April 9, 1988 – Brook Benton was born Benjamin Franklin Peay on September 19th 1931 in Lugoff, South Carolina.
When Benton was young, he enjoyed gospel music, wrote songs and sang in a Methodist church choir in Lugoff, South Carolina, where his father, Willie Peay, was choir master. In 1948, he went to New York to pursue his music career, going in and out of gospel groups, such as The Langfordaires, The Jerusalem Stars and The Golden Gate Quartet. Returning to his home state, he joined a R&B singing group, The Sandmen, and went back to New York to get a big break with his group. The Sandmen had limited success and their label, Okeh Records, decided to push Peay as a solo artist, changing his name to Brook Benton, apparently at the suggestion of label executive Marv Halsman.
Brook earned a good living by writing songs and co-producing albums. He wrote songs for artists such as Nat King Cole, Clyde McPhatter (for whom he co-wrote the hit “A Lover’s Question”) and Roy Hamilton. He eventually released his first minor hit, “A Million Miles from Nowhere”, before switching to the Mercury label, which would eventually bring him major success. He also appeared in the 1957 film, Mr Rock And Roll with Alan Freed.
His silky smooth tones was popular with rock n roll, rhythm and blues, and pop music audiences during the late 1950s and early 1960s, when he scored hits such as “It’s Just A Matter Of Time”, “Hotel Happiness”, “Think Twice”, “Kiddio”, “The Boll Weevil Song” and “Endlessly”, many of which he co-wrote.
He made a comeback in 1970 with the ballad “Rainy Night in Georgia“. Brook eventually charted 49 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, with other songs charting on Billboard’s rhythm and blues, easy listening, and Christmas music charts, as well as writing hits for other performers such as Nat King Cole, Clyde McPhatter, and Roy Hamilton.
Weakened from spinal meningitis, Brook died of pneumonia in Queens, New York City, at the age of 56 on April 9, 1988.