from Camden, South Carolina, who grew up singing gospel music in church and
started writing songs from a young age.
In 1948, he
moved to The Big Apple and tried to sell some of his songs. He migrated from group to group,
singing at various times with The Golden Gate Quartet, The Harlemaires, The Jerusalem Stars, and The Langfordaires.
Success eluded him, however, and he moved back to his home state and
became a truck driver in order to supplement his income while he continued
to pursue a career in music.
Here he joined
The Sandmen who had aspirations of their own, and before too long he found
himself back in New York City, vying for a recording contract. The Sandmen signed with Okeh Records and issued a single, “When I Grow
Too Old To Dream”, backed with “Somebody to Love”.
Marv Halsman had other ideas. He wanted to market Brook as a solo
artist. It was a long and
arduous process. Brook cut a
record for Okeh in 1953 and then bounced around
from label to label until he finally caught a break when he hooked up with
Mercury A&R man, Clyde Otis.
Clyde persuaded Brook to ink a deal with Mercury and the two of them
turned out to have great chemistry as a songwriting tandem.
In 1959, Brook
released a pair of their compositions, “Endlessly” and
“It’s Just a Matter of Time”, which peaked at #12 and #3
on the Billboard chart, respectively.
A string of hits followed:
“The Boll Weevil Song”, “Hotel Happiness”,
“Kiddio” and “So Many
Ways” all cracked the top ten.
“Think Twice” barely missed out at #11.
He also had
success as a duet singer, pairing up with Mercury phenom,
Dinah Washington, for two more top-ten hits, “Baby (You’ve Got
What It Takes)” and “A Rockin’
Good Way (To Mess Around and Fall in Love)”. Both songs also enjoyed the view
from the top on the R&B chart.
Brook teamed up with Damita Jo for a pair
of singles but one of them was never even released. He continued to crack the top forty
as a solo act, however, with hits like “Going Going
Gone”, “I Got What I Wanted” and “Two Tickets to
meantime, other artists were having success with songs he wrote: “Looking Back” (Nat King
Cole), “A Lover’s Question” (Clyde McPhatter)
and “The Stroll” (The Diamonds) all hit the top ten.
‘60s found him bouncing around again from label to label, eventually
winding up with Cotillion, with whom he recorded his last big hit,
“Rainy Night in Georgia”.
This brief comeback was followed by more label-hopping. At one point, he was even recording
for Brut, which was more famous for its aftershave than it was for cranking
out hit records.
He wound up on
the All Platinum label and in 1976 enjoyed minor chart success with the
title track of Mr. Bartender. He briefly tried to hop on the disco
train, but for those familiar with Brook Benton, this was not his style,
and his popularity waned in the States, although he continued to enjoy a
loyal following in Great Britain in the 1980s.
April 1988, he died from a combination of pneumonia and spinal
meningitis. He was only
remembered for his smoky baritone voice and his ability to sing pop and
R&B. “It’s Just
a Matter of Time” and “Rainy Night in Georgia” continue
to be staples of oldies radio.
In 2005, his final LP, Fools
Rush In, gave fans one more chance to hear that warm and welcoming
His hit total
differs from site to site, but suffice it to say that throughout the 1960s
and for a brief time in the 1970s, the Billboard charts were dotted with
Brook Benton gems, and much of his catalogue has been preserved on compact
Cal Smith recordings
For My Baby (Brook Benton/Clyde Otis)