Whatever happened to Brook Benton? I loved his singing, especially the Boll Weevil Song.
—Molly R., Iowa
Benton, who sold more than 1 million copies of his 1961 international hit Boll Weevil Song, died at the age of 56 in New York in 1988 of complications from spinal meningitis. Benton was born Benjamin Peay in Camden, S.C., and began singing in church choirs as a child (perhaps it helped that his father was a minister). He moved to New York in 1953, selling clothes by day and auditioning for singing parts by night. He co-wrote Looking Back for Nat King Cole and A Lover’s Question for Clyde McPhatter. He soon landed a deal with Mercury Records and garnered three No.1 hits in 1959, including It’s Just a Matter of Time, which the Los Angeles Times calls one of the “great moments in early days of soul music.” As his career progressed, Benton varied his style from blues-rock and pop to folk-country. He recorded Rainy Night In Georgia in 1970, the year he had three songs on the national charts. In the last years of his music career, he returned to his first love, gospel music.