The great Benny Latimore was recently featured on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots because he is a soul music impresario of epic proportions.
From his birth in a little town in Tennessee, to his features on the Overtown nightclub circuit in Miami, to the studio sessions at Henry Stone’s TK Productions, to the top of the BILLBOARD charts, the hitmaking Latimore has never lost his fire for the music business.
Hits on “Stormy Monday,” and “Let’s Straighten It Out,” and a range of releases on the Henry Stone Glades label, plus over 50 years of his life out playing concerts around the world, there’s not much Latimore hasn’t done. Here’s what he had to say about how he got to Miami.
“When I first came to Miami it was 1961, yeah, a long time ago.
I was on the road with a guy named Bll Henderson with a hit called “Snap Your Fingers,” and we came down here with Jackie Wilson and Ben E King and a whole bunch of other people and I got a little taste of the nightlife and I always wanted to come to Florida.
I went to this place called the Knight Beat and they had a talent show. I got in and might have won except someone told the MC I was a pro on the road.
Anyway the guy in charge was Clyde Killens. He liked what I did and he said, “If you ever wanna come off the road I might goigve you a job.”
I went up north and went got stranded in Indiana in really bad weather and I was ready to get off the road I was tired of it. I called him up just to see if he was talkin through his hat.
He said, “My organ player is sick and I need somebody to fill in for him. Can you start right away?”
He flew me down and I thought, “Well, I’ll stay till the weather breaks.” And I was there ever since.
“I lived in Overtown at the Sir John hotel which had the hottest club in Town, the Knight Beat, it was the top club in town, I lived there and worked at the Knight Beat.
That was my first experience in Miami and I went from there to other clubs and so forth and eventually met Henry Stone and end up playin’ on some of his sessions and stuff and doin stuff behind Steve Alaimo and became part of TK.
Rent was included in my salary. I had a little efficiency there, my salary was, I started out at $90 a week and he raised me to $110. I thought I was hot stuff. It was great. Clyde was a great guy to work for. He took care of his people. Several of us played in the band. But I didn’t play in the band long, I eneded up doing the intermission
See, the house band, the band leader was Frank Duboise, and we didnt get a long real good, and he essentially had me fired, he fired me really, but…
Clyde said, “Well I hired you, but he been with us so long if he put it that way that it’s him or you then I gotta keep him, but I got a better idea. Can you play and sing for 30 minutes?”
What was I gonna say, “No, I cant?” I was panic stricken. I didn’t wanna go back up in that cold weather.
At that time the band would play 2 hours, take a 30 minute break, and then play 4 hours.
Clyde said, “You try this. If you can hold the people so I don’t have to play the jukebox then you’ve got the job. There was no DJ.
I went on and did that and he gave me a raise and I was making $110 for doin 30 minutes and then Frank and I really fell out.
Eventually we got together, I wasn’t tryin’ to compete with him. I was just doin’ what I do. I was tryin to contribute. He thought I was tryin to take over. I might have been aggressive. But it’s show business.”
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