Brook Benton was an American singer and songwriter who was popular with rock and 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" and "Endlessly", many of which he co-wrote.
He made a comeback in 1970 with the ballad "Rainy Night in Georgia." Benton scored over 50 Billboard chart hits as an artist, and also wrote hits for other performers.
Rise to fame
Benjamin Franklin Peay was born on September 19, 1931 in Lugoff, South Carolina. When Peay was young he enjoyed gospel music, wrote songs, and sang in a Methodist church choir in nearby Camden, where his father, Willie Peay, was choir master. So in 1948 he went to New York to pursue his music career. He went 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 writing songs and co-producing albums. He wrote songs for artists such as Nat King Cole, Clyde McPhatter (for whom he wrote the hit "A Lover's Question"), and Roy Hamilton. Soon he released his first minor hit, "A Million Miles from Nowhere". Later he went on to the Mercury label, which would eventually bring him larger success. Also he appeared in the 1957 film Mr Rock And Roll with Alan Freed
Finally in 1959 he made his breakthrough with his hits "It's Just a Matter of Time" and "Endlessly". "It's Just a Matter of Time" peaked at #3 on the United States Billboard Hot 100 chart, while "Endlessly" made it to #12. Both of the first two hits were written by Benton with Clyde Otis. They were originally offered to Nat King Cole, but when Otis became an A&R official at Mercury, he convinced Benton to sign with the label and record them himself, while asking Cole not to record the songs as planned. He followed this success with a series of hits, including "So Many Ways" (#6), "Hotel Happiness" (#3), "Think Twice" (#11), "Kiddio" (#7), and "The Boll Weevil Song" (#2). In 1960, he had two top 10 hit duets with Dinah Washington: "Baby (You've Got What It Takes)" (#5) and "A Rockin' Good Way (To Mess Around and Fall in Love)" (#7).
He also recorded his own version of "Take Good Care of Her" in 1962. In the mid- and late 1960s, Benton recorded for RCA Records and Reprise Records with minimal commercial success. In 1969 he signed with Cotillion Records, a subsidiary of Atlantic Records, where the next year he had his last major hit with "Rainy Night in Georgia".
Benton 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. The last album made by Benton was Fools Rush In, which was released posthumously in 2005. At one point he was recording on Groove Records.
Weakened from spinal meningitis, Brook died of pneumonia in Queens, New York City, at the age of 56 on April 9, 1988.