|“I had no childhood" - George Benson|
Even when the famous jazzist did not know he was working, it was work, Benson told RT's Spotlight program. Aged ten he was already making records and even had a radio show.
Benson started to sing around the time he learned to speak. His first recording was made when he was only 10 years old. At 15 he fell in love with the guitar and eventually became one of the best jazz guitarists of all times.
Benson never had to chose between singing and playing the guitar – he perfected both, even despite never having a formal musical education.
“My stepfather played the guitar. He met my mom when I was seven. At the time I wanted to play a guitar, but my hands were too small. And he found a ukulele in a garbage can… It was all broken up and he glued it back together, put strings on it and taught me the first chords. A couple of months after that I was out on the street corners making money with that, I made more money in one day than my mother made in two weeks.”
Speaking about his guitars Benson said he never falls in love with them, as he has found, that when “you love something, usually somebody will take it from you… If it’s got six strings on it, I can play it,” George Benson jokes.
From classical jazz, swing and R’n’B to pop and beyond, Benson’s music spans all genres. Benson says his path with music; all his creativity was in fact work.
“Even when I didn’t know I was working, it has all been work,” Benson told RT. “In a nightclub when I was seven years old I was singing dancing and playing a ukulele. That was work. I was a professional at seven.”
And then one of the greatest guitarists realized that he might occasionally miss with the hatchet and get his fingers. That moment he left the construction site.
“Where are you going?” And I said, “I can’t do it anymore, man, my fingers, I don’t know what the potential is.” I didn’t know I was going to be a guitar player. I was in my teens then.”
Benson says he had no childhood, as his mother would take him performing every now and then. Aged ten he was already making records and money. “But a ten year old can’t really grasp the meaning of money,” Benson explained.
“My mother realized that I was no longer a kid. So she went to the manager and said “That’s it, no more. My son is not going to be in music, he’s going to go to school like every other boy and live a kid’s life.”
In memory of those times the guitarist has designed his own guitars for Ibanez guitars. The design of the LGB — which stands for “Little George Benson” — is inspired by some of his earliest guitar memories.