For over 40 years, Marc Benno has been giving blues, rock and pop an unmistakable Texas flavor. A singer/songwriter who plays the guitar and piano, Benno is also a behind-the scenes force, who has helped some of rock and blues’ greatest talents sound even better. The list of legends he’s worked with includes The Doors, Eric Clapton, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Bill Wyman, Georgie Fame, Rita Coolidge, Eddie Murphy and Leon Russell.
Born in Dallas, Benno grew up immersed in popular music – his father managed the Texas State Fair’s Music Hall garden. Backstage, Benno met stars like Sam Cooke, Laverne Baker,Frankie Avalon, Paul Anka, the Drifters and Lloyd Price. But, the first album Benno remembers hearing was Lightnin’ in New York, by the legendary Lightnin Hopkins (a rural-blues guitarist who lived in Houston.)
Still in his early teens, Benno started his own regionally successful pop/R&B group, and in the mid-1960s headed to Los Angeles to further his career, a move he says put him “in the right place at the right time.” His blues background made him sought after by rock groups looking for some rootsy authenticity. One day, he was tapped to play on an album by the psychedelic rock greats The Doors. The sessions were for the classic L.A. Woman (1971), the group’s last LP before Jim Morrison’s death. “I didn’t know who they were,” Benno recalls. “But they needed someone who could play a bluesy, Texas guitar.”
He also recorded a pair of albums with Leon Russell as the Asylum Choir. Benno fondly remembers crashing in Russell’s closet, and working with a plethora of musicians who would hang out and jam. One of them was Eric Clapton, who played guitar on two tracks from Benno’s 1979 album Lost in Austin: “Last Train” and “Chasin Rainbows.”
“Clapton was a down-to-earth guy,” Benno says of the man nicknamed “God” by his fans. “Even though he’s from England, he reminds me of someone from Texas, so down to earth and humble and into the blues.”
With his career on the rise, Benno struck a deal with A&M Records in 1970 to launch a solo career. He released three albums, 1970s self-titled album, 1971’s Minnows and 1972’s Ambush. After Ambush, Benno formed a new band, Marc Benno & The Nightcrawlers, who were primed to become the next big thing, and went off on tour opening for Humble Pie and The J. Geils Band – getting star treatment on tour. One of the Nightcrawlers was a young guitarist named Stevie Vaughan (he’d start using Ray later). Benno remembers with pride, “He didn’t sing - he’d just play the hell out of the guitar.” However, the label had grown bearish on the prospects for blues-based rock. The multi-talented Benno could have easily shifted into a pop career, but he was committed to becoming an even better blues guitarist, and the Nightcrawlers album was never picked up by A&M.
During 1974-75, his childhood influences came full circle when he joined Lightnin Hopkins’ band as 2nd guitar player. Benno attests to Hopkins’ colorful personality. “He was dead serious about music, because he was the real thing. You had better know how to play the blues to be around him.” “One time, he fired the bass player on stage... Another time, Benno went to get his boss a beer only to receive an odd reprimand: “Don’t you ever open my beer,” Hopkins told him. “Go get me another beer and don’t open it.” Hopkins went on to claim that country bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson (1893-1929) had been killed by poisoned beer, a story that is hard to substantiate, but “true if Lightnin’ said it.” Benno adds that his time with Hopkins was essential in making him an authentic blues player.
Benno’s career got an unexpected boost in 1985, when his song “Rock & Roll Me Again” was recorded by The System for the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack. Even better, the album won the Grammy for Best Score for a Motion Picture, a first in Benno’s career.
By the end of the 80s, the partying lifestyle and the long hours away from home were catching up with Marc, and he became burned out, losing his interest in music until the mid-90s when his friends finally helped him get back on track, and helped him realize he didn’t have to be high to do his job.
Since moving to San Antonio in 2000, Benno has been working hard again, writing songs, jamming with local musicians, and even finding time to get a psychology degree, a big step for a guy who had dedicated 100 percent of his professional efforts towards music since he was 13.
Having lived through all the things that make one a great blues player, Benno can view his career with perspective and insight. But his creative fire and ambition remain undimmed. Live, Benno can do an uptempo R&B set, but he can also do pop, jazz and country. He’s tough to categorize and is reaching out to audiences that don’t just want the same thing over and over again.
Marc Benno - Guitar & Vocals
Jimmy Rose - Drums
Gordon DeWitty - keyboards, organ
Lownote Johnson - Bass
1968 Look Inside the Asylum Choir (with Leon Russell)
1970 Marc Benno
1971 Asylum Choir II (with Leon Russell)
1979 Lost In Austin
1990 Take It Back To Texas
1994 Snake Charmer
2000 Sugar Blues
2002 Live In Gillespie County
2003 Golden Treasure
2003 Hit The Bottom
2004 I Got It Bad
2005 Live at the Chi Chi Club (with John Cipollina, Pete Sears)
2006 Crawlin (with Stevie Ray Vaughan, Doyle Bramhall)
2007 Live In Japan
"as much Texas tone as anyone could want."
Pittsburgh Post Gazette
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"...tasty mixture of swinging guitar, horn-backed arrangements and original songs...a king of contem..."...tasty mixture of swinging guitar, horn-backed arrangements and original songs...a king of contemporary Texas blues with some West Coast rhythms added."
Steve Lavere Testimonial
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“Marc Benno brings to the stage not only his formidable vocal talents, which include a keen and perc...“Marc Benno brings to the stage not only his formidable vocal talents, which include a keen and perceptive realization of the lyric content of the piece being performed but also such a relaxed and mature style of singing and playing guitar that the listener immediately becomes captivated and enchanted with the easy professionalism with which he imbues his chosen material. Moreover, he's great to watch. You know he knows what he's doing. He has a wonderful sense of time...and humor, which he shares with his audiences, but not the ultra-hip, exclusive brand, of which the average person is outside. Benno's real...and for real. One can't help but enjoy a Marc Benno performance. He's been out of the public eye for much too long, but thankfully, he's interested in returning...we need him. This rare breed of a seasoned and confident, talented and sensitive performer is not in abundance these days.” --Steve LaVere (Music Historian/Robert Johnson Estate)
Roots Music Report
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"a combustible blend of pop, rock, and an ample supply of blues." -Brenda Barbee (Roots Music Report..."a combustible blend of pop, rock, and an ample supply of blues." -Brenda Barbee (Roots Music Report)
"Clearly a man comfortable with his craft." -Malcolm Kennedy (Bluesletter - WA Blues Society)
Blues On Stage
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"a fine guitarist, delivering sharp, stinging leads and easy-going propulsive rhythm with aplomb." -..."a fine guitarist, delivering sharp, stinging leads and easy-going propulsive rhythm with aplomb." -John Taylor (Blues On Stage)
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"A clean, fluid style on guitar...definitely a guitar player worth a listen." -Mark Thompson (Blues ..."A clean, fluid style on guitar...definitely a guitar player worth a listen." -Mark Thompson (Blues Blast)
Second Story Window
Family Full of Soul
I'm Alone I'm Afraid
Put A Little Love In My Soul
Baby I Love You
Speak Your Mind
Either Way It Happens
Take It Back To Texas
Terminal Case of the Blues
Rock n Roll Angel
Thing or Two
Too Bad You're No Good
Easy Travelin Gal
Jimmy Reed's Mama
Shape Iz In
Every Night Is Saturday Night
There are no upcoming dates at this time.