Growing up in Pittsburgh, guitar great George Benson was keenly aware of the impact Motown was making. He even met Smokey Robinson and the Miracles when the group played in nearby Sewickley in 1960.
And Benson jumped at the chance to get a Robinson original, “One Like You,” on his latest album, “Songs and Stories.”
“Smokey was hanging out with my musical director, David Garfield,” relates Benson, 66. “They were writing songs together, so David called me and said, ‘We’re writing songs with Smokey.’ I said, ‘Man, can you write something for me!’ They did, and it was pretty tasty.
“I remember the date when I met (Robinson) like it was yesterday. Many years later, I bumped into one of the guys in his band, the guitar player (Marv Tarplin). He had his guitar with him in the case, and I said, ‘That’s not the same guitar you had back then, is it?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I’ve had this guitar since those days.’ I said, ‘I can tell you what it looks like. It’s black. It’s got three gold pickups on it. It’s a Les Paul special.’
“He said, ‘Man, how do you know that?’ I said, ‘Was I there or wasn’t I?’ He told me, ‘You had to be there to know that.’ ”
“Songs and Stories” also features a pair of covers — Christopher Cross’ “Sailing” and James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” — that Benson started recording five years ago during a visit to Brazil.
“While I was down there, they kept bringing these musicians around me, and after the show we would get together in the lobby of the hotel and we’d show each other things,” Benson remembers. “They kept knocking me out with all this wonderful harmony, so I said, ‘Man, we got to go in the studio and so something while I’m down here.
“So we did that, and when my producer (Marcus Miller) heard it, he said, ‘Man, you got to do something with that. That is so spectacular.’ So we added a few things and got them together for the record.”
George Benson, Joe Sample with Lalah Hathaway and Impromp2 perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 24) at the Masonic Temple Theatre, 500 Temple Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $53 and $68. Call (313) 471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.
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