R&B singer-songwriter 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”.
Okeh exec 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 Paradise”.
In the 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.
The late ‘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.
On 9th April 1988, he died from a combination of pneumonia and spinal meningitis. He was only 56.
He is 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 voice.
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 disc.
Cal Smith recordings
For My Baby (Brook Benton/Clyde Otis)
Here he is performing his co-written “It’s Just a Matter of Time”…