How George Benson Turned an Early ‘No’ Into a Career of ‘Yes’

With “Weekend in London,” Mr. Benson’s first dwell 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 right down your throat,” he stated of enjoying the intimate membership Ronnie Scott’s, the place the set was recorded, “but I can look into their faces and see the happiness or the response by what they’re hearing 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 after I was a little boy. They instructed me there was a man who performed guitar like no person else, that he performed together with his fingers, however he really performed together with his thumb — there was no decide in his hand. So after I met him, I requested him if he would train me one thing and he stated, “No.” He was the primary man who stated no. I used to be a teenager then, possibly 17 years outdated. I stated, “Why not?” He stated, “I’m still trying to learn how to play myself.”

And that basically bought to me. [Laughs] He’s the best guitar participant on the earth and he’s making an attempt to learn to play? I understood later what he was making an attempt to say, as a result of I really feel the identical manner. You know, individuals ask me in regards to the guitar and I say, “Man, I’m still trying to get it together myself, trying to learn this instrument.” But that’s how him and I met, and we grew to become superb mates.

Years in the past, I used to be presupposed to play him on this film. His story was unbelievable. His profession grew up commercially on information, like “Goin’ Out of My Head,” “Windy,” “Tequila” and all these fantastic information he made, along with all the nice jazz information he had made. But when he got here house 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 regionally was a jazz guitar participant. And so when he grew to become commercially profitable, naturally this was a lash again by the individuals: “Well, I want him to play more jazz.” People all the time need what they don’t have.

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