Music Artist for August 2020: Paul Benjaman

Building on the classic Tulsa Sound pioneered by the likes of J.J. Cale and Leon Russell, Paul Benjaman expands his groove-based genre to include most styles of American music with a strong dose of guitar power.

Paul Benjaman grew up in Inola, Oklahoma, beginning guitar lessons at age eight. At 13 he was fortunate enough to be a student of the genre-bending guitar-steel icon Junior Brown. After high school, his band-leading skills began when he lead Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College’s Golden Norseman pep band, “The Pillage People”. A transfer to Northeastern State Univeristy moved him to Tahlequah for a number of years as a music major moonlighting in original rock bands. A move to Tulsa allowed him to complete an Associates in Arts in Music at Tulsa Community College while teaching lessons at Guitar House of Tulsa, a gig he still maintains 24+ years.

Playing guitar in the band Rewake earned Benjaman a place in the Tulsa World Spot Awards hall of fame after winning the “Best None of the Above” category for five years. In 2007, he founded the Paul Benjaman Band and released their first album, “Something”, in 2010. Multiple tours through the states won the band festival spots in and out of state. The release of “Sneaker” in 2015 garnered critical acclaim and won multiple tours of Europe.

In 2014, Benjaman was sideman for the T. Bone Burnett produced “Secret Sisters” and toured stages large and small in the states, culminating into a performance on “The Tonite Show with Jimmy Fallon”. In 2016, he was asked to band-lead and arrange the first tribute to Leon Russell following his death at Cain’s Ballroom. Benjaman arranged 32 songs that Russell had played in his career and the production included 30+ musicians. The show saw repeat performances around the state. In 2018, he was called to arrange music and perform as a backing band for a “Friends of Leonard Peltier” show. Benjaman worked with Jamie Johnson, Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge, Shooter Jennings, John Densmore of The Doors, Steve Earle, B.J. Thomas and more. The show expanded to a second show at the Verizon Theater in Dallas in 2018. His unofficial mentorship under the incomparable Oklahoma guitar legend Steve Pryor produced many high volume nights leaving ringing ears, a tattoo and many tribute performances after Steve’s passing in 2016. A fundraiser for Tulsa Sound Legend Jimmy Markham brought Benjaman’s band-leading to Gary Busy and a host of other legendary talent. He also was bandleader for George Porter Jr. of the Meters when he came to Tulsa, a special treat playing with a founder of funk music.

“As a lifelong Oklahoman, my state has provided an experience inseparable from my music career,” said Benjaman. “From my first guitar lesson at age eight to its universities where I studied music to also serving as the home of the majority of my heroes and mentors. Oklahoma has provided me a network and fan base that has allowed multiple albums, overseas tours and opportunities as a bandleader that I never would have imagined. I’m inspired to create here.”

The recently completed Horton Records album, “Back to Paradise”, recorded at Leon Russell’s lake house studio, pays tribute to classic Tulsa musicians of all styles, and Benjaman plays on all 17 tracks, which scored him an upcoming feature in Vintage Guitar magazine. Get a sneak peak of this album with the J.J. Cale cover “I’ll Make Love to you Anytime”, in the music video below. Pre-order the album today on Bandcamp.

Benjaman continues to write, record, tour and teach. His regular “Sunday Nite Thing” gig at Tulsa’s Colony was created to have a special guest musician sit in every week; either a touring musician or an instrumentalist from around the state. It has become a regular hang and melting pot for musicians of all styles, garnered press in Rolling Stone and Paste magazines and will complete it’s tenth year in 2021. Benjaman continues stints as sideman for Grammy-nominated John Fullbright and Jacob Tovar along with his own material in “The Tulsa Revue” tours, and he also serves as the musical director for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting funded “Live at Cain’s” series. Look for a new album from him in 2021 with performances to follow.

For more information about Paul Benjaman and his band, and to listen to their music, visit their listing in the Oklahoma Music Directory.

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