April 20, 1969 – Benny Benjamin nicknamed Papa Zita was born in Birmingham, Alabama on July 25th 1925. Benjamin originally learned to play drums in the style of the big band jazz groups.
By 1958, Benjamin was Motown’s first studio drummer, where he was noted for his dynamic style. Several Motown record producers, including founder Berry Gordy, refused to work on any recording sessions unless Benjamin was the drummer and James Jamerson was the bassist.
The Beatles singled out his drumming style upon meeting him in the UK. Among the Motown songs Benjamin performed the drum tracks for are early hits such as “Money (That’s What I Want)” by Barrett Strong and “Do You Love Me” by The Contours; as well as later hits such as “Get Ready” and “My Girl” by The Temptations, “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” by Stevie Wonder, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Gladys Knight & the Pips and “Going to a Go-Go” by The Miracles.
Benjamin was influenced by the work of drummers Buddy Rich and Tito Puente. He recorded with a studio set composed of Ludwig, Slingerland, Rogers and Gretsch components and probably Zildjian cymbals.
By the late 1960s, Benjamin struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, and fellow Funk Brothers Uriel Jones and Richard “Pistol” Allen increasingly recorded more of the drum tracks for the studio’s releases.
Benjamin died on April 20, 1969 of a stroke at age 43, and was inducted into the “Sidemen” category of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.