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George Benson


George Benson was born and raised in the Hill District in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on March 22, 1943.. He now lives in Englewood, New Jersey's Bergen County. Benson started out playing straight-ahead instrumental jazz with organist Jack McDuff. Benson got his first experience playing with his several-year stint with McDuff's group. At the age of 21, Benson recorded his first album as leader, The New Boss Guitar, with Brother Jack McDuff on organ. Benson's next recording was It's Uptown with the George Benson Quartet with Lonnie Smith on organ and Ronnie Cuber on baritone sax. This album showcases Benson's talent in constructing swinging bebop lines at blistering tempos. Benson followed it up with The George Benson Cookbook, also with Lonnie Smith and Ronnie Cuber.

Miles Davis employed Benson's talents in the mid 1960s; Benson played guitar on Paraphenalia, which appeared on the trumpeter's 1967 Columbia release, Miles in the Sky. He went to Verve Records for a spell afterwards. Then, Creed Taylor signed him up for his CTI label, where he recorded numerous albums with jazz heavyweights guesting to limited financial success. Benson also did his versions of The Beatles' 1969 album Abbey Road which he entitled, The Other Side Of Abbey Road (also released in 1969) and "White Rabbit" (originally written and recorded by San Francisco rockgroup Jefferson Airplane) around this time.

By the mid to late 1970s, as he recorded for Warner Bros. Records (he had recently signed with them), a whole new audience began to discover Benson for the first time. With the 1976 release Breezin' (also the name of a memorable instrumental on the album which became an AM Radio staple), Benson began to put his vocal on some tracks, such as "This Masquerade," which was the first song to make #1 on the Billboard pop, jazz and R&B charts.

On the strength of "This Masquerade" (it also won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year) and the electrifying live take of the classic "On Broadway" recorded about a year later (from the 1977 release Weekend in L.A. and which also won a Grammy), he was able to crack through via the Pop and R&B Top Ten and as the 1970s wound down, songs such as the aforementioned "Give Me The Night" (which was produced by Quincy Jones), "Turn Your Love Around" and others became big hits for Benson as well. On Warner Bros., Benson accumulated three other platinum LP's and two gold albums. He also recorded the original version of "Greatest Love of All" for the 1977 Muhammad Ali bio-pic, The Greatest, (which was later recorded successfully as a cover by Whitney Houston).

By the mid 1980s, Benson cooled down a bit on the charts and spent the rest of the decade and the 1990s and up till today, continuing to tour and record music. In 1985 Benson and guitarist Chet Atkins succeeded on the smooth jazz charts with their collaboration "Sunrise," one of two songs from the duo released on Atkins' disc "Stay Tuned." Producer Mike Poston states Benson and Atkins recorded an entire album's worth of music, but due to disagreements between lawyers for their record companies, the rest of the material has never been released.

In 1992 Benson appeared on Jack McDuff's Colour Me Blue album. George Benson will co-headline with Al Jarreau on an international tour to promote their 2006 album "Givin' It Up" where they will perform in S.Africa, Australia and New Zealand in summer 2007. One of his songs, "Affirmation", was used during the "Gamblers and Gallantry" episode of Samurai Champloo during the brothel escape. George Benson is considered one of the greatest jazz guitarists of his time.