“To listen to - and talk with - Benny Turner is
to be in the presence of living blues history.”
– Melanie Young, Living Blues Magazine
A veteran musician of more than fifty years, Benny Turner has played everywhere from the Chitlin’ Circuit, to Europe, Japan, Australia, and all points in between. Content to be a sideman in support of the many giants he has worked with, in 2010 the time came for Benny to take his rightful place in the spotlight on center stage, to the delight of blues fans worldwide.
Born in Gilmer, Texas on October 27, 1939, Benny and his older brother, blues legend Freddie King, learned to play guitar from their mother, Ella Mae (King) Turner and her brothers Leon and Leonard King. While Freddie was captivated by the guitar and wanted to be a performer, Benny just enjoyed the music and the opportunities to share it with the older brother he admired and adored. The boys used to race home from school to catch the last few minutes of a radio show called “In the Groove,” where they heard the music of artists such as Louis Jordan, Charles Brown, Hank Williams, and T-Bone Walker.
After the family moved to Chicago in the early 50’s, what began as parallel exposure and experiences for the brothers ultimately diverged as Freddie went in one direction and Benny pursued other opportunities that came his way. While best known today as a bass player, Benny played guitar during many of his gigs in the early years, both locally in Chicago and on the road. A last-minute request to sit in with Freddie’s band to cover for Robert Elem at the Squeeze Club gave Benny his first introduction to playing bass, with some “on-the-job training” at its finest!
During the late 50’s Benny played guitar with gospel group The Kindly Shepherds, and is on a handful of their recordings for the Nashboro label (guitar and background vocals) from that time. He was also playing bass with Freddie King at legendary Chicago clubs such as the Squeeze Club and Walton’s Corner. While at Walton’s Corner, Benny met R&B singer Dee Clark, and was invited to join him on the road. Within a few days, his first exposure to touring and life on the road began, at none other than The Apollo Theater in New York, and continued at other legendary theaters including The Uptown Theater in Philadelphia, The Howard Theater in Washington DC and The Regal Theater in Chicago. Benny played in the band with Phil Upchurch, and cherishes their friendship to this day. It was an exciting time, during which Dee had his Billboard hit “Raindrops” (1961).
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SURVIVOR: THE BENNY TURNER STORY
"Music books are best when they're not about music but about the musicians who make the music. The relationships, the road trips, bandstand incidents, and other obstacles to humanity are explored in this marvelous biography of bassist Benny Turner."
- BOB PORTER, Author, Soul Jazz
"Survivor is a lively, well-crafted epic taking us through Benny Turner's childhood in Texas and Chicago, through his long stretches singing and playing guitar and bass with his renowned brother Freddie King, Dee Clark, The Soul Stirrers, and Mighty Joe Young, his move to New Orleans and his time with Marva Wright, his own early recordings, and, happily, his re-emergence as an acclaimed bandleader and recording artist ... leaving the reader with a full appreciation both of Benny as a musician and a person."
- RICHARD SHURMAN, Award-Winning Blues Producer/Historian
In Survivor, legendary musician Benny Turner spins a mesmerizing memoir about the life and times of a journeyman blues bassist. Readers travel back in time to the waning days of the Great Depression, Jim Crow laws and the advent of WWII, when people of all races and color had good reason to sing the blues. Turner was born in 1939, and times were hard in East Texas, where he grew up with big brother, blues guitarist Freddie King. Read more ....
Read with others are saying about
Survivor: The Benny Turner Story
Music fans will be fascinated by this very personal deep dive into the real life of the blues.
For years, Benny Turner was the slim, understated bass player who stood in the background, calmly thumping out the steady, melodically propulsive bass lines that ran beneath the searing solos of more flamboyant figures like his brother, legendary blues guitarist Freddie King. Read more ....
PURCHASE AND DOWNLOAD MUSIC AT BANDCAMP
Who Sang It First
Who Sang It First is Benny Turner’s adaptation of Jim George’s original song, Black Is Beautiful, which George describes as his “tribute to all the black pioneers and artists who have paved the way, invented the music and enriched all our lives.”
In Turner’s version, he pays homage to the legendary blues musicians who have strongly influenced today’s music.
Appropriately, the song was recorded at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, with veteran session musicians Clayton Ivey on keys and Will McFarlane on guitar.
Going Back Home
Benny Turner and Cash McCall
Two Chicago blues legends reunite in the studio to revisit their roots and the songs they once played nightly in South and West Side nightspots!
"Nobody does it better than the ones who grew up doing it, of course. This is what one wants in a blues record, starting with terrific songs and soulful performance." - Jerome Clark, Rambles.net
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My Brother's Blues
40 years after losing him, Benny's newest CD pays tribute to his big brother and best friend, Freddie King.
"Album-length tributes to blues greats of decades past are nothing new, but this collection is truly special. It's one legendary brother paying tribute to another, who just happens to be one of the greatest bluesmen of all time." - Bill Dahl
My Brother's Blues won a silver medal for outstanding achievement in the Global Music Awards and was a 16th Independent Music Awards nominee in the "Tribute Album" category.
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When She's Gone
Benny's 4th release, when she's gone, entered the Living Blues Radio Chart in January 2016 at #5; spent 3 weeks at #1 on the Roots Music Report Soul Blues Album chart and 3 weeks in the top ten on the Roots Music Report Blues Album chart.
when she's gone is in loving memory of Ella Mae, the mother who raised two blues legends - Benny and big brother Freddie King.
when she's gone was nominated for Best Traditional Blues CD in the 2016 Independent Blues Awards. It was also nominated for Best Soul Blues album in the 2016 Blues Blast Music Awards. The song "I Can't Leave" won best blues song in the 15th Independent Music Awards.
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Benny is proud to present his 3rd CD, Journey.
Journey contains all original music, including family treasures passed down to him as a boy (“My Mother’s Blues” honoring Ella Mae (King) Turner, and “My Uncle’s Blues (Fannie Mae)” honoring his uncle Leon King). Pulling from a lifetime of doo-wop, R&B, gospel, soul, and blues influences, and seasoned with dashes of humor and strife, Turner has created a musical gumbo with something sure to satisfy everyone who listens. "Breakin' News" was a blues song finalist in the 2015 International Songwriting Competition. Journey was a nominee for best blues album in the 2014 Offbeat Best of the Beat Awards.
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Benny performs at the Lone Star Blues and Heritage Festival
Benny plays on stage for the first time with younger brother, Donald.
Benny performs on the Porch Stage at the Lone Star Blues and Heritage Festival
Ann Arbor Blues Fest - 2019
Benny plays Ann Arbor Blues Fest - 2019
Ann Arbor Blues Fest - 2019
Chicago Blues Fest - 2019
Gee whiz ... what a special reuinion! Benny and Carla Thomas reunited at the 40th Blues Music Awards.
Benny closes the 2017 Ann Arbor Blues Fest with a presentation to producer, James Partridge, & performance of "Goin' Down," also on the '72 festival album
An amazing bass solo at Benny's CD release party for "When She's Gone"