Article by John Huddy, Entertainment Editor for The Miami Herald – November 4th, 1974
For more than a decade, a bright young rhythm-and-blues singer worked his way from one noisy discotheque to another. Time passed quickly and suddenly Benny Latimore was 30 years old. Then 32, Then 34. “But you never give up hoping, you can’t give up,” says Latimore, now 35. “If you don’t have that little voice in the back of your head pushing you on, telling you it’ll happen if you just keep trying, then you can’t make it, there’s no chance.”\
Latimore heard that little voice. Today, he has the No. 1 rhythm-and-blues record in the nation and is the newest prodigy out of that remarkable T. K. Productions studio in Hialeah. He’s also part of the national James Brown tour that comes to Miami on Nov. 4th to play the Jai Alai Fronton. Like George McCrae and the other T. K. artists, Latimore is an “overnight sensation” who’s been at it for 17 years.
Arriving here in 1962, he joined a lounge group called Freddy Scott and the Kinfolk, played keyboard and did backup vocals, gradually moved up to the front of the popular local group. Soon it was Benny Latimore and the Kinfolk. Playing one crucial engagement at the Castaways led to a gentleman named Steve Alaimo, the key creative force at T. K., himself a former rock singer. At first, Latimore served as an Alaimo sideman, later as his conductor.
That brought one of the stranger episodes in Latimore’s career. “I may be the only man who went into the Copa in New York and conducted that famous nightclub orchestra without reading a note of music,” Latimore laughs. “And it went over great, too. I knew the music very well, knew what Alaimo wanted, where everybody came in, and the regular Copa conductor showed me
little tricks to do even better.”
Then one day earlier this year the Charleston, Tennessee native wrote ”Let’s Straighten It Out,” breezed through the number in the T. K. studio in Hialeah and watched the single explode onto the charts. But Latimore is hardly awestruck. “The hit record is secondary. It only gets your foot in the door, and then your ability to perform is what counts. In a way, the record is an obstacle. People have seen so many artists who can’t perform live after
having a hit record. They expect the same of you. And there’s something else: On the stage, in front of a live audience, you don’t get three takes, five takes. It’s a one-time affair. You better do it right.”
With that kind of savvy and with James Brown himself to polish whatever rough edges remain after all those years at the Castaways, insiders say Latimore won’t streak off the charts as fast as he streaked on. Our prediction: He’ll go the distance.
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