him once I was a little bit boy. They instructed me there was a man who performed guitar like no one else, that he performed together with his fingers, however he really performed together with his thumb — there was no choose in his hand. So once I met him, I requested him if he would train me one thing and he mentioned, “No.” He was the primary man who mentioned no. I used to be a youngster then, possibly 17 years outdated. I mentioned, “Why not?” He mentioned, “I’m nonetheless making an attempt to discover ways to play myself.”
And that basically obtained to me. [Laughs] He’s the best guitar participant on the planet and he’s making an attempt to discover ways to play? I understood later what he was making an attempt to say, as a result of I really feel the identical means. , folks ask me in regards to the guitar and I say, “Man, I’m nonetheless making an attempt to get it collectively myself, making an attempt to study this instrument.” However that’s how him and I met, and we grew to become excellent associates.
Years in the past, I used to be purported to play him on this film. His story was unimaginable. His profession grew up commercially on information, like “Goin’ Out of My Head,” “Windy,” “Tequila” and all these great information he made, along with all the nice jazz information he had made. However when he got here residence to play in Indianapolis, each time he performed a business tune, the viewers booed. I couldn’t even think about it. And the reason being the one Wes Montgomery they knew domestically was a jazz guitar participant. And so when he grew to become commercially profitable, naturally this was a lash again by the folks: “Effectively, I would like him to play extra jazz.” Individuals all the time need what they don’t have.
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