Gilmer Native Seeks More Recognition for Musical Family ...
Music is a constant in Benny Turner's family. His brother was the late blues legend Freddie King, a 2012 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Turner, who toured with king until his death in 1976, says he remembers their mother, Ella Mae King Turner, playing guitar. "Played good guitar, rhythm, rhythm guitar, no picking, just rhythm," Benny Turner says, adding that music was second nature growing up in Gilmer.
“Now that my mother’s grave has a marker, I can write my book,” Benny Turner said before he left Gilmer on his second trip home this year. Ella Mae King Turner was the matriarch to two professional blues musicians, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Freddie King and his half-brother and New Orleans resident Benny Turner.
On a recent balmy June evening, the sounds of smoking electric blues drifted through the open doors of The Little Gem Saloon on South Rampart Street in New Orleans. Inside, Benny Turner and his band, Real Blues - consisting this night of keyboardist Sam Joyner and drummer Larry Williams - performed as if to a packed stadium rather than an intimate, gleaming Art Deco-style restaurant. A dynamic front man, Turner frequently stepped off of the jewel-box stage to sit at customers' tables, played bass solos behind his head, and even enlisted an enthusiastic audience member to pluck a string while he bent the note - all to the delight of the small, yet appreciative crowd, several of whom stayed for the entire three-hour set.
What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?
"Blues music is part of a family tradition for me; something I can remember back from my youngest years. My mother and her brothers used to sing and play the blues together, often as a quartet. It is the musical expression of an oppressed people, which links me to my ancestors and their suffering" ....